7 Steps to Boost Heart Health This Year

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to renew your commitment to heart-healthy eating, or resolve to begin a plan. Either way, these seven tips will help keep your heart in tip-top shape in the coming year.

1. Limit Unhealthy Fats and Cholesterol

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated and trans fat, such as butter, margarine and coconut oils, to less than seven percent and less than one percent of your total daily calories, respectively. Instead, choose olive and canola oils. Healthy adults should strive for less than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol and less than 200 milligrams a day if you have high LDL ("bad") levels of cholesterol.

2. Choose Low-Fat Protein Foods

Lean meat, poultry and fish; low-fat dairy products; and egg whites or egg substitutes are some of your best sources of protein.

3. Eat Plenty of Vegetables and Fruits

Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits provide you with lots of vitamins and minerals, are rich in fiber and low in calories. They also contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

4. Select Whole Grains

Whole grains provide you with fiber and other nutrients necessary to help regulate blood pressure and heart health. Try whole-grain pasta and high-fiber cereal with five or more grams of fiber per serving. An easy way to get more whole grains into your diet is to sprinkle flaxseed over your favorite foods, such as yogurt or hot cereal.

5. Lose the Salt Shaker

Eating too much salt contributes to high blood pressure. According to the AHA, healthy adults should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, about one teaspoon. To reduce your salt intake, avoid high-sodium foods like soy sauce, tomato juice and canned soups and prepared foods.

6. Control Portion Size

In addition to taking in more calories than you need, overloading your plate with food can also add more fat and cholesterol than is healthy. Judging serving size is a learned skill, using measuring cups and spoons or a scale can help. Aim for a two to three ounce serving size of meat, fish or chicken-about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

7. Have an Occasional Treat

Eating an occasional candy bar or your favorite ice cream won't derail your heart-healthy diet, just don't overindulge. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you eat healthy foods most of the time.