The American Heart Association Dietary Recommendations

The eating plan recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) was designed with the goal of reducing three of the major risk factors for heart attack—high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and excess body weight. The recommendations incorporate the latest advice of medical and nutrition experts. Following this plan, according to the AHA, will help Americans achieve and maintain a healthy eating pattern, the benefits of which include a healthy body weight, a desirable blood cholesterol level, and a normal blood pressure. Many research studies have compared popular diet programs, including low-carbohydrate dietary plans, to the AHA dietary recommendations.

AHA Dietary Guidelines

The AHA plan is based on these dietary guidelines outlined in Table 1. According to the AHA, this plan is an easy-to-follow guide to delicious eating—and does not require giving up favorite foods. Every meal doesn’t have to meet all the guidelines; however, it is important to apply the guidelines to an overall eating pattern over several days.

With these guidelines, the American Heart Association hopes that good dietary choices will do more than improve heart health: These dietary recommendations may reduce the risk for other chronic health problems as well, including Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis (bone loss), and some forms of cancer.

The American Heart Association can help consumers choose heart-healthy foods when grocery shopping. Hundreds of items throughout the grocery store have the American Heart Association special, red heart-check mark. Visit for a list of certified foods.

Food Groups and Recommended Servings

Each of the basic food groups must be represented in an individual’s diet to supply a balanced combination of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Variety is the key to good nutrition. Table 2 outlines the basic food groups and recommended servings. Some populations have a greater risk for chronic health problems. Table 3 shows recommended levels of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol for people in two categories of risk. AHA also suggests balancing caloric input with 30-60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on most days to avoid gaining weight.

For More Information

For more information on the dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association, including a food certification list, menu planning tips, recipes, and nutrition labeling guidance, please visit:

Source: American Heart Association. Available at: Accessed on November 12, 2004.