Recently updated statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA) reveal 80 million Americans—almost 27% of us—suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease (most frequently, high blood pressure).

Heart-healthy cooking is critical in a country that worships fast food. The good news? It’s not as difficult as some readers may think. You needn’t give up most of your favorite natural/organic foods or feel deprived.

Roger Blumenthal, MD, a professor of cardiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and coauthor of The Betty Crocker Healthy Heart Cookbook, offers 10 tips:

  1. Get an oil change. Switch to mono- and polyunsaturated oils for eating and cooking. Canola, soybean and olive oils are heart-healthy choices.
  2. Go fish. Gradually increase fish consumption to at least twice a week, per AHA guidelines. Try new recipes to determine which ones are keepers. (Tune in tomorrow for a special recipe from the cookbook, Graham-Crusted Fish Fillets.)
  3. Color your menu. Add veggies to rice, pasta and small portions of pizza. Leave fruit on the counter for quick snacks. Add dried fruit to breakfast oatmeal. Serve fresh fruit for dessert.
  4. Greens are golden. Eat a salad with dinner. Include vegetables and legumes like cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli and green beans.
  5. Think your drink. Drink water, herbal teas and unsweetened flavored waters.
  6. Tap the moo machine. Drink skim milk daily (adults and kids).
  7. Go with the grains. Include whole-grain cereal, bread, oatmeal, barley and brown rice in menus.
  8. Green-light some red meat. As long as your overall diet is low in saturated fat, small lean cuts of meat served with heart-friendly foods are OK occasionally.
  9. Give good fats a hand. Snack on a handful of walnuts, almonds or avocado slices. They contain monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart.
  10. Hold the bottom line. If you really want it, you can eat it—in moderation. Small amounts of butter are OK from time to time. Serve ice cream for special occasions, but otherwise reach for yogurt.