The Ultimate List of Heart-Healthy Foods
Add these heart-healthy foods to your daily meals and snacks.
There’s a lot you can do to show your heart some love. The American Heart Association recommends making certain lifestyle changes to improve your risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Specifically, manage your blood pressure, quit smoking, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, exercise, lose excess weight and eat a balanced, healthy diet.
But what, specifically, should you eat for optimal heart health? Certain foods can affect blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation—all risk factors for heart disease. Here’s our expert-recommended heart-healthy foods list.
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No matter the color, all vegetables are good for you. For instance, orange, red and yellow veggies—rich in carotenoids, fiber and vitamins—deserve a spot on your plate. But leafy greens, in particular, pack an extra nutritional punch, as they’re chock-full of good-for-you vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re a good source of vitamin K (which helps improve arterial function) and contain dietary nitrates (which help lower blood pressure). Add veggies to healthy soups, stir-fries, casseroles and salads.
- Acorn squash
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Red peppers
- Romaine lettuce
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
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“Eat the rainbow” works for both fruits and vegetables! But different fruits contain different nutrients, which is why it’s important to consume a variety. For instance, orange-colored fruits contain a good amount of beta-carotene, magnesium and potassium (which can blunt the effect of sodium). And berries are loaded with calcium, folate, iron, manganese, potassium and vitamins A and C. Mix diced fruit into yogurt and smoothies, add fruit to your cereal, or grab fresh fruit for an on-the-go snack. You can even “mash” certain fruit (like avocados, which offer heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, aka “good fats“) and use as a sandwich spread.
Ditch the refined grains (like white bread and white rice) and opt for whole grains instead (like rye bread and brown rice). Packed with fiber, whole grains can help lower cholesterol, reduce systolic blood pressure and decrease your risk for heart disease. Make sure the label says 100 percent whole grain. Popcorn counts as a whole grain but keep it healthy by air-popping it and skipping the butter and salt. Add herbs for flavor!
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish can help lower blood pressure, improve arterial function and reduce levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. The American Heart Association recommends eating two to three servings of fatty fish per week.
- Albacore tuna
As a terrific, low-fat source of fiber, B vitamins and plant-based protein, legumes (think beans, lentils and peas) help satiate you in a healthy way.
- Adzuki beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Red, green and brown lentils
Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, copper and manganese, nuts provide another great plant-based protein source. Eating walnuts, in particular, can help reduce blood pressure, decrease inflammation and lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels.
As another plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, seeds pack a lot of nutrition in a tiny package. Their omega-3s, for instance, help lower levels of triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol and decrease blood pressure.
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds