Every second, your heart is working hard for you, pumping blood through your body to keep you alive. The choices that you make each day can impact the health of your heart—including the foods you eat. While any healthy lifestyle changes can be good for your entire body, there are certain especially good foods for the heart.
To support your “ticker,” here are some of the best heart-healthy foods to focus on this year.
The Best Vegetables and Fruits for Heart Health
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help keep you and your heart healthy. Try to fit these into your diet daily.
Leafy green veggies are king! Some of the best ones include:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
- Bok choy
Many leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which is necessary for proper blood clotting. Some research has shown that low levels of vitamin K can increase the risk of coronary heart disease—and that intaking vitamin K is associated with reduced risk. Leafy greens are also high in vitamins C and E, calcium, potassium, and folate, all of which are important for the health of your heart and body.
Tomatoes and Other Colorful Veggies
Greens are not the only colors you want to eat. Focus on reds, oranges, yellows, etc to get a full spectrum of heart-healthy vegetables. Think carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and more.
A compound in garlic call allicin is thought to have supportive effects on heart health. Allicin may be strongest when the garlic is raw, crushed, and left to sit for a few minutes before consuming.
Berries are some of the best fruits for your heart because they are high in vitamin C, antioxidant polyphenols, fiber, and more. Eating foods like berries can help lower oxidative stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure, all of which contribute to the health status of your heart.
Berries to add to your daily diet include:
- Raspberries and
Heart-Healthy Fats to Eat
For your heart health, make sure you are choosing healthy fats and limiting unhealthy fats. Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, as they increase your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends that no more than five to six percent of your total calories (or less than 11-13 grams) come from saturated fats.
Now, here are the healthy fats to add to your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease at too-high levels.
Some of the best omega-3 foods include:
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower your total blood cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats. They also contain additional protein and fiber.
Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which is also heart-healthy when used in place of unhealthy fats.
Everyone likes to hear that chocolate can be part of a heart-healthy foods list. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and several studies have shown an association between chocolate and decreased heart disease risk.
Just keep in mind that most chocolate is high in sugar, saturated fats, and calories. Choose dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa content, and limit your intake to an occasional treat.
Although technically a fruit, avocados are mostly monounsaturated fat, rich in heart-healthy potassium, and also a great heart-healthy low carb, low-sugar option.
The benefits of a well-balanced plant-based diet are well-known at this point. Incorporating more whole foods, plant-based proteins can be helpful to your heart.
Soy has gotten a bad rap, but the soy isoflavones in soy products like edamame, tofu, and tempeh have been shown to support heart health and possibly lower cholesterol.
Beans and legumes, such as lentils and peas, contain protein while being low in fat, free of cholesterol, and high in fiber. These make them great additions to a heart-healthy diet. You can add beans to salads, soups, chilis, and side dishes for some added nutrition.
Choose Whole Grains Over Refined for Your Heart
If you follow a low-carb or keto-type diet, you might stay away from all grains. However, if you do eat grains, stick with the whole, unrefined varieties that can actually boost heart health and help lower blood pressure.
Good whole grain sources include:
- Brown rice
In contrast, do your best to avoid eating much of these unrefined grain foods:
- White flour
- White bread
Some Dairy Products
Although many are shunning dairy for the non-dairy milk, yogurts, and other products, yogurt may still have heart-healthy benefits.
Yogurt is high in potassium and calcium, which are both important for blood pressure and heart health. Low-fat yogurt is most recommended because it increases the calcium content.
Other Heart-Healthy Tips: Sodium, Portions, and Moderation
Along with focusing on the heart-healthy foods above, you can also support your heart with the following tips:
- Reduce your sodium intake. Instead of adding more salt, try fresh or dried herbs and spices. You can also use salt-free seasonings like Spike.
- Enjoy a little red wine, but not too much. If you currently drink wine, sticking with red provides antioxidants like catechins and resveratrol that can help boost cholesterol and support your arteries. However, more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men can actually do damage, so drink in moderation if you do at all.
- Watch your portions. Being overweight or obese is also hard on your heart. To maintain a healthy weight, eat mindfully and avoid eating past fullness.
- Get daily exercise. Physical activity is very important for keeping your heart healthy, as well. Find types of exercise you enjoy, and make it a daily habit that you can stick with.
The great thing about heart-healthy foods is that they are good for the rest of your body and health, too. Look for simple ways to add more of these foods into your diet so you can support your precious heart for many years to come!
And remember, you can easily shop heart-healthy foods, products that support your cardiovascular health, and more here at Nature’s Ideal.