10 Delicious Heart-Healthy Foods
Salmon, leafy greens, chickpeas and berries all made the list. You'll want to stock up on them and more to keep your heart healthy and strong.
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Eat Your Heart Out
You probably know to lay off the fried foods and other sources of artery-clogging fats to keep your heart happy, but what about the foods you should be eating to keep it healthy? In honor of American Heart Month, here's our top 10 list.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are packed with omega-3 fats, which help lower triglycerides (fat in your blood) and total cholesterol. Salmon also contains vitamin B-12, which is shown to help lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Try these healthy salmon recipes any night of the week.
Get Recipes: Healthy Salmon Recipes
Oats have soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol. Although rolled oats may be your first choice, don't count out other forms of oats like oat bran, oat flour and steel cut oats; all types of whole grains can help your heart. Soluble fiber, like the kind found in oats, is especially good for those arteries. Eating enough can help lower your total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Make oatmeal (or overnight oats) a few days a week for breakfast, munch on nuts mixed with oat cereal for a snack, and give oat bran a try in recipes for breads and muffins.
Learn More: Overnight Oats
A diet high in magnesium may help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and increase the healthy HDL cholesterol. Foods packed with magnesium include leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard, as well as sweet potatoes, quinoa and cashews.
Learn More: 10 Best Foods for Managing High Blood Pressure
Any bean is a welcome addition to a heart-healthy diet. Black, lima, navy, cannelini, pinto and garbanzo (aka chickpea) beans are all great sources of heart-pleasing soluble fiber. They also pack in the protein, folate and iron to keep your red blood cells thriving. Chickpeas are filled with vitamin B-6, too, which helps lower homocysteine; high levels of homocysteine mean a higher risk of heart disease. Add these little guys to soups, salads and pasta dishes. Or try mixing them into sautéed ground turkey and veggies for tacos and stirring them into hearty batches of chili.
Learn More: 11 Ways to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
Low-Fat and Nonfat Dairy
Studies show that foods high in calcium and vitamin D can help reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 15%. Skim milk, nonfat yogurt, low-fat cheeses, and even treats like frozen yogurt provide calcium, protein and much-needed vitamin D. Taking most or all of the saturated fat out of the mix makes these dairy products more heart-friendly choices. Studies also show that most folks don't get enough milk each day, so add milk to smoothies, cereal and coffee, or drink a tall glass with meals and snacks.
Learn More: 10 Foods High in Vitamin D
Nuts like almonds and walnuts help you load up on cell-protecting vitamin E and the other kind of heart-healthy fats known as "polyunsaturated." These types of fats help your body reduce the accumulation of cholesterol deposits in your arteries. Adding almonds to your diet has been shown to help reduce the lousy LDL and total cholesterol. Almonds can also help lower C-reactive protein, another risk factor for heart disease.
It’s a common misconception that all fat is bad for your heart. The monounsaturated fats found in olives and olive oil actually help your heart by keeping cholesterol down when they replace less-healthy fats in your diet.
You can’t go wrong with berries — blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other berry you can think of. Bursting with fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants like anthocyanins, they're bite-size nutrient powerhouses.
Surprised to see meat on this list? When you choose lean cuts over fatty ones, you’ll significantly reduce your intake of saturated fat (the kind that increases your cholesterol). Trim all visible fat and skin from chicken breast, pork tenderloin and turkey, and go for leaner cuts of red meat like flank steak or beef tenderloin on occasion — that way you’ll take advantage of the protein and iron in meat, but cut back on the fat.
Get Recipes: Healthy Chicken Recipes
This underappreciated fish packs a heart-healthy punch. Sardines contain heart-healthy omega-3s like other fatty fish, but sardines with soft bones give you the added bonus of calcium and vitamin D. Both work together to help reduce the risk of heart disease (along with strengthening your bones).