3 Heart-Healthy Foods You Can Eat Every Day

Making a habit of eating these three foods may help boost your heart health

mixed berries

Updated on June 24, 2022.

If you’re concerned about your heart health, making big changes to your everyday eating plan can be daunting. Where to start?

Do you revamp your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks first? Do you have to toss everything in your pantry and start with bare cupboards? And which heart-healthy diet is right for you, the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet or something else entirely?

The good news is that, like many health changes, starting small can yield incremental benefits—which can pay off big-time as you gradually transform your habits.

Here are three tasty and easy-to-find foods you can add to your diet today to start enjoying benefits for your heart and overall health.

Nuts

In place of red or processed meat, French fries or dessert, eat about one serving per day, which isabout one handful of nuts (which equals about one ounce, depending on your hand size), or two tablespoons of nut butter. Nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats and protein. An analysis of results from 13 studies found that replacing red meat with nuts was associated with about 16 percent lower risk of heart disease. The analysis was published in the journal Nutrition Reviews in 2022.

The best nuts (those highest in omega-3 fatty acids) are walnuts, but most nuts are good for you. If you’re aiming to lose or manage your weight, you may want to steer away from higher fat nuts like macadamias or pecans and stay mindful of portion size, since nuts are calorie dense.

Olive oil

Try to eat about 2 tablespoons per day of olive oil and other healthy fats (found in fatty fish like salmon, vegetable oils like canola, or those in nuts), based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which raise your levels of HDL (aka “good” cholesterol). This healthy cholesterol actually helps clean out your arteries as it moves through your body. That's why when it comes to HDL, higher is generally better.

Bold-colored plant foods

You may not know them by name but you probably eat some flavonoids each day—and you should strive to get even more.

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties that occur naturally in many plant foods. These include coffee, tea (particularly black tea and green tea), red wine, grapes, berries, citrus, onions, celery, and peppers. They lend fruits and veggies their pigment, which is why they’re particularly bountiful in foods with naturally bright colors.

Flavonoids benefit pretty much all your body’s health systems, particularly your heart and brain. In fact, a study published in the journal Neurology in 2021 found that people who consumed the highest amounts of flavonoids had about 19 percent lower odds of developing cognitive decline compared to people who ate the least. The study included about 77,000 health professionals who filled out dietary questionnaires over the course of 16 to 20 years.  

As a head start on your healthy diet transformation, know that you can get a healthy dose of flavonoids by drinking about 12 ounces of coffee per day. Keep in mind that the amount of flavonoids in your morning cup of joe can vary depending on how long you brew it and what type of roast you choose.

Article sources open article sources

Hidayat K, Chen JS, Wang HP, et al. Is replacing red meat with other protein sources associated with lower risks of coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality? A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Nutr Rev. 2022 Apr 5
Yeh TS, Yuan C, Ascherio A, et al. Long-term Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Subjective Cognitive Decline in US Men and Women. Neurology. 2021 Sep 7;97(10):e1041-e1056.
American Heart Association. Nuts for nuts? Daily serving may help control weight and benefit health. November 5, 2018.
US Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accessed June 24, 2022.
Yeh TS, Yuan C, Ascherio A, et al. Long-term Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Subjective Cognitive Decline in US Men and Women. Neurology. 2021 Sep 7;97(10):e1041-e1056.

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