A healthy diet can be useful for your heart as well as your waistline.
“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” says preventive cardiology dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart.”
“Try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground,” Zumpano says, recommending what she calls the “whole-foods diet.” That diet includes, of course, heart-healthy foods such as nuts, fish, whole grains, olive oil, vegetables and fruits, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself occasionally with a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate, Zumpano says. She suggests using this list as a guide to create meals and snacks with a healthy focus. Just a few simple swaps could make a big difference for your cardiovascular health.
America’s top heart hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, picked the best ten fruits for boosting heart health. Eat them often to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Eating a diet with the right number of calories and amount of fat is an essential part of taking care of your heart, and some foods are particularly attractive in this regard because of their nutrient profiles.
The American Heart Association suggests a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. These picks are especially worthy of your grocery list.
Protecting your heart goes beyond avoiding unhealthy foods. To slash your risk of heart disease, it’s also important to up your intake of nutrient-rich and high fibre foods, as well as healthful fats.
Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States. In this Spotlight, we outline 16 foods that, when consumed as part of a well-rounded diet, might help to keep your heart healthy.
There are many things you can do to help keep your heart healthy and disease-free.
You can schedule an annual checkup, exercise daily, quit smoking, or take steps to reduce the level of stress in your life.
All of these things can have a positive effect on heart health. But, one of the most straightforward lifestyle changes that will benefit your heart is watching what you eat.
Nearly 6 million people are currently living with heart failure, and around half of these will die within five years of being diagnosed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be very bad for the heart. So, when taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is an excellent place to start.
In this article, we examine some of the best foods for ensuring that you keep a robust and healthy heart.
Heart disease accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide (Trusted Source).
Diet plays a significant role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease.
Certain foods can influence blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death trusted Source for women in the United States. An estimated 44 million U.S. women are affected by cardiovascular disease, causing 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year. And one of the most common forms of heart disease is coronary artery disease.Coronary artery disease happens when a buildup of plaque narrows artery walls and restricts proper blood flow to the heart. This can eventually lead to a heart attack or cardiac death.
Coronary artery disease can be treated or prevented through lifestyle modifications. One significant influence on disease management or prevention is your diet.
Foods rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats, and antioxidants all have their role in heart health. We’ve rounded up ten artery-friendly foods and highlighted what makes them so great and how they can keep your arteries clean.
Your heart is a finely tuned machine. To keep it running in top form, you need to give it heart-healthy fuel. And that means you should choose a healthy diet. Some foods offer great heart benefits, but how do you accept?
More than 1 in 10 Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease. Picking the right healthy foods can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Fruits that are good for your heart
Berries are chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fibre. Try blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries in cereal or yogurt.
Benefits: Vitamin C, folate, fibre, manganese, potassium
What to look for when buying berries: Choose bright berries that move freely in their containers. The silver sheen on blueberries indicates freshness.
Storing: Keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days.
Using: Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are jam-packed with essential nutrients that play a central role in heart health.
Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Studies show that eating lots of berries can reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
For example, one study in 27 adults with metabolic syndrome showed that drinking a beverage made of freeze-dried strawberries for eight weeks decreased “bad” LDL cholesterol by 11%
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Another study found that eating blueberries daily improved the function of cells that line the blood vessels, which help control blood pressure and blood clotting.
Additionally, an analysis of 22 studies showed that eating berries was associated with reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, body mass index and specific markers of inflammation. Berries can be a satisfying snack or delicious low-calorie dessert. Try adding a few different types to your diet to take advantage of their unique health benefits.
What to look for when buying apples: Shiny skin. Firm and free of bruises. Many varieties are available year-round.
Storing: Apples stay juicier longer in a refrigerator fruit crisper and can be refrigerated for about 5—7 days. Fuji and Gala apples last longer than Red or Golden Delicious varieties.
Using: McIntosh for salads, Red Delicious for snacking, Fuji for baking, Granny Smith for any purpose.
*Flavonoids promote heart health by reducing platelet adhesion in arteries, lowering cholesterol, and relaxing and dilating arteries.
Apples have been linked to lower the risk of heart disease.2 This is because they contain many different compounds that improve various factors related to heart health. For example, they provide a phytochemical called quercetin which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Quercetin may also help prevent blood clots.
Apples contain soluble fibre, the kind that may lower bad cholesterol, three and polyphenols, known for their antioxidant effects.4 One polyphenol, in particular, called flavonoid epicatechin, may help to lower blood pressure. 5 Other flavonoids are linked to decreased stroke risk6 and reducing bad cholesterol.
Apples come in several delicious varieties and are portable. Eat an apple with a handful of walnuts or almonds as a healthy snack, or add a sliced apple to your salads.
Fresh or dried
Benefits: Vitamins A, C, E, and K; fibre; carotenoids
What to look for when buying apricots: Fresh: Firm, plump with deep orange or yellow-orange colour.
Storing: Sealed in a plastic bag, they keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Using: Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal. Dried apricots give a Middle Eastern flavour to stews.
Benefits: Vitamins B6 and C, fibre, magnesium*, potassium*
What to look for when buying bananas: Firm, with the stem intact. Size does not affect quality.
Storing: Room temperature is best.
Using: Best eaten fresh. Freeze peeled, overripe bananas to use later in baking.
*Potassium and magnesium lower blood pressure.
Benefits: Vitamins A, B6, and C; folate; potassium; fibre
What to look for when buying cantaloupe: Pick melons you can smell that yield slightly to pressure on the blossom end. Most affordable in the peak season (June—September).
Storing: In the vegetable crisper, cantaloupe can last five days.
Using: Freeze slices between sheets of waxed paper and seal in plastic. Best served slightly frozen.
Cantaloupe is a summertime favourite that also contains heart-healthy nutrients such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex and C vitamins, folate, potassium, and fibre.
You can enjoy cantaloupe any time of day – just cut and eat! Also try some blended into a smoothie, or mix with other fruits for a fresh fruit salad.
Benefits: Vitamins A, B6, and C; folate; potassium; fibre
What to look for when buying oranges: Shiny skin free of blemishes. Oranges with small navels are best; a large navel means it’s overripe.
Storing: Keep on the kitchen counter 3-5 days. If not eating right away, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Using: Eat fresh-the white layer of skin on a fresh orange curbs appetite for up to four hours. Or slice into a salad with romaine and red onion.
Benefits: Vitamin C, potassium, calcium*, flavonoids
What to look for when buying grapefruit: Choose a fruit-heavy for its size and springy to touch. Red and pink have more carotenoid than white.
Storing: In the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Using: Grapefruits are juicier when served warm than when served chilled. Grapefruit sections are terrific in salads.
*Calcium, with potassium and magnesium, helps lower blood pressure.
Benefits: Vitamins C and E*, fibre, magnesium,
What to look for when buying kiwi: Pick those that are soft to the touch, like a ripe peach. Available year-round.
Using: You don’t need to peel them to eat them. Slice into a salad or use instead of berries on cereal.
*Vitamin E is an antioxidant thought to reduce oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Benefits: Vitamins A, C, and E; folate*; calcium; magnesium; potassium
What to look for when buying papaya: Bright yellow (fully ripe) papaya should be eaten that day. Choose yellow and green fruit that’s slightly soft when pressed.
Storing: Papayas ripen very quickly. Put them in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process. Refrigerate up to 2 days.
Using: Half a papaya with a squirt of lime juice is excellent for breakfast. Add papaya last to fruit salad, so its enzymes won’t soften other fruit.
*Choose whole foods rich in folate, or folic acid, before considering a supplement to reduce homocysteine.
Papaya contains the carotenoids beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein. It adds vitamins A and C to your diet, along with folate, calcium, and potassium.
Papaya goes great with heart-healthy salmon. Try it in a smoothie, fruit salad, frozen into a popsicle, added to salsa or even grilled.
Benefits: Vitamins C, E, and K; fibre; potassium
What to look for when buying peaches: Look for those with a strong, sweet smell that give slightly when touched. Available May – September.
Storing: Keep on the counter until ripe. Once ripe, rinse and gently rub off the fuzz. Stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, peaches keep 3-5 days.
Using: If a recipe calls for peeled peaches, drop into boiling water for 30 seconds or until skins soften. Then gently remove.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acid just like olive oil, plus they’re loaded with vitamins and phytochemicals that work as antioxidants to protect your heart (and other parts of your body).
Oleic acid, the monosaturated fatty acid in avocados, is known for reducing inflammation throughout the body, especially in the heart.10 And avocado oil is healthy and safe for cooking because the fats in the oil are resistant to heat-induced oxidation, a process that makes some fats bad for you once they have reached a specific high temperature.
These fruits get their creamy texture from “good” (monounsaturated) fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol.
“They also seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get chronic inflammation that makes atherosclerosis — the hardening of artery walls — worse,” Johnson says.
Use mashed avocado as a spread in place of butter, or add cubes of it to salad, or over black bean chilli. As delicious as they are, avocados are high in calories, so keep your portions modest.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
One study looked at the effects of three cholesterol-lowering diets in 45 overweight and obese people, with one of the test groups consuming one avocado per day.
The avocado group experienced reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, including lower levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol, which are believed to significantly raise the risk of heart disease .Another study, including 17,567 people showed that those who ate avocados regularly were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome.
Avocados are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health. In fact, just one avocado supplies 975 milligrams of potassium or about 28% of the amount that you need in a day. Getting at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day can decrease blood pressure by an average of 8.0/4.1 mmHg, which is associated with a 15% lower risk of stroke.
Tomatoes are packed with vitamins, and concentrated tomato products are high in lycopene. Adding lycopene to your diet may help protect your heart, especially if your current diet isn’t giving you all the antioxidants you need.
Add a couple of thick slices of tomatoes to sandwiches and salads, or make a fresh tomato sauce to spoon over whole-wheat pasta.Tomatoes have lots of nutrients that might help keep our hearts healthy. The little red fruits are chock-full of fibre, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, which are all good for the soul.
As well as helping to keep heart disease at bay, potassium benefits muscles and bones and helps prevent kidney stones from forming. Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake is the most important dietary change when attempting to reduce the risk of heart disease.
These juicy fruits have resveratrol, which helps keep platelets in your blood from sticking together. That may partly be why red wine — in moderation (1 glass for women, 2 for men) — may have some heart-healthy advantages over other types of alcohol. But health experts don’t recommend that anyone start drinking, because alcohol does have some health risks.
Love your nightly glass of wine? You can ask your doctor to make sure your serving size is OK for you. And feel free to go for grapes straight from the vine anytime.
Both antioxidants and vitamin C are good news for artery health — and citrus fruits have plenty of both. Studies have shown that vitamin C has a dominant role in reducing heart disease risk, and the flavonoids found in them help protect arterial walls.
Add it to your diet: Drink plenty of lemon water throughout the day or start your morning with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or a grapefruit half. Also, keep an eye out for the bergamot fruit when in season or bergamot tea. Bergamot has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels as effectively as a statin drug according to research published in the International Journal of Cardiology and Frontiers in PharmacologyTrusted Source.
Oranges are a perfect portable snack. They’re juicy and filled with nutrients such as the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin, carotenoids like beta- and alpha-carotene and lutein, as well as flavones (flavonoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fibre.
The whole fruit is best and tasty to eat on its own. You can also add orange slices to salads, yogurt, or even chicken dishes. Orange juice can also offer some of the same benefits, but pound for pound you are best off eating the fruit whole.
The Bottom Line
As new evidence emerges, the link between diet and heart disease grows more energetic.
What you put on your plate can influence just about every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure and inflammation to cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
Including these heart-healthy foods as part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease.