In 1989, almost a million people in the United States were stricken with some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Medical studies have linked a diet high in saturated fat to cardiovascular disease.
Here is a diet primer developed with recommendations from the American Heart Association to help keep hearts in the blush of good health.
* Limit your intake of meat, seafood and poultry to no more than 6 ounces per day. Animal protein is a major source of fat in the American diet. Ideally, only 10 to 12 percent of daily calories should come from protein, which is best utilized if it's divided among several meals. You won't go hungry if you fill up at lunch and dinner on low-fat alternatives such as pasta, rice or vegetables.
* Eat lean meats, fish and poultry. Dietitians recommend keeping the total intake of fat to 30 percent or less of total calories. Planning meals around lean meats makes this task easier. Some examples of lean meats are beef trimmed of visible fat, chicken without the skin and fish in a light sauce made without butter or cream.
* Trim, drain or blot away all fat from meats, fish and poultry. Every tablespoon of fat has at least 100 calories and more than 15 grams of fat, so it can add up quickly in your diet. Some of the fat you eat is disguised as marbling in meat, pan drippings, oily cooking juices or a greasy film on soup. Trimming, draining and blotting away fat can save hundreds of calories from fat with no loss of food flavor.
* Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain virtually no fat, and they are rich sources of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Think of it as one medium-size piece of fruit and a half-cup of fruit juice in the morning, a half-cup of raw carrot sticks at lunch and two servings of cooked vegetables at dinner. The more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less hungry you will be for high-fat foods.
* Eat six or more servings of cereals, legumes and grains daily. Whole-grain breakfast cereals, whole-grain breads, pasta, beans, rice, couscous, bulgur, lentils, kasha (hulled and crushed buckwheat kernels) and cornmeal are examples of complex carbohydrates. These starchy foods are filling and provide low-fat alternatives to meat, cheese and other calorie-laden foods. Dietitians recommend that the ideal diet include no more than 55 to 60 percent of total calories from complex carbohydrates, such as grains, legumes and vegetables.
* Use cooking methods that require adding little or no fat, such as broiling, grilling, baking, roasting, steaming, poaching or boiling. These cooking methods actually render fat out of the food, making it easy to blot or skim away the fat. "Steam-frying" is a new cooking technique that combines steaming and sauteing. To steam-fry foods, pour a small amount of water, broth or wine in the bottom of a frying pan and bring it to a rapid boil. Use this liquid instead of fat to keep meat and vegetables from sticking to the pan during cooking.
* Use about 5 to 8 teaspoons of fat and oils per day for cooking, baking, salads and spreads. Cutting back on high-fat salad dressings, butter and oil eliminates a significant portion of the fat in your diet.
* Eat no more than three or four egg yolks a week, including those used in baking, cooking and commercial cookies and cakes. Egg yolks are almost pure fat mixed with a small amounts of protein and vitamin A. On the other hand, the white of the egg doesn't contain any fat and has more protein than the yolk. Two egg whites can be used in place of a whole egg to make breads, cookies and other baked goods.