A good diet for cardiovascular health is one that avoids foods that contribute to problems that raise the risk of heart disease like obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
On Monday, medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay begins The Early Show series, "Healthy Heart" with a look a how a the right nutritious choices can avoid heart trouble.
Watch your calories so you can keep off the excess weight, Senay says. Try to stick to a low-fat, low-salt, low sugar diet.
Avoiding salt can help you keep blood pressure down. And paying attention to what we eat and how we cook can help keep fat content down. Avoid fried foods and avoid high-volume cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats and polyunsaturated fats.
The best foods that protect the heart are ones that contain beneficial vitamins and antioxidant components like polyphenols or flavonoids that neutralize harmful toxins that contribute to heart disease and strokes.
Antioxidant foods - including fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes all contain these beneficial nutrients.
Eat vegetables in variety and abundance, they are nearly all low-fat and contain natural vitamins and nutrients that can help protect against heart disease. Experts say that people should get five servings a day of fresh produce at a minimum and six or more servings of grain products.
Foods with the right kinds of fat, like plants and fish instead of meat and butter, should be your source of protein. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, nuts, other plant products and fish are good for your heart. And nuts and fish contain the omega-three fatty acid we've heard so much about.
Research shows that older men and women who eat fatty fish at least once a week dramatically cut their risk of dying of a heart attack if they ate fatty fish as little as once a week. We don't yet understand exactly how it affects the body. It plays a role in preventing blood clots that can lead to a stroke, preventing arrhythmias that can lead to a heart attack and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
There is research that shows vitamins in supplement form are not that helpful when it comes to fighting heart disease. The best bet is to try to get the beneficial ingredients as part of your diet. It's OK to use a multivitamin as a backup or to take specific vitamins or fish oil supplements if your doctor prescribes them, but they don't replace a good diet.