Sodium is found in salt, which is added to food. In general, most people consume much more sodium than they need. Diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure and lead to water retention. On a heart-healthy diet, you should consume no more than 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day—about the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The foods highest in sodium include salt processed foods, convenience/junk foods, and preserved foods. Table salt contains nearly half sodium.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance in your blood. Our bodies make some cholesterol. It is also found in animal products, with the highest amounts in fatty meat, egg yolks, whole milk, cheese, shellfish, and organ meats.
It is normal and important to have some cholesterol in your bloodstream. However, too much cholesterol can cause plaque to build up within your arteries, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The 2 types of cholesterol that are most commonly referred to are:
Eating a heart healthy diet can help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Fats are calorie dense, therefore they pack a lot of calories into a small amount of food. Even though fats should be limited due to their high calorie content, not all fats are bad. In fact, some fats are quite healthful. Fat can be broken down into 4 main types.
It is generally recommended that you limit your total fat for the day to less than 25%-35% of your total calories. If you follow a 1,800-calorie heart healthy diet, for example, this would mean 60 grams of fat or less per day.
Saturated fat and trans fat in your diet raises your blood cholesterol the most, much more than dietary cholesterol does. For this reason, on a heart-healthy diet, less than 7% of your calories should come from saturated fat and less than 1% from trans fat. On a 1,800-calorie diet, this translates into less than 14 grams of saturated fat per day, leaving 46 grams of fat to come from mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
|Food Category||Foods Recommended||Foods to Avoid|
|Meats and Beans|
|Fats and Oils|
|Snacks, Sweets, and Condiments|
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed November 12, 2014.
Dietary interventions for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 20, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2014.
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S76-S99.
Goff DC Jr. Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the assessment of cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;63(25 pt B):2935-2959.
What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp. Updated August 15, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN