It’s no secret that proper nutrition can be the best medicine for a healthy life. Doctors and nutritionists consistently share the importance of a well-rounded diet to ward off many diseases and illnesses.
But what if you’re looking for specific foods to keep your heart in tip-top shape? Cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides are factors that contribute to heart health and the foods you eat can influence their levels.
Here are 10 tasty and versatile heart-healthy foods to add to your shopping cart the next time you hit the grocery store.
1. Dark, leafy greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and bok choi are excellent foods for heart health. These vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Vitamin K in leafy greens protects your arteries and ensures that your blood clots properly.
The dietary nitrates in leafy greens can also improve the health of your arteries while reducing blood pressure.
Saute greens in olive oil, roast them in the oven with garlic and your favorite seasonings, or toss them in a salad.
2. Fatty Fish
Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and tuna all contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s have been shown to have a variety of benefits, including lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure while reducing the occurrence of heart arrhythmias.
Cook fish with lots of herbs and citrus, like lemon. Add a vegetable and a whole grain and you’ve got a perfectly balanced meal.
But if you’re looking for something quick and easy, many of these fish are available in canned versions which makes them ideal for sandwiches, salads, and pasta.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains — like whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, or quinoa — are the least processed type of grain which means they retain all of their beneficial nutrients.
Whole grains (as opposed to refined grains like white bread) work to protect your heart.
Adding an extra one or two daily servings to your diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Whole grains are versatile and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Add them as a side to your meal or as a replacement for white rice/bread.
Monounsaturated fats are essential for heart health and avocados are rich in them. Potassium also has heart benefits, and avocados contain this mineral as well.
Including avocado in your diet can help lower cholesterol levels, while potassium can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
Add avocado to salads and sandwiches, or eat it for breakfast with eggs or avocado toast.
5. Nuts & Seeds
Filled with fiber, monounsaturated fats, omega-3s, and nutrients that support heart health, nuts and seeds are a foolproof addition to your diet.
Research shows that nuts can help balance cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reduce heart disease, and keep arteries clear.
Focus on these particular nuts and seeds to keep your heart pumping strong:
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
You can try adding them to a salad or yogurt, or make a heart-healthy trail mix and grab a handful for an afternoon snack.
Potatoes often get a bad rap, but in their whole form, they are surprisingly healthy, especially for your heart.
The primary nutrient in potatoes is potassium which is known for regulating blood pressure. They also contain vitamin C.
Try them baked or oven-roasted with your favorite seasonings. And if you’re short on time, microwaving potatoes will have them ready in a pinch.
Beans contain fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients like folate and magnesium that support heart health and lower blood pressure.
Add beans to soups and salads or tacos and chili. They stretch a meal further, add bulk, and leave you feeling full and satisfied.
8. Cherries & Berries
Antioxidants like anthocyanins are protective against heart disease as they keep blood vessels clear and reduce inflammation and cholesterol.
Cherries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries all contain these powerful antioxidants that contribute to heart health.
And the good news is these fruits are tasty too. Add them to yogurt, make smoothies, toss them in a salad, or just eat them out of a bowl for a sweet treat.
A classic Asian food, edamame has soy protein and isoflavones which fight bad cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
Edamame also contains antioxidants and an abundance of fiber.
Edamame is usually sold frozen in U.S. grocery stores, either still in the pod or with the beans already popped out. To prepare it for a meal, boil it until it’s warm and cooked through. If the beans are still in their pods, pop them out to enjoy a delicious snack.
10. Olive Oil
The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in olive oil make it a heart-healthy substitute for saturated fats like butter.
Olive oil can help protect blood vessels and decrease inflammation, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Enjoy olive oil on salads as a dressing, as a cooking oil substitute, or drizzled on veggies. Buy extra virgin and cold-pressed for the best flavor.