According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease causes about 1 in every 4 deaths in the US. This makes it the number one cause of death in the United States. Research also shows that a poor diet is the greatest risk factor. Therefore an important factor in choosing what you eat should be finding the best foods for heart health.
That’s to say, a healthy and specified diet can significantly improve your heart health and lower the risk of heart diseases, among other chronic illnesses.
Best Foods for Heart Health
There are many things you can do to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease, but one of the most powerful things you can do—both in terms of immediate impact and long-term benefit—is to eat foods that are good for your heart. The right diet can lower your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, all of which contribute to decreased chances of heart disease.
The following list provides 10 foods that will have an immediate effect on improving your heart health and protecting you from future problems such as stroke or fatal heart attack.
Including more fruit in your diet can be an easy way to improve your heart health. Not only are they naturally full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals—all of which can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure—but many fruits also contain disease-fighting antioxidants like flavonoids that may reduce the risk of developing heart disease in the first place. Start increasing your intake of these 10 fruits today for an instant heart-healthy boost!
Avocado is a nutritious fruit rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It has been shown to improve heart health. Specifically, it is high in monounsaturated fats, a type of fatty acid that has been shown to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
A study conducted on 45 healthy, overweight, or obese men and women on a standard American diet, replaced saturated fatty acids in some individuals’ diets with unsaturated fatty acids from avocado for five weeks. At the end of the study, they found that the group that consumed avocado daily reduced their bad cholesterol levels (LDL). See Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad.
Avocados are also high in potassium, a mineral that facilitates muscle and nerve function. It helps relieve tension within your blood vessel walls, leading to a drop in blood pressure.
This lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack while maintaining a steady heart rhythm.
Other foods rich in potassium include
- Sweet potato
- Kidney beans
- Split peas
Grapes are considered one of the best fruits for heart health. They are rich in antioxidants, which help to strengthen the immune system. They’re also a good source of vitamin K, which is important for preventing unwanted blood clotting and improving overall heart health. Eating just one cup of grapes a day may bedfff enough to significantly reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by 30 percent.
Grapes are easy to incorporate into your diet—just toss them in salads or snack on them when you’re craving something sweet.
One study found that eating 100 grams of grapes per day (about 1/2 cup) can lower cholesterol levels by as much as 14 percent. Other research has shown similar results—including studies showing how consuming grapes can reduce inflammation throughout your body, reduce damage to arteries, and potentially protect against heart disease. See How Long Do Grapes Last In The Fridge?
Pomegranates are a rich source of anthocyanins, which give red and purple fruits their color. Evidence suggests that these compounds can help protect against heart disease by preventing LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and minimizing damage to arteries.
In one lab study, pomegranate extract was shown to lower inflammation in the arteries, reduce oxidative stress, prevent arterial buildup, and lower blood pressure, thus helping lower the risk of stroke and heart attack.
What’s more, pomegranates are a great source of soluble fiber, which besides improving digestive health, is good at lowering cholesterol. Consuming just 1 ounce (about half a cup) of fresh pomegranate seeds provides almost 5 grams of fiber. That’s almost 10% of your daily recommended intake in one little serving.
A recent study even found that pomegranate juice may be an effective treatment for heart failure patients with low ejection fraction (EF). EF refers to how well your heart pumps blood throughout your body—and it’s typically lower in people with heart failure. Those who drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for 2 months had significantly higher EF than those who didn’t drink any juice.
Another study on people with ischemic heart disease found that a daily intake of one cup of pomegranate juice for 5 days reduced the pain associated with the condition. These patients also experienced increased cardioprotective benefits.
Pomegranate is also rich in vitamins A and C and potassium, which help lower blood pressure by reducing sodium levels in your body. Eat them whole or in juice form—either way, they’ll help you keep your heart healthy. See Impressive Health Benefits Of Pomegranate Juice.
Apples are chock-full of pectin, a type of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels. They also pack a good amount of vitamin C, which protects arteries from damage by making blood platelets less sticky.
Apples also contain phytonutrients called flavonoids, which prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and damaging your blood vessels. These phytonutrients—especially one called quercetin— has cardioprotective effects and antioxidant properties, making them ideal for maintaining a strong and healthy heart.
Eating apples regularly may help reduce the risk of heart disease, so try adding apple slices to your breakfast cereal or eating them as a snack. They’re also delicious baked into desserts like apple pie. See Vegan Apple Breakfast Cake.
Blackberries are one of many berries rich in anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant that fights inflammation and lowers cholesterol. A recent study linked anthocyanins to higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Not only do they taste delicious, but blackberries are also full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, all of which support heart health and general wellbeing. See Blackberry Banana Smoothie.
Kiwis are a rich source of Vitamin C, which plays an important role in heart health by keeping blood vessels flexible and preventing blood clots. The dark green fruit is also high in potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels by keeping your body from retaining excess sodium. As an added bonus, kiwis contain soluble fiber, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and help lower your risk of heart disease. Are Kiwis Good For You?
Bananas are loaded with nutrients, such as potassium and vitamin C. This helps reduce high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease. One medium banana contains 394 milligrams of potassium, which is more than 10 percent of your daily recommended value. Potassium is an important mineral for keeping blood pressure low and stabilizing heart rhythms.
2. Leafy green vegetables
Kale is a leafy green vegetable and one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods. Kale is packed with antioxidants which makes it an excellent food choice to help prevent heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, kale may be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. A 1-cup serving of chopped kale contains 2 grams of fiber and 10 calories. It also contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Kale also aids in blood flow and is high in folic acid, which helps decrease the levels of homocysteine – an amino acid known for damaging blood vessels.
In addition to being good for your heart, kale has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a great option for those suffering from arthritis or other inflammatory conditions.
Besides, kale is high in folic acid, which helps decrease the levels of homocysteine – an amino acid known for damaging blood vessels.
When choosing kale, look for dark, leafy greens that are firm and free of discoloration. If you are going to use it raw, choose smaller leaves as they tend to be more tender than larger ones. Kale can be used in salads, but its flavor can sometimes overpower other ingredients, so try combining it with milder-tasting greens like spinach or romaine lettuce.
If you prefer when cooking it, be sure to remove any tough stems or ribs first; then toss it into your sauté pan for about 3 minutes over medium heat until tender. See Warm Kale Salad.
Spinach is loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber. It also contains vitamins A, C, and K. These nutrients are crucial for normalizing cholesterol levels and reducing the risks of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.
Spinach is also rich in folate, which helps prevent homocysteine from accumulating in your bloodstream. High homocysteine levels can lead to cardiovascular disease. In addition, spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect against age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and atherosclerosis.
Spinach also protects against cancer by promoting apoptosis (the death of damaged cells).
You can add Spinach to your salad or enjoy it in smoothies. See Spinach Pakora.
These dark, leafy greens are a great source of fiber and vitamins A and K. These vitamins support bone growth, allowing your bones to grow stronger over time. These nutrients may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as reduce your risk of heart disease – the number one killer in America. See Vegan Collard Greens.
Considered to be a superfood, bok choy is full of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals (phytonutrients), which promote heart health.
Bok choy is also rich in an antioxidant called kaempferol, which is found in high concentrations of other cruciferous vegetables such as kale and broccoli; bok choy can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, research has shown that eating bok choy may reduce cholesterol levels by up to 20 percent. In addition to lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
It’s also an excellent source of fiber and iron. Bok choy also has antibacterial properties that can help fight colds, flu, and other illnesses. The best part? It’s easy to prepare and can be eaten raw or cooked! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy it: add it to your next stir fry, chop it up in a salad, and steam it with some garlic. See Jamaican Bok Choy Recipe.
Swiss chard boasts impressive antioxidant and phytonutrient content as well as being a very good source of folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and manganese. For all these reasons and more, it’s considered an amazing heart-healthy vegetable. It also makes for a great ingredient in smoothies, soups, and salads. See Sauteed Swiss Chard.
3. Whole grains
When used as a replacement for refined grains, whole grains, including brown rice, rye, oats, sorghum, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat can lower the risk of heart disease.
This is because they are high in fiber, which has been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and promote heart health.
In one review, consuming whole grains resulted in a reduced risk for heart disease by 22 percent in individuals that consumed 28 grams of whole grains daily.
Beans are not only delicious but naturally nutritious. They are packed with heart-healthy nutrients, including magnesium, folate, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
They are also high in fiber, which may help improve your blood cholesterol.
Pinto beans, for instance, have been shown to reduce biomarkers for heart disease risk.
Nuts contain fiber and an assortment of essential vitamins and minerals good for the heart. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which also aid in protecting the heart. 25 Types Of Nuts.
Studies have shown that adding a few servings of nuts to your diet can aid in lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol levels. This is what your body needs to prevent arterial blockage and hardening. In turn, this keeps the blood pressure lower and reduces stress on the heart. Read more here.
Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a compound that’s essential for heart health. They’re also rich in vitamin E and folate, which help fight against plaque buildup in your arteries and reduce your risk of stroke. In fact, research shows that people who consume nuts on a regular basis have lower rates of coronary artery disease than those who don’t eat nuts at all.
They also contain arginine, an amino acid that helps keep blood vessels open for optimal blood flow. Walnuts are also rich in vitamin B6, which helps reduce stress on arteries and improve overall heart health.
Purpose to eat an ounce every day for maximum benefits. See Walnuts Benefits.
Like other nuts, almonds are high in fat, but unlike many other nuts, they’re relatively low in calories and contain a decent amount of magnesium and vitamin E. They’re also full of heart-healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, and protein.
Almonds may be helpful in lowering bad cholesterol levels, protecting against diabetes, and preventing certain types of cancer. In addition to eating them as is, you can try almond butter or even add them to smoothies for an extra nutrient boost. See Are Almonds Good For You?
The largest and heaviest of all nuts, Brazil nuts are packed with heart-healthy minerals. They also contain lots of selenium, a trace mineral shown to help protect against heart disease and cancer. For example, one study found that those who ate a diet high in selenium (100 micrograms per day) had an 11 percent lower risk of heart attack than those who had 25 micrograms or less each day. Brazil nuts provide 140 micrograms per ounce!
Additionally, they’re rich in magnesium—another heart-healthy nutrient—that can help regulate blood pressure levels. Magnesium is also known for its muscle relaxant properties, which may explain why some studies have linked it to reduced stress levels.
Pistachios are one of nature’s richest sources of beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol that has been found to help reduce cholesterol. Pistachios are also rich in mono-unsaturated fats, which improve levels of HDL, or good cholesterol.
In fact, just half a cup per day (about 49 kernels) has been shown to lower total and LDL or bad cholesterol levels by about 9%.
Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium, two other nutrients which can help lower your risk for heart disease. A handful is all you need to reap these benefits: With an abundance of B vitamins and minerals such as copper, calcium, and potassium, pistachios can help keep your heart healthy and may even lower your risk for heart disease.
Most people know that nuts are great sources of protein—and that’s true with pistachios, too. A one-ounce serving has more than six grams of protein. The high level of protein helps you feel full longer and aids in weight loss.
Also, studies have shown that pistachios may reduce belly fat when eaten regularly. In addition to being a good source of fiber, pistachios also contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients known to protect against macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness among older adults.
Macadamia nuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats, one of the good kinds of fat that are found in olive oil and avocados. These types of healthy fats have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. But be sure to moderate your intake: Macadamias are relatively high in calories, so don’t overdo it on portion sizes!
Rich in antioxidants, protein, and fat, cashews contain trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to help reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. The health benefits are amplified when consumed with other nuts. They’re also high in magnesium, which can reduce blood pressure and help alleviate stress on blood vessels, lowering your risk for a stroke or heart attack. Cashews are one of my favorite snacks!
Hazelnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease. These tasty nuts also contain Vitamin E and antioxidants, which reduce inflammation, preventing plaque build-up. The best way to enjoy hazelnuts is raw or dry roasted. Just be careful not to over-consume them—they’re high in calories!
Don’t be surprised if eating just a handful of pecans a day reduces your cholesterol and blood pressure. Pecans are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and fight heart disease. A daily dose of pecans also offers oleic acid, a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from becoming oxidized—the process by which it forms plaque in your arteries.
Pecans are also rich in zinc, which is essential for boosting immunity
6. Soy and soy products
Whether it’s tofu, edamame, or soy milk, soybeans contain isoflavones, which are compounds that have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels (read more here). They also have fiber, polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals that help maintain a healthy heart.
With soybeans being as versatile as they are, it is easy to incorporate into your diet. They are all full of cholesterol-free plant-based protein, making them some of the best healthy meal bases you can choose from. Adding soy products to your daily diet has been shown to improve heart health.
According to research, a healthy diet can significantly improve heart health and lower the risk of developing heart disease and other related complications.
Not every food can promote a healthy heart. A healthy diet rich in leafy green vegetables, avocado, whole grains, nuts, fruits, beans, etc., is essential. A diet like this has been shown to promote heart health and lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and its complications, including stroke and heart disease.
More Healthy Diet Information
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