9 Heart-Healthy Foods to Incorporate into Your Diet
Eating a heart-healthy diet is simpler than you think. These 9 heart-healthy foods provide nutrients and fats that your heart needs to do its job correctly. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, they can help you maintain healthy heart function.
1. Whole Grains
Eating whole grains over processed ones have big benefits to your heart since they contain all the nutrients found in the endosperm, germ, and bran which are removed when they are processed for things like white bread.
Several easy to find whole grains that can be substituted for refined grains are oats, brown rice, whole wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, and rye.
These whole grains have higher fiber counts than their processed counterparts, so they may be able to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease.
These whole grains can be used in similar ways to refined ones. For example, using whole wheat bread in a sandwich, or substituting brown rice for white rice in a recipe. Make sure that the label of the product you buy indicates it is whole grain.
An analysis1 of 45 studies on whole grain consumption linked to heart health showed that people who consumed 3 or more servings of whole grains every day had, on average, a 22% lower risk of heart disease.
Whole grains may also lower blood pressure, which could help lower the risk of stroke.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, among others are high in vitamin K, which helps to promote proper blood clotting and can help clean your arteries.
Leafy greens have also been linked to lower blood pressure and improve the health of the cells lining the arteries, thanks to their high concentration of dietary nitrates.
Avocados have high monounsaturated fat content which is super heart-healthy and can help lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
Studies2 comparing 45 obese test subjects consuming one or more avocado daily had significantly reduced LDL cholesterol, which can lead to reduced heart disease risks.
Another study3 covering 17,567 people who regularly consumed avocados showed a 50% less likely chance of getting metabolic syndrome.
Avocados are high in potassium and eating just one avocado gives you almost 30% of your daily potassium intake. Potassium is a nutrient that is very important to the health of your heart and could be why avocados may have significant cardiac benefits.
Beans have long been treated as a health food since they have plenty of benefits. The ones that contribute to heart health have to do with the type of starch they contain.
This type of starch is called resistant starch and is what gets fermented by the good bacteria in your digestive system.
In a study4 with 16 people, consuming pinto beans lowered the number of blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which could help prevent heart disease.
Beans have also been linked to reduced inflammation in the arteries and lowered blood pressure, both of which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
5. Dark Chocolate
Yes! Chocolate has been linked to having heart-healthy benefits! However, the chocolate with benefits is dark, so if you are only a fan of milk chocolate, do not celebrate too soon.
Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants such as flavonoids, which could help the health of your heart. Dark chocolate also has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of heart disease in a study5 conducted over a large group.
The study showed that people who ate dark chocolate five times a week had the chance of coronary heart disease reduced by 57%. People who ate dark chocolate just two times a week had an average of 32% less risk of calcified plaque in the arteries.
Remember, that although these studies seem linked and solid proof, they may not account for other lifestyle factors in the subjects’ lives that could contribute to these percentages.
Almonds and walnuts have been linked to healthier hearts thanks to the minerals they pack inside a small punch.
Walnuts are high in fiber, copper, magnesium, and manganese. They may be able to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiac system.
Almonds, like avocados, are high in monounsaturated fats and fiber among a long list of other minerals. Both monounsaturated fats and fiber have shown that they can help lower the risk of heart disease, as well as lower LDL cholesterol.
Almonds are also high in calories, so if you are trying to watch your caloric intake, you should keep this in mind and monitor your portions.
Like nuts, seeds are full of protein and minerals. Chia, sunflower, flax, and hemp seeds are all full of fiber and omega fatty acids, which are fantastic for your heart.
Multiple studies have shown that seeds can help lower inflammation, blood pressure, and blood triglycerides.
One study6 showed a connection between hemp seeds and reduced levels of cardiac inflammation, thanks to a mineral called arginine. Another showed a link between flax seeds and lowered blood pressure.
8. Green Tea
Green tea has been used for centuries as a medicinal tea to cure a large array of ailments, and it is still highly praised to this day.
Green tea has been linked to speeding up metabolisms, increasing the fat burning process, decreasing sensitivity to insulin, clearer skin, and many more.
One of its many health features is that it is packed with polyphenols and catechins, which act as antioxidants, and can reduce cell inflammation and damage, which in turn helps preserve the health of your heart.
9. Fatty Fish and Omega-3s
Eating fatty fish, such as salmon, have been linked to reducing blood triglycerides and blood clotting, as well as slightly lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
This is mainly due to the type of fatty acid in the fish, omega-3 fatty acids to be exact. Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
By just eating two servings of fatty fish with high omega-3s per week, you may be able to lower your risk of sudden heart disease.
Most seafood has omega-3s in them, however, if you are trying to involve more omega-3s into your diet, then check out the following seafood items7, as they have higher concentrations of omega-3s.
- Atlantic mackerel
- Lake trout
- Light tuna
Try to consume 2 servings (approximately 8 ounces) of fatty fish with high omega-3 content each week to see if it will help your cardiac system.
These nutritious foods are recommended for their heart health benefits, but everyone's heart health needs are unique, so please check with your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet.
1. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies, 2016 Jun 14
3. Avocado Consumption Is Associated With Better Diet Quality and Nutrient Intake, and Lower Metabolic Syndrome Risk in US Adults: Results From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008, 2013 Jan 2;12:1. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
4. Pinto Bean Consumption Reduces Biomarkers for Heart Disease Risk, 2007 Jun;26(3):243-9. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2007.10719607.
5. Chocolate Consumption Is Inversely Associated With Prevalent Coronary Heart Disease: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study, 2011 Apr;30(2):182-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2010.08.005. Epub 2010 Sep 19.
6. Association Between Dietary Arginine and C-reactive Protein, 2005 Feb;21(2):125-30. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.03.021.