How we eat has a big impact on our heart. And it’s never too late to start thinking about a heart-healthy diet.

“Everyone should be eating heart healthy,” said Kelley Koplin, a clinical dietitian at Bayhealth. “Diet plays a major role in heart disease. Even people who don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol should be paying attention to what they are eating.”

The first step is to limit salt intake. Anything in a box, bag or can has salt. Processed foods especially will be high in sodium. Even food items you wouldn’t expect, like milk, have salt.

“Salt is in everything, so it’s important to keep a close eye on sodium throughout the day. In general, stick with whole and natural foods like fruits, vegetables and lean meats,” said Koplin. “Don’t keep salt on the dinner table and if you are going to cook with it, do it early in the cooking process so some of the salt will cook off.”

Fat and cholesterol are also bad for the heart. Animal products tend to be high in both, particularly processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meats, bacon, and sausage. “I always advise those who want to eat red meat to pick the leanest cut you can find. A better option over red meat is ground turkey or ground chicken,” said Koplin.

Limiting sugar is also important for a heart-healthy diet. Beverages like soda or juice and sweet treats can be packed with sugar.

Adding in Omega-3 fatty acids is also helpful. Fish like salmon and tuna and walnuts and flax seeds are good sources.

In addition to watching what foods you eat, you also need to be mindful of how they are prepared. “Bake, grill, slow cook, or roast food. That’s the best way to stay heart-healthy. Never fry foods,” said Koplin.

“For those who are looking to make changes but don’t know where to begin, I always suggest cooking at home. When you are eating out, you never truly know how much salt and fat is in your food. At home, healthy options are always available.”

Bayhealth offers inpatient and outpatient dietitians. If you are interested in talking to an outpatient dietitian, consult your primary care physician. If you have any questions about services offered by an outpatient dietitian, call 302-744-6828 or go to bayhealth.org/nutrition.