These Are the Best Foods for Heart Health

When it comes to heart health, some factors are out of your control; blood group. But other factors are more variable, including your diet.

Everyone from the American Heart Association to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend making certain food choices to support a healthy heart. It’s worth keeping this in mind when planning your weekly meals, as heart-healthy foods can reduce other potential cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Read on to find out what foods to look for and what a heart-healthy diet looks like in general.

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What is a heart-healthy diet?

Studies have revealed two things: foods that are riskier for your heart, and foods that strengthen it. Fortunately, you’re not about to get hit by a bunch of curveballs. The best foods for heart health are those you probably already think are healthy. Similarly, heart-healthy foods are probably already on your radar because they’re not doing your body any good.

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Before we dive in here, let’s say this: everything is in moderation. Unless you already knowing you have a heart health problem, you don’t need to cut out any food or make drastic changes. We’re not saying you can never have another piece of bacon or open another soda. Instead, paying attention to what a heart-healthy diet looks like can help you incorporate more of these foods into your meals.

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Let’s talk details now. According to the AHA and the Department of Health, a heart-healthy diet is rich in:

  • To produce
  • lean proteins
  • Fiber-rich complex carbohydrates
  • healthy fats

A diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins and fats will give your body the fiber, vitamins and minerals it needs to support a healthy heart.

A bright rainbow assortment on a plate.

David Malan/Getty Images

Conversely, if you’re trying to boost cardiovascular health, you’ll want to limit your intake of:

  • trans fat
  • Saturated fats
  • Processed meats (for example, lunch meat, salami, and hot dogs)
  • excessive salt
  • excess sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates (e.g. white breads and snacks)
  • Red meat
  • excessive alcohol

If most of your favorites are on the less heart-healthy list, don’t panic. You can still include them in your diet (unless your doctor tells you otherwise). Just make sure these foods don’t make up for every meal and try to include as many heart-friendly foods as possible in your day.

heart-healthy foods

The person in the long brown dress is strolling through a grocery aisle.

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If you want to feel good about what your next grocery trip will do for your heart health, you can pick up products from these specific categories.

1. Fruits and vegetables

Do you remember the food pyramid of the past? He was on something. Your body benefits from eating quite a lot of products.

This is because vegetables and fruits pack a lot of nutrient density per bite. Bananas and sweet potatoes provide potassium, an important mineral for heart health. Cruciferous vegetables can help prevent clogged arteries. Leafy greens provide fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Long story short, the more items you pack, the better. And don’t worry if fresh produce doesn’t fit your budget or lifestyle. You can reap plenty of nutritional benefits from frozen, dried, and canned options. Make sure it’s marked low sodium.

2. Whole grains

Not all carbohydrates are bad. Refined carbohydrates, such as those in white bread, fly through your body and often do you more harm than good. But complex carbohydrates, like the ones you’ll find in whole-grain products, provide fiber, which we mentioned earlier as a heart-health booster.

Plus, it’s often packed with vitamins and minerals like iron, selenium, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), folate (vitamin B9) and magnesium. If you’re looking for a heart-healthy diet, choose whole-grain products on the ingredient list. In addition, complex carbohydrates can also be found in beans, potatoes, peas and corn.

Fish tacos on a plate with cornbread and fresh coriander.

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3. Lean and vegetable protein

While some proteins—like red and processed meat—can be tough on your heart, others top the list of heart-healthy foods. The key here is to look for plant-based protein, lean animal proteins, and fish. Experts recommend mixing up your protein sources. So you have many options, stock up:

  • lentil
  • Beans
  • Hazelnut
  • seeds
  • bean curd
  • Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Eggs
  • low-fat dairy products
  • Poultry
  • seeds

Swap some of your red meat and cured pork for the options above and you’ll be doing your heart a favor.

4. Healthy fats

You may think fat causes heart problems, but that’s all. medicine Fat While numerous studies have linked trans and saturated fats to cardiovascular problems, your body, including your heart, needs healthy fats. You can get them from fish, nuts and seeds, along with avocado and moderate amounts of plant oils:

  • olive oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sunflower
  • soy oil
  • canola oil
  • corn oil
  • Safflower oil

As a general rule, if the oil is solid at room temperature, it’s probably saturated. If it was a liquid, it most likely falls under the unsaturated variety. Think Butter (controversial for health) versus olive oil (definitely part of a heart-healthy diet).

Sesame oil pouring into a small plate.

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5. Heart-controlling foods

The American Heart Association has approved certain foods for heart health and has given them the Heart-Check seal, which you can find on some food packaging. Once you know this seal, it can make it easy to fill your basket with heart-healthy groceries.

For best results, pair your heart-healthy diet with: other heart health boosters like regular exercise, sleep and stress management techniques. It can also be helpful to know your blood group and what does it mean for your risk of certain cardiovascular conditions.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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