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Foods that impact heart health


Dietary guidance for cardiovascular health and lipid management focuses on foods rather than specific nutrients in isolation1,2

Both the American Heart Association and the European Society of Cardiology / European Society of Atherosclerosis have provided guidance on healthier food choices based on the evidence.

Evidence behind six foods & their practical implications

The 2021 American Heart Association's nine food and drink recommendations for cardiovascular health1

  1. Adjust energy intake and expenditure to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  2. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits – choose a wide variety.
  3. Choose foods made mostly with whole grains rather than refined grains.
  4. Choose healthy sources of protein:
    1. Mostly from plants (legumes and nuts)
    2. Fish and seafood
    3. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products instead of full-fat dairy products
    4. If meat or poultry are desired, choose lean cuts and avoid processed forms.
  5. Use liquid plant oils (such as olive, safflower, corn) rather than animal fats (like butter and lard) and tropical oils (such as coconut and palm kernel).
  6. Choose minimally-processed foods instead of ultra-processed foods high in saturated fats, salt and/or free sugars.*
  7. Minimise intake of foods and drinks with added sugars.
  8. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
  9. If you do not drink alcohol, do not start. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit intake.

* There is no commonly accepted definition for ultra-processed foods, and some healthy foods may exist within the ultra-processed food category.

See the 2021 AHA Cardiovascular Dietary Guidelines


  1. Lichtenstein AH, Appel LJ, Vadiveloo M, et al. 2021 Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021;144(23). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001031
  2. Visseren FLJ, Mach F, Smulders YM, et al. 2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice: Developed by the Task Force for cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice with representatives of the European Society of Cardiology and 12 medical societies With the special contribution of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC). European Heart Journal. 2021;42(34):3227-3337. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehab484