Every Step Counts: Tips for Beginning a Heart-Healthy Diet

When most people hear “heart-healthy diet,” they think they will never be able to eat salt again. Reducing sodium intake is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. But there are other ways to adjust your diet to improve your heart health, too.

DASH Diet

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet has been found to improve blood pressure, even without a full reduction in salt intake. The diet focuses on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

You can start working toward this diet with small, simple changes each day. Add in an extra serving of fruits and vegetables. Swap out white bread or white rice for their whole-grain counterparts. These changes are easy to make and will get you started down the right path.

What About the Salt?

If you are ready to cut back on your sodium intake, there are few things to keep in mind. One is that sea salt and regular table salt contain roughly the same amount of sodium. Sea salt should not be considered an adequate salt alternative.

Salt substitutes, such as potassium chloride, may not be the solution, either. People with kidney disease, or those taking certain medications like diuretics, should avoid these alternatives. They can cause a dangerously high spike in potassium levels in these individuals. Before using a salt substitute, check with your doctor.

Salt-free seasoning blends, such as Mrs. Dash, can be a great option for cutting back on your sodium intake. These alternatives use herbs & spices to flavor your food, rather than salt.

Every Step Counts!

Most importantly, remember that every step counts! Whether you just shake the salt shaker once instead of twice or add in an extra helping of vegetables, each step gets you closer to a heart-healthy diet and keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy.