Eat Your Way to Heart Health

Overhead view of salad on wood table

This February, we're celebrating American Heart Month by providing you with some inspiration and resources, all focused on heart-healthy eating. We asked three OHSU experts on heart hearth and nutrition to give us their best advice for women seeking to improve their heart health through nutrition. 

Profile of a Heart-Healthy Diet 

Overall, our experts agreed that a heart-healthy diet means eating mostly: 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy proteins (seafood, lean meat, nuts, legumes)
  • Healthy fats (plant-based liquid oils, nuts, seeds, fatty fish)
  • Whole grains 

And limiting consumption of: 

  • Saturated fat 
  • Processed foods 
  • Refined carbohydrates 
  • Alcohol 

Start Young and Make It Sustainable 
Christie Naze, R.D., C.D.E., clinical dietitian specialist at the OHSU Center for Women's Health 

Heart disease risk increases as we age, but that is no reason to put off heart-healthy eating. "The younger you are when you start eating a heart-healthy diet, the easier it will be to stick with it," says Naze. It's never too early and never too late to improve your nutrition. 

Naze also recommends avoiding harsh, highly-restrictive diets. These kinds of diets are rarely sustainable. "Balance what tastes good with what is healthy and good for you," she advises. 

When Women Eat Healthy, Generations are Impacted 
Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., Director of The Moore Institute 

Research by Thornburg and others has shown that the American diet has been contributing to poor health, including heart disease, for three generations now. "This is bad for us, but it's also bad for future generations," says Dr. Thornburg. "An increased risk for things like heart disease is passed down to your children and even your grandchildren." 

The good news is that women can have a real impact on improving heart health in the United States. "Women tend to have a tremendous influence on not just their own diet, but on the diets of their families," says Dr. Thornburg. 

Cook at Home 
Tracy Severson, R.D., L.D., dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute 

Packaged foods are full of refined and processed ingredients that offer little or no nutritional value. Furthermore, these foods tend to be full of the saturated fat and refined carbohydrates we need to avoid. The solution? "Cook at home more often," Severson says.  

Even seemingly-healthy restaurant meals often contain excess sugar, salt and fat that you can't see. "Cooking food yourself almost always means less added sugar and sodium," says Severson. When you cook for yourself, you know exactly what goes into your food.