2021 Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Circulation. 2021 Dec 7;144(23):e472-e487. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001031. Epub 2021 Nov 2.


Poor diet quality is strongly associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. This scientific statement emphasizes the importance of dietary patterns beyond individual foods or nutrients, underscores the critical role of nutrition early in life, presents elements of heart-healthy dietary patterns, and highlights structural challenges that impede adherence to heart-healthy dietary patterns. Evidence-based dietary pattern guidance to promote cardiometabolic health includes the following: (1) adjust energy intake and expenditure to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight; (2) eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables; (3) choose whole grain foods and products; (4) choose healthy sources of protein (mostly plants; regular intake of fish and seafood; low-fat or fat-free dairy products; and if meat or poultry is desired, choose lean cuts and unprocessed forms); (5) use liquid plant oils rather than tropical oils and partially hydrogenated fats; (6) choose minimally processed foods instead of ultra-processed foods; (7) minimize the intake of beverages and foods with added sugars; (8) choose and prepare foods with little or no salt; (9) if you do not drink alcohol, do not start; if you choose to drink alcohol, limit intake; and (10) adhere to this guidance regardless of where food is prepared or consumed. Challenges that impede adherence to heart-healthy dietary patterns include targeted marketing of unhealthy foods, neighborhood segregation, food and nutrition insecurity, and structural racism. Creating an environment that facilitates, rather than impedes, adherence to heart-healthy dietary patterns among all individuals is a public health imperative.

Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; cardiovascular diseases; diet, food, and nutrition; diet, healthy; nutrition policy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Access to Healthy Foods
  • American Heart Association
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Health Education*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Therapy*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • United States / epidemiology