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Making the Switch to Healthier Foods

In the last final installment of the three-part "Early Show" "Healthy Hearts" series, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared a way to transform every meal into a healthier option for your heart.

And in the U.S. it's important to look for those options, Ashton said, because, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), 80 million Americans are living with some form of heart disease. And heart disease claims more than 864,000 lives every year -- that's one death every 37 seconds.

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So, to help your heart at every meal, Ashton said you should look to control your diet with healthier alternatives. And one way to do that, she explained, is to remember this heart healthy equation for your meal's nutritional content: subtract salt, add omega-3 fatty acids and add antioxidants:


• Use herbs and spices
• Swap in vegetables
• Look for no-sodium options

How to incorporate for each meal:
• Start your morning off by flavoring your eggs with fresh herbs instead -- it will give them a boost of flavor.
• For lunch, you can swap those chips and pretzels for vegetable sticks. You're not only getting a healthier crunch, but you can shave off some sodium from your diet.
• Look for no-sodium options -- it's easier to add salt back in, if you need to, than take it out. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans consume up to 75 percent of their sodium from processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes.

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But how much salt per day should we limit ourselves to?
AHA guidelines are 2,300 mg per day, which is less than one tsp, and less for some people. (African Americans, middle-aged and older adults, and people with high blood pressure should have no more than 1,500 mg per day.)


Sources: Fish, Tofu, Soybeans, Walnuts, Fortified Breads/Peanut Butter

How to incorporate for each meal:
• You can add walnuts for some crunch to your morning oatmeal.
• For lunch, make sure you use fortified breads that contain omega-3 fatty acids -- and look for peanut butter, which now contain omega-3 fatty acids.
• When you sit down for dinner, opt for something like grilled salmon. There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids. Two crucial omega-3 fatty acids -- EPA and DHA -- are primarily found in certain fish.

How can omega-3's help our hearts?
Fatty fish and omega-3 fatty acids help to combat risk factors for a range of heart-related conditions such as lowering levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood), blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability.

Ashton cited a recent European study that reported eating fatty fish and marine omega-3 fatty acids seemed to protect men from heart failure. Men who ate fatty fish once a week were 12 percent less likely to develop heart failure, compared to men who never eat fatty fish.


Sources: Berries, Beans, Russet Potatoes, Dark Chocolate

• A side of berries can really boost your breakfast. Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries pack a high antioxidant punch. Antioxidants are believed to help prevent and repair oxidative stress, a process that damages your body's cells, and has been linked to the development of heart disease.
• For lunch, try to incorporate beans in your salad. Researchers say that red beans contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than blueberries.
• For dinner, have a baked russet potato -- Yes, they have antioxidants! Or, help yourself to some dark chocolate for dessert.