Everyday, your heart beats more than 80,000 to 100,000 times a day and pumps around 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body. Your heart keeps you alive and serves you well. How often you stop to think about how well you feed it so it can keep you running? Here are 24 colorful and delicious heart healthy foods to serve you and your family.
Heart Healthy Fats, Nuts and Seeds
- Fatty fish - Topping most heart healthy foods lists for their omega-3 fats, choose wild salmon, mackerel, sardines (try the little canned ones in olive oil), herring and trout. Artic char is a pretty good option, farmed and wild, when wild salmon is unavailable. Unfortunately, mercury levels have made some of our favorite fish like halibut, black cod and tuna an occasional indulgence. See this link for more information on safe fish.
- Olive oil – Heart healthy and delicious monounsaturated fat, choose extra virgin and first cold pressed. Contrary to some sources, you can cook with olive oil. As with any oil, don't let it get so hot that smokes.
- Avocado Oil - With a nutritional profile similar to olive oil, avocado oil is 70% oleic acid, another very healthy fat. Choose cold pressed brands.
- Almonds and walnuts - Will satisfy your hunger and support your heart with omega 3 fats (different than salmon).
- Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds - Contain omega-3 fats, fiber and phytoestrogens to boost heart health and something called lignans. Take them in ground or milled form to reap the greatest benefit. Add to smoothies, sprinkle on salads in oatmeal, on top of cooked veggies for crunch and garnish
Heart Healthy Fruits
- Berries - Bursting with heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber, try blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries in smoothies, salads, for dessert, and for snacking.
- Citrus – Citrus contains something called hesperidin that improves blood flow to the heart along with lots of vitamin C. Enjoy grapefruit and oranges, but eat them whole, not juiced, to keep the fiber.
- Apples – Keep that skin on for the most antioxidants and also the pectin and fiber
- Bananas - Potassium good for normal heart function, sodium balance (go greenish for lower sugar)
- Red and black grapes – While they are higher in sugar, grapes contain resveratrol which may help fight heart disease.
Heart Healthy Vegetables
- Red, orange and yellow – For fiber and their antioxidant power, packed with phytonutrients called carotenoids in carrots, sweet peppers, acorn and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and red peppers.
- Leafy greens – Always on heart healthy foods lists, be sure to get enough greens such as spinach, kale, collards, cabbage, and beet greens for their fiber, magnesium, folate, phytonutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and flavonoids and vitamins A C and K.
- Green vegetables – Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccolini for their vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber
- Tomatoes – Provide lycopene, vitamin C and alpha and beta-carotene, and the lycopene is increased when tomatoes are cooked.
- Avocados – God's butter! Heart healthy fat, fiber, potassium, and even a little protein, plus avocado oil is a super healthy liquid fat for cooking.
- Mushrooms – Really a fungus, not a vegetable, beneficial for their potassium. Cooked only please. Raw mushrooms have toxins.
Heart Healthy Beans and Legumes
- Beans - Good sources of minerals like potassium, B-vitamins, fiber and plant-based protein, beans are super versatile in the kitchen and available canned or dry. Go for white, kidney (red and white), black beans, pintos and search out wonderful heirloom varieties from Rancho Gordo.
- Lentils – A great source of plant-based protein as well as a source of folate and magnesium and dietary fiber
- Soybeans – While soy is controversial in food and nutrition conversations, they are high in isoflavones, minerals and are a good source of plant-based protein. Try tempeh (fermented whole soy), tofu, soy milk and edamame, but be sure it is organic to avoid the GMO’s. Foods in their whole form are best. Pass on any processed soy found in processed and fast foods. Definitely not heart healthy!
Heart Healthy Beverages
- Coffee – It sometimes gets a bad rap because of the caffeine, but a couple cups of coffee a day are shown to have heart healthy benefits like lowering your risk for developing clogged arteries.
- Green tea – Observational studies show that green tea drinkers have a reduced risk of heart disease due to bioactive compounds which function as powerful antioxidants and support anti-inflammatory benefits.
And to Round Up Your Options
- Oatmeal - A comfort-food nutritional powerhouse, choose steel cut or rolled but skip anything flavored (lots of heart damaging sugar and artificial flavors). go for steel cut, has a fiber called beta glucan that lowers LDL cholesterol. It’s also found in shitake mushrooms and seaweed
- Dark Chocolate - Definitely a heart health, but just be sure to choose 70 percent cocoa or higher, rich in flavanols that help relax arteries and increase blood flow.
- Yogurt – If you tolerate dairy, yogurt is high in potassium. Be sure to choose unflavored and unsweetened varieties and go for the Greek for almost double the protein.
Last tips for a healthier heart, reduce inflammation. Read this post on how to reduce inflammation beyond food. Think lifestyle practices. And here are 10 tips for eating healthier.
Sally Cameron says
Thanks Denise! I love to write nutritionally oriented posts like this and hope they are helpful!
Great post Sally, especially on a day like today!
Sally Cameron says
Thanks Marilena! Happy Valentines!