5 Foods for a Healthy Heart

5 Foods for a Healthy Heart

These supermarket staples aren’t just low in salt and unhealthy fats—they’re filled with nutrients your heart needs.

If you think eating a heart-healthy diet means bland, boring food, your taste buds are in for a shock. To help lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure and prevent inflammation and arterial aging, try these delicious options.

Colorful fruits and vegetables
Produce such as strawberries, red grapes, cranberries, oranges, plums and tomatoes are bursting with antioxidants called flavonoids that help quell inflammation. That's a good thing, because inflammation is one of the many factors involved in heart disease. Eat fresh, brightly hued produce and aim for 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day.

Whole-grain products
Whole grain bread, cereals, brown rice, quinoa and flaxseeds are full of heart-protective fiber and magnesium that can help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy range. Try for six or more daily servings of whole grains.

Healthy fats
Choose healthy, vegetable-based fats like avocado and olive oil in place of unhealthful fats. Mashed avocado makes a good sandwich spread if you mix it with a little salsa—or all by itself. Olive oil is a great butter substitute when you're sautéing veggies. Substitutions like these are delicious ways to help bring down "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boost the "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) kind. Just remember to limit portion size as you would with any other oils or fats.

A strong body of research shows that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (as long as it's not fried) helps lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, high triglycerides, arterial plaque buildup and inflammation in your arteries. Opt for two portions per week of salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod or other oily fish packed with these good fats.

Nuts and nut butters
Eating nuts regularly can cut your risk of heart disease by 14 to 34 percent. Almonds, pistachios and especially walnuts are loaded with heart-friendly fats and are a great source of vegetable protein. Just stick to one handful per day to keep your calorie count down.

Beneficial cutbacks
As you add more heart-healthy items to your daily menu, you also need to curb foods that age your heart. That means minimizing unhealthy saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar. But there's no reason to be dismayed when you have options like apple wedges with peanut butter, crusty whole-grain breads, fresh berries, olives or veggies with hummus.

Medically reviewed in December 2019. Updated in August 2020.

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