10 Foods That Are Good for Your Heart

Eating a diet with the right number of calories and amount of fat is an important 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.

Red Apples

Red apples
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Apples have been linked to lower the risk of heart disease. This is because they contain many different compounds that improve various factors related to heart health. For example, they contain a phytochemical called quercetin which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Quercetin may also help prevent blood clots.

Apples contain soluble fiber, the kind that may lower bad cholesterol, and polyphenols, known for their antioxidant effects. One polyphenol in particular, called flavonoid epicatechin, may help to lower blood pressure. Other flavonoids are linked to decreased stroke risk 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 sliced apple to your salads. 

Olive Oil

bowl of olive oil with olives
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Olive oil reduces heart disease risk by lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and it's an essential component of a Mediterranean diet.

Olive oil may also slow down the aging of the heart. One 2011 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets rich in olive reduced endothelial damage and dysfunction. The endothelium is a layer of cells in the walls of the arteries that help with blood flow. In the heart, these cells work to pump blood out to the body. 

Choose olive oil for cooking or make an excellent dip for whole grain bread by pouring a bit of olive oil in a small bowl and add a bit of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of oregano.

Avocados

Whole and sliced avocado on wood

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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.  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 certain high temperature. 

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables on a table
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Leafy greens are packed with compounds that benefit your heart and vascular system. They are also rich in fiber, which can lower bad cholesterol and reduce heart disease.

Leafy greens taste great and are low in calories. Use fresh spinach leaves as a salad green or serve Swiss chard or kale as a side dish. Munch on fresh broccoli with a veggie dip at snack time.

Salmon

Filet of salmon topped with a lemon slice
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Salmon is one of the best sources of two long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.  EPA and DHA have long been known for reducing inflammation throughout the body, lowering blood pressure and improving the function of endothelial cells.

One 2012 analysis of studies found that as little as 0.45 to 4.5 grams of omega-fatty 3 acids (about three ounces of salmon) can bring about significant improvement to arterial function. 

Not only is salmon delicious, it has a delicate, less fishy taste compared to other fatty fish, such as sardines. And it can be prepared in a variety of ways—steamed, sautéed, grilled, or smoked.

Eat salmon or another oily ocean fish like tuna, sardines, or herring at least twice weekly.

Whole Grains

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Whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will help to keep your heart healthy and lower LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.

Oats, in particular, are worth reaching for. Oats contain a soluble fiber called beta glucan that helps reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. One 2015 study reported in the American Journal of Nutrition found that whole-grain oats might be the most effective whole grain for lowering cholesterol.

Make a sandwich with two slices of 100-percent whole-grain bread, three ounces of lean turkey breast, lots of sliced tomatoes and avocado, plus lettuce and a bit of mustard. You can also switch from white pasta to whole grain pasta.

Enjoy oatmeal with just a small amount of brown sugar and plenty of strawberries and walnuts for breakfast. Cold cereals made with oats are also good for you—just be sure to choose brands that don't contain extra sugar.

Soy and Soy Foods

Soy beans, milk, tofu, and more soy foods
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Soy is a plant protein and a great alternative to meat. It has impressive cardiovascular effects, including lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. Soy proteins are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease risk for many heart-related problems.

Substitution of soy a few times a week can cut down on the amount of saturated fats (unhealthy fats) in your diet.

Add tofu to your favorite stir fry or pour soy milk on your morning cereal.

Tomatoes

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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.

Walnuts

Bowl of walnuts
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Most nuts contain monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and other natural substances that may keep cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check. Walnuts are special because they're also a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

Walnuts make a great snack with a piece of fruit. For breakfast, sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top of a bowl of warm oatmeal along with a little honey or blueberries.

Red Wine

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Red wine contains polyphenols that may be good for your heart. Studies show moderate consumption of red wine can help in preventing cardiovascular disease by offering antioxidant effects, improving endothelial function, increasing good cholesterol and decreasing negative effects of blood platelet activity.

Of course, be sure to enjoy it in moderation. You can also skip red wine altogether and a drink dealcoholized version, as it appears to offer many of the same health benefits.

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