Your heart is arguably your most important organ, after your brain. Making sure that it's operating at its optimal level is key to a life of health and longevity. Perhaps you know which foods are bad for your heart, like fried foods, and maybe you know that certain lifestyle habits like being sedentary or smoking are bad for your heart. But maybe you're still a bit unclear as to which foods can help your heart. We've gathered our list of some of the best foods you should be eating for heart health, so be sure to make at least some of them a part of your daily diet plan.
Almonds provide healthy fats that can help you lose body fat, and also help your heart by lowering your bad cholesterol levels. But it's not just limited to almonds, many other nuts also provide the same benefit, including walnuts and hazelnuts. The one thing you want to keep in mind here is that you don't want to gorge on them. Grab a handful of almonds and that's roughly a serving size, portioned just for you. That makes a great snack that's not only good for your heart, but will also give you enough energy to propel you through your day for a few hours.
Asparagus is one of those amazing vegetables that has a lot of healthy benefits. One of its key features is its high amount of Vitamin B family vitamins. This goes a long way towards your heart health because these vitamins are great at counteracting the effects of certain amino acids that can leave you susceptible to things like heart attacks and strokes. They're also a good source of fiber, and studies have shown that getting the right amount of fiber has a correlation to greater amounts of heart health. Asparagus is also teeming with antioxidants, which are known to help with everything from heart disease to cancer, so there's plenty of reasons to eat it more often.
As part of a heart healthy diet you'll want to limit the amount of saturated fat to a minimum. This is the kind of fat that is found in cheeseburgers and fried chicken. But you want to be careful not to exclude foods that are high in healthy fats from your diet. That's because healthy fats, as the name implies, are good for you and can bring great benefits with them. The monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat content in avocado will help your body maintain good cholesterol levels. They're also high in fiber and potassium, so you're getting plenty of benefits from one tasty fruit.
Beans get a lot of things right when it comes to giving yourself the best chance at a healthy heart. They are rich in B Vitamins, and they have plenty of important minerals like magnesium, folate, and niacin, all important for heart function. Some types of beans also have omega-3 in them, which has proven anti-inflammatory benefits. There is also a good amount of soluble fiber, which has been repeatedly linked to having plenty of benefits to the body, especially to the heart. It's very easy to incorporate beans into your diet, as they make a great side dish with just about anything.
5. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a great way to give your heart health a boost, and because all of the different colors of peppers help in their own way you can switch it up. The bright colors of orange, yellow, and red bell peppers mean they have phytonutrients in them and additional antioxidants to make sure that your body can battle back free radical damage. Grilling peppers is perhaps the best way to cook them to preserve their nutrients, but you can also eat them raw, or lightly saute them on a frying pan.
If you've been looking for a delicious way to be good to your heart, look no further than blueberries. Blueberries have a leg up on other berries because their dark blue color provides specific antioxidants that are good for you heart. Be careful though because plenty of food products out there use blueberries because of its delicious flavor, but are not healthy for you because of all of the added sugar and fat. Use fresh organic blueberries whenever possible, and eat them fresh or in a smoothie for best results.
Helping the body to detox is one way to keep your heart healthy. It may not seem like it but all of your organs work in conjunction with each other. Keeping your liver and colon clean is a way to help out your heart. Broccoli contains plenty of anti-inflammatory benefits, plus a good amount of fiber to help keep you regular and keep your internal organs functioning properly. The added benefit is that broccoli contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, roughly half and half, so you can be sure that you're getting both kinds covered with one food item.
Cantaloupe has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory food, and there is an apparent link between high amounts of inflammation and heart disease of all types. The nice byproduct of cantaloupe is that it's supposed to boost your metabolism, which will help you get to, or maintain, a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight is a great way to make sure that your heart is not working harder than it has to in order to do its job. Cantaloupe tastes great, so it's easy to eat a lot of it quickly, but be sure to limit yourself due to the sugar it contains.
9. Dark Chocolate
For a long time chocolate got the ax when it came to healthy foods, but that was before the distinction was made between dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidants that milk chocolate just doesn't have. It also has a lot less sugar and dairy in it than milk chocolate, so it's given the green light in moderation and as part of an overall healthy diet. Try to buy your dark chocolate as pure as you can tolerate so that you are getting fewer additives, and more of the good stuff.
Flaxseed is high in omega-3s, and this is important because getting more omega-3s than omega-5s is crucial to your overall health, and your heart health especially. Since omega-5s are pretty prevalent in a standard diet, it's a good idea to take in sources of omega-3s each day. Flaxseed is nice because its small size means it can be used as a topping on just about anything, and can be tossed into a smoothie without even being detected. While once a pretty rare item only found at health food stores, you can find bags of ready-to-use flaxseed at most grocery stores these days.
Garlic's big role is to help with your cholesterol levels, which has a big effect on your heart health, especially when factored over the long term. You don't have to eat so much garlic that you're warding off vampires in order to have a healthy heart. Use it to complement your meals whenever you can. You may also consider taking a garlic supplement to get the most heart protection you can. In fact, many studies that have shown the effectiveness of garlic, have had participants using doses of garlic that would be too great to try and consume from actual garlic.
12. Green Tea
Green tea is packed with antioxidants, and has many health benefits. It usually makes the news for its anti-cancer properties, but just as important is its ability to help with a healthy heart. Recent findings suggest that these antioxidants actually work to help prevent heart disease. Green tea has also been shown to help boost your metabolism, which would result in weight loss if you're overweight, which would also bring your risk of heart problems down. Compared to other teas, green tea is less processed, which is why it outranks them in healthy properties.
Kale is gaining ground on spinach as one of the healthiest green leafy vegetables you can eat. It's also a great food to eat for heart health, packed with phytonutrients thanks to its deep, dark color. It's a good idea to cook kale before eating it, especially if you're not used to eating it very much. It can be a bit troublesome on the digestion in its raw state. It's not like spinach where it wilts to a fraction of its size, but you want to be careful not to overcook it. Consider it as a side for any main dish and you'll be doing your heart a big favor.
Lentils are an often overlooked food, but have become more popular in recent years as news of their healthiness spreads. The major feature of lentils is their fiber numbers, and this is a slow carb that is great for most dieters, and even diabetics. It gives you energy without causing a crash later. It also contains several important minerals that the body needs in order to help the heart do its thing. Buy a bag of raw lentils the next time you're at the store. You can cook them in big batches, as they keep well in the refrigerator.
Oatmeal has long been known for its healthy benefits for the heart, including lowering cholesterol levels, and helping with fiber intake. The effect it has on cholesterol levels can't be understood, and there are few foods that have this sort of power. That's why it's gained such a reputation. Often thought of as a breakfast food, you can eat oatmeal as a sustainable lunchtime food, along with fruits it makes a great pick me up and will hold you over until dinner. Just be sure not to count an oatmeal cookie as getting your oats for the day.
16. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a healthy fat that you can use every day in your cooking, and as a salad dressing to replace unhealthy dressing options. It's the cholesterol lowering capabilities in olive oil that make it an acceptable oil, and preferable to other oils like vegetable oil or soybean oil. Use a good extra virgin olive oil and you can cook with it at higher heats. It's always a good idea to keep a bottle of olive oil handy, as you can come up with several ways to use it when it's always ready for use.
Oranges are known for being a healthy fruit packed with Vitamin C, but you may not know that they're also good for your heart specifically. It's the type of fiber in oranges that makes them so effective at helping your heart. They work against cholesterol, not only soaking it up but helping the body so it doesn't absorb it in the first place. There is also potassium in oranges which helps to keep your sodium levels in check, which helps keep your blood pressure at a good spot, which has major positive benefits for your heart.
A pomegranate fad has been trending in recent years, and you can now find pomegranate juice on several health and diet food packaging touting its benefits. But you don't have to go gaga over it, or think it's a magic bullet of any sort in order to get the benefits from it. It's the antioxidants in it that makes it so effective, and are the reason why you shouldn't sit this one out just because it's gone mainstream. If this isn't making your regular list of foods to buy, make sure you familiarize yourself with it soon.
19. Red Wine
A glass of red wine each day is supposed to be good for the heart. It thins the blood, helps you to relax, and the flavonoids in it have been shown to provide particular benefits to your heart. Specifically it's the resveratrol that makes the news and gets the most attention for being a boon for the heart. Recent findings suggest that it not only helps your heart but it can help you maintain a healthy weight, which has direct links to proper heart function. Of course you should weigh the pros and cons and get further clarification if you've been told to avoid alcohol by your doctor.
The reason salmon ranks as one of the healthiest foods for your heart is the large amount of omega-3s it has. But what you might not know is that it also contains antioxidants, something that we typically see in fruits and vegetables. This combination means that you're doing a lot to help stabilize your blood pressure levels. Higher than normal blood pressure if left untreated over longer periods of time can weaken the heart by making it work more than it has to. Keeping your cholesterol down and your blood pressure right is key to a healthy heart for the long term.
Spinach makes a lot of healthy food lists, and for good reason. Ounce for ounce it's one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat, and it has particular benefits for the heart. It's the minerals and the fiber that provide the most benefit to your heart. These include folate and potassium. It also contains plenty of phytonutrients that help your body fend off heart disease. These are the same chemicals that the spinach plant uses to stay healthy and disease free while fending off insects. Fresh spinach is best, and opting for organic is a good idea because conventional sinach soaks up a lot of chemicals.
22. Sweet Potato
Beta carotene, what carrots are known for, is also found in sweet potatoes. As it turns out it's not just good for your eyes, but is an antioxidant that is beneficial to the heart as well. It also contains anthocyanin, which studies have shown lowers the risk of heart disease when consumed on a regular basis. Compared to a regular white potatoes, sweet potatoes pack more vitamins and nutrients, and more fiber, with the same caloric load. That's why they tend to pop up on many healthy food lists for overall health and wellbeing.
If you don't currently cook with turmeric, you'll want to start right away for improved cardiovascular function. It's been shown not only to help with cholesterol, but also to help prevent plaque buildup that can lead to things like hearts attacks and strokes. This provides a slightly bitter flavor to any food it's used on, and some have likened it to a peppery, gingery taste. Use it sparingly at first until you see how well you like it, then you can adjust it to taste as you go along.
Watermelon is a pretty amazing fruit, and is a bona fide superfood. It has shown promise in helping to prevent plaque from forming in the arteries, and has been consistently linked to lower weight and lower cholesterol levels. All of this spells good things for your heart. It's easy to start eating more watermelon, because it tastes so good. Consider using it as a healthy dessert option when you want something sweet. Or use it to cool off during the hotter months by having it as a refreshing snack.
Heart Healthy FAQ
Which heart healthy foods are good for breakfast?
To start your day off right you'll want to go with a breakfast consisting of a bowl of oatmeal, accompanied by a range of fresh fruits, including apples, oranges. It's best to stick with one fruit at a time, since combining different fruits can make them harder to digest.
Which heart healthy foods are good for lunch?
Lunch is an important meal because it helps to curb cravings for foods that might work against your heart healthy agenda. Try having a big salad consisting of a bed of baby spinach and loaded up with heart healthy vegetables like broccoli and bell peppers. This will fuel you with plenty of antioxidants and allow you to cruise through the rest of your day. Use a bit of olive oil for salad dressing to avoid unhealthy fats. Top your salad with diced avocado for healthy fat and even more fiber.
Which heart healthy foods are good for dinner?
Dinnertime is great for getting your last meal of the day in, and treating your heart right plays a big role. You want to make sure that you get enough to keep you satisfied until bedtime, but not so much that you're left lying awake due to indigestion later. Whatever your main meal is, make sure you add a side salad to the mix, and prepare a vegetable side dish to help fill you up and give you heart what it needs.
Which heart healthy foods are good for men?
Men and women can eat the same foods for heart health. Men tend to do more weight training, which is good because more muscle means a higher metabolism which means you'll be burning more fat 24/7, helping you to get to or stay at a healthy weight. You'll want to choose lean sources of protein to help build muscle. Be sure to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes like the ones listed above as side items to these protein options for a balanced meal that's good for your heart.
Which heart healthy foods are good for women?
The same foods for men are also good for women, as there isn't a gender difference when it comes to internal organs and keeping them healthy. You may want to tone it down on the protein if you are not weight-training. You'll also have to determine your body type to know exactly which foods your body can handle well, and which ones it can't. But the foods on this page are a good starting point, and can be eaten by anyone regardless of gender for a healthier heart.
What does a heart healthy diet and lifestyle look like?
Having a healthy heart doesn't mean you have to overhaul your entire lifestyle in one day. Start making subtle changes and gradually build on these over time. Cut out the junk from your diet and replace it with healthier options. Get daily exercise, no matter how minute it may seem at first. What you don't want to do is gear up for some big quantum leap and try to change everything all at once. Nine times out of ten this just backfires and you end up getting discouraged.
How can I make heart healthy recipes?
Many classic recipes out there aren't exactly what you'd call heart healthy. Luckily there are many recipe sites these days that have given your favorite meals a heart healthy revamp and excluded items high in saturated fat, subbing in foods that and ingredients that contain healthy fat. Learning which foods are bad for your heart, and then seeing which foods can stand in for them is a great way to start making more of your recipes healthy heart approved.
Is the Zone Diet a heart healthy diet?
The Zone Diet focuses on anti-inflammatory foods, and says that it can help you prevent and entirely avoid heart disease by keeping you “in the Zone" and relatively inflammation free. The nice part is that there are plenty of recipe books based on this way of eating, so you don't have to feel lost as to what a Zone meal would look like, or how to cook it.
Do you have a heart healthy grocery list?
A heart healthy grocery list would include all of the foods found on the page above, but it would also be just as crucial to avoid foods that are unhealthy for your heart. It's hard not to eat a food once you've purchased it, so be sure to leave your cart free of pre-packaged junk food and boxed meals that are laden with additives and preservatives. Stick to the outer edges of the supermarket and opt for fresh foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.
Are there any heart healthy herbs?
Adding specific herbs to your foods is a fast and easy way to increase the heart healthiness of a meal. While many herbs contain antioxidants that can help with your heart, try using more Cayenne in your cooking. This has been shown to help with the circulatory system, and facilitate blood flow throughout the body.