All the requirements and recommendations for nutrients and food components can make achieving a heart healthy diet seem like an impossible task. But take heart: making your diet healthier can be boiled down to just a few simple rules to keep in mind when shopping for food and making meal choices. Although changing the way you eat can be a big challenge, the stakes are high: eating an unhealthy Western-style diet increases a woman's risk of developing heart disease by 46%.1
It is generally agreed that a healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains (particularly whole grains), fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas, soybeans), poultry, and lean meats. This type of diet meets recommendations by the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.2-4
The above guidelines recommend dietary steps to take for general heart health. If you have major risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may need to do more. See Diets for Specific Conditions.