10 Mighty Foods to Boost Your Heart Health

You might not be able to avoid heart disease completely, but some foods are better for you than others when it comes to your heart health.

Last updated: Dec 31st, 2022
10 Mighty Foods to Boost Your Heart Health

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death worldwide. Many elements contribute to CVDs, such as smoking, an inactive lifestyle, and excessive alcohol consumption. However, one of the most important factors determining heart health is what you eat. A diet high in salt and saturated fats from butter, red meat, and full-fat dairy can quickly increase your heart disease and high blood pressure risk.

While limiting these foods is a great start, filling your diet with the right foods is even more important. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 foods that can boost your heart health to help you determine where to start.

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1. Fatty fish

Fatty fish — such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines — are a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a polyunsaturated fat that helps the body do incredible things, from building cell membranes to promoting healthy hormones and genetic function. They also have an enormous impact on heart health: omega-3s promote regular heartbeat, staving off the potentially devastating effects of arrhythmia. They also lower cholesterol, further reducing the risk of heart disease from artery blockage.

2. Dark leafy greens

Not only are greens an affordable and versatile addition to any meal, but they’re also crucial for your heart. Dark, leafy greens — such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and bok choy — are high in multiple nutrients that can reduce the risk of heart disease. These vegetables are particularly rich in folate, which improves heart health, guards against neural tube defects during pregnancy, and reduces inflammation. Plus, the high levels of vitamins A, K, E, and C found in dark, leafy greens are powerful antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

3. Eggs

Eggs are a great source of omega-3s, folate, and selenium. Selenium is a nutrient that contributes to heart health, as studies have found low selenium levels are strongly correlated with heart disease, as well as healthy thyroid and metabolic functions. While eating eggs in moderation is a great way to lower your cholesterol and improve your cardiovascular health, it also matters how you prepare them. Frying them in butter and eating them with other foods high in saturated fats regularly may cancel out any nutritional benefit and instead raise your cholesterol. Instead, fry them in a little olive oil, boil them, or poach them and serve them alongside some fresh fruit and whole grain bread.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil is a powerhouse of heart-healthy nutrients. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you choose extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or plain olive oil, though some research suggests that because EVOO is less processed, it retains more antioxidants. However, not enough research has been done to conclusively state whether EVOO impacts heart health more than regular olive oil. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, can reduce inflammation and cancer risk, and improve cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol. Studies have shown that people who consume more olive oil have a lower risk of heart disease than those who consume little or none.

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are crunchy, versatile, and full of heart-healthy nutrients. While most nuts have these qualities, walnuts contain higher omega-3s, making them the better choice. Walnuts also contain fiber, L-arginine, unsaturated fat, and plant sterols, all of which contribute to cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Remember that while nuts are a heart-healthy option, it matters how much you eat. Nuts are high in calories, especially if you eat them roasted. The recommended portion size for adults is 4-6 servings of unsalted or dry roasted nuts a week.

6. Berries

These sweet gems of summertime have more to offer than simply being encased in pie crust or whisked into muffin batter. Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are the healthiest when eaten fresh or frozen. These berries are low in calories and high in antioxidants, making them the perfect heart-healthy dessert or snack.

7. Avocados

The creamy, indulgent taste of avocado provides more benefits than just tasting great on a slice of sourdough. Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil that reduces cholesterol. Along with oleic acid, avocados contain folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Research has found that those who eat two servings of avocado a week have a 21% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack or coronary event and a 16% lower chance of developing heart disease than those who don’t eat avocados. Keep in mind that avocados, though healthy, are high in calories. The recommended serving is half a cup of avocado (or half a small avocado).

8. Whole grains

Not every grain is equally healthy. Whole grains — such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and corn — are heart-healthy, packed with selenium, folate, and lots of cholesterol-reducing fiber. Refined grains — such as white bread, pasta, and white rice — have very little fiber and varying levels of nutritional value. Choosing whole grains over refined grains means you get every part of the grain, including the bran and endosperm, along with its full nutritional value. Whole grains are also more satiating than refined grains, making you feel fuller and less prone to overeating. The next time someone asks you whether you want white or wheat bread, you can know that choosing wheat makes your heart happier.

9. Pulses

While you may not be familiar with a pulse, you’ve almost certainly eaten one before. Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of a legume plant, such as chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, and dry beans. Pulses contain many nutrients, including folate, fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fat, making them the perfect heart-healthy addition to any meal. Studies found that eating ⅓ of a cup of beans daily reduced the risk of recurrent heart attack by 38%, while eating 4.5 servings of beans per week reduced the risk of heart disease by 16% and total mortality by 10%. In addition to lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, they are beneficial for weight loss because of their high fiber content.

10. Tofu

Tofu, or soybean curd, is often misunderstood to be unhealthy or hormone-disrupting. However, it is incredibly nutritious, versatile, and consumed by billions of people worldwide. Tofu is a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and iron. A study done in 2020 showed that those who ate ½ cup of tofu per week had an 18% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate little or no tofu. With 21 grams of protein in a serving, it makes an excellent meat alternative with none of the cardiovascular disease risks. However, like other proteins, it matters how you prepare tofu. Frying tofu or seasoning it with excess salt will reduce the benefits considerably. Instead, consider stewing, sauteing, or airfrying tofu and serving it alongside other heart-healthy foods.



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