5 Foods for a Healthy Heart

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

eating fruit for breakfast

Updated on March 18, 2024.

To help lower cholesterol (a fat-like substance in the blood), reduce high blood pressure and prevent inflammation and aging of your blood vessels, try these delicious options.

Colorful fruits and vegetables

Produce such as oranges, strawberries, red grapes, cranberries, plums and tomatoes are bursting with antioxidants called flavonoids that help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is one of the many factors involved in heart disease. Try to eat fresh, brightly colored produce and aim for 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day.

Whole-grain products

Whole grain products like whole-grain bread, cereals, brown rice, quinoa and flaxseeds are full of heart-protective fiber and magnesium, a mineral 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 canola, safflower, olive oil, and avocados in place of unhealthful saturated fats (which are solid at room temperature, like butter) and trans fats (which are often found in processed and junk foods). Canola oil is a great butter substitute when you're cooking veggies. Substitutions like these can help bring down "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boost "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Just remember to limit portion size as you would with any other oils or fats.

Fish

A strong body of research shows that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (as long as it's not fried) may help lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) high triglycerides (a type of cholesterol), inflammation and buildup of deposits called cholesterol plaque 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, according to some research. Almonds, pistachios and especially walnuts have heart-healthy 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. As substitutes, try options like apple wedges with peanut butter, crusty whole-grain breads, fresh citrus, or carrot and celery sticks.

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