A healthy heart prolongs your life significantly as the risk of heart disease or stroke is reduced. If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, it’s important to understand which foods are healthiest for your heart. Here’s a range of foods that works best for your heart, and you should consider adding to your next shopping cart.
Say goodbye to butter, hard margarine, lard and tropical oils like palm and coconut, which can be high in saturated fats. Instead, replace it with olive oil that is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can replace our saturated and trans fat intake. Olive oil is used not just as an ingredient in dips but is also flavorful and helps lower cholesterol levels.
This ocean-going fish is a top choice because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s have an anti-clotting effect, so they keep your blood flowing,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. They also help lower your triglycerides (a type of fat that can lead to heart disease).
Aim for at least two servings of oily fish each week, says the American Heart Association. A serving is 3.5 ounces. That’s a little bit bigger than a computer mouse.
Other options: Tuna, trout, sardines, and mackerel.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E and antioxidants. Portion these wisely as they are also high in calories, so a small handful of the crunchy nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter is sufficient.
Note: (They don’t have the same kind of omega-3s as fish, though.)
Laced with multiple health benefits, tea has been associated with decreased coronary artery progression and heart attacks. Research has found that adults who drank one to three cups of tea a day had better heart health and better coronary calcium scores.
Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber — the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.
Eat them or drink them, raspberries are rich in vitamins, minerals and an antioxidant called polyphenol that reduce blood pressure. They also have anthocyanins, a flavonoid that suppresses inflammation that could lead to heart problems.
Oats have a type of fiber (called beta-glucan) that lowers your LDL cholesterol. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal or a little over a cup of cooked barley gives you the amount of beta-glucan you need daily to help lower your cholesterol.
Other options: You can also find beta-glucan in barley, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed.
Avocados are like apples, so eating one a day makes the heart healthier. Ongoing studies have shown people who went on diets including avocado managed to reduce their cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Add some avocado paste in your sandwich or mix them with your salad and meats.
Cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is rich in flavanols, which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It also acts as an antioxidant, which can keep “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.
Choose dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) to get more flavanols and less sugar, Johnson says. (Sugar raises your risk of heart disease.)
Other options: Think beyond the bar. Choose natural cocoa powder over Dutch-processed to get more flavanols. (Check the label to make sure you don’t get too much sugar.) For a totally unsweetened take, try cacao nibs. Add them to your granola.
Spinach is a good source of iron, calcium and fibers that help reduce cholesterol levels. The leafy vegetable is important for bone health and also helps to maintain blood sugar levels. It’s potassium-rich too and helps in controlling blood pressure as potassium reduces the effects of sodium.+
These are just a few healthy food that are best for your heart, so when next you go shopping, remember to pick some of them.
What other food would you like to recommend?