Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women in the United States (1). There are many heart-healthy foods you can start adding to your diet to help prevent cardiovascular disease, hypertension, inflammatory diseases, and much more.
The heart is a part of the circulatory system, which is responsible for various functions in the body. Heart health and proper functioning are essential for various aspects of the body, including hormone health, blood flow, oxygenation of the cells, and fuel for every organ in the body (2).
With multiple tissue layers, the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. Without the heart, all other organs fail almost immediately.
It is vital to take care of your heart with regular exercise, less harmful lifestyle habits like smoking, and eating a balanced diet. Limiting refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and empty-calorie foods is a great place to start.
Then, try adding some of these popular heart-healthy foods that can help you prevent many chronic and common cardiovascular issues.
Table of Contents
Check out the food list below to see where you can start adding more of these foods to your diet, and if you are getting enough of them today.
1. Nuts and Seeds
Many nuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed are both heart-healthy seeds due to their powerful antioxidant and omega 3 properties. These seeds can lower the risk of experiencing chronic disease, and they are excellent sources of nutrients.
These seeds are a great way to get in more nutrition, too. Chia seeds can help to reduce blood pressure, and even help to balance hormone levels. Many nuts are high in selenium, magnesium, and more, all of which are essential for heart functioning.
Even though they are small, nuts and seeds are a powerful source for the heart. Flaxseed is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help to restore better heart health, too.
Add in some nutrient-dense nuts and seeds like chia, flaxseed, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, and more to your next meal, shake, healthier desserts, or even side dish to get all the health benefits for your heart and more.
Do not be afraid to add these seeds to most dishes, as they barely have any flavor, but they are full of health benefits. All they will do is add a small crunch of absolutely no taste difference to smoothies.
Onions are antibacterial and antiviral, and they can have a potent role in protecting heart health. One of the main reasons they are good for the heart is because they are full of heart-healthy antioxidants.
Antioxidants fight inflammation throughout the body, and they can reduce triglyceride levels as well. This can help to promote further heart healing. Onions are one of the easiest foods to add to your diet. All types of onions are good for you, whether you like red, yellow, or white.
To get the many health benefits from all onions like heart health and longevity, try to mix up the type of onions you eat. If you do not like the taste of red onions, soak them in lemon in the refrigerator overnight to get a pickled onion flavor that goes well in many meals.
Or if you do not like the taste of onion overall, try to dice up onions extremely small with a large knife and mix them into stews, pasta, and more. With the right seasonings, you can flavor a dish easily with onion, without even tasting them.
Garlic is famous for improving cholesterol levels. While cholesterol is not the only factor in heart health, it can help to promote the better functioning of this vital organ.
Garlic has tons of vitamin B6, C, selenium, and manganese, making it a go-to spice and flavor additive to many meals. These vitamins and minerals are essential to overall performance in the body, and that includes the heart, too.
It also contains a substance called allicin, which is a powerful antioxidant that can promote heart health. Garlic is one of the most common foods for overall healing in the body because of the many compounds, vitamins, and antioxidants.
It plays a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is one of the most common health conditions globally (3). Garlic is the perfect flavor additive to many dishes, too. While many recipes call for 1 or 2 cloves, many feel the need to add more to enhance the garlicky flavor. There is no harm in embracing more flavor with this potent spice.
4. Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are healthy for many reasons, but heart health is the number one reason. Green vegetables are high in vitamin K, which is essential for proper heart function (4).
Vitamin K has positive effects on enhancing heart health as well as bone health. Leafy greens are also full of magnesium, which is another huge contributor to heart health. These vitamins and minerals play a large role in keeping your heart healthy (5).
Add in more leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale, bok choy, spinach, dandelion greens, and much more each day.
5. Blue-Green Algae (Spirulina)
Spirulina is a type of blue-green alga that has become extremely popular in the last several years, especially in the wellness space. That is because the health benefits are plentiful.
For many years, it was used as a type of medicine in many cultures. It is naturally high in many plant compounds that reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to a healthier heart (6).
You can purchase spirulina in powder or capsule form for easy consumption. Add it to smoothies, oatmeal, or even cereal for a nutritious boost.
Beans are a healthy source of fiber, key minerals, and vitamins. Eating more beans can help promote a healthy heart because of these facts and more.
The fiber and potassium in beans are notable for heart health because they are necessary for healthy heart functioning. They also contain no saturated fat, trans-fat, or sodium in their natural form. These are all important to take note of for heart health.
Although beans do not have sodium in their natural form, many canned beans have too much sodium. Be cautious about where you get your beans and make sure to read the ingredient labels well. Try new beans to keep your diet interesting, too. Go for navy beans, pinto, black, kidney beans, and more.
Oats are a type of whole grain that can be a heart-healthy part of a balanced diet. Oats can help to reduce LDL cholesterol, protecting the heart from heart disease.
The best part is oats are an easy way to change up your diet. You can buy steel-cut oats either frozen or in a bag for easier consumption.
Rolled oats are great for a cold overnight oats breakfast, especially in the summer. Add in some berries, almond butter, milk, and nuts for a heart-healthy breakfast.
9. Berries and Bananas
All berries are rich in many beneficial antioxidants that can help to protect the heart from oxidative stress and prevent the heart from disease.
Bananas are rich in potassium, which is a necessary mineral for a healthy heart. While many fruits can be beneficial for heart health, bananas and berries stand out among the rest.
Adding other fruits to your diet will not hurt either, like oranges, papaya, pineapple, mango, and more. Try to change up your routine to get more health benefits but keep berries and bananas at the top of your mind.
Avocados are another powerhouse nutritious fruit for the heart that stands out from the rest. That is because avocados have three times the amount of potassium that bananas have.
Many think avocados will make you gain weight, but they do the opposite. Avocados are full of healthy fats that can help to balance cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight.
Like any other healthy-fat food, portion control is key.
11. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has many antioxidant properties that can help to protect and maintain a healthy heart.
If you are craving something sweet or chocolate in general, choose dark chocolate. Even if it is only 50% dark chocolate, it can still give you many health benefits.
Any dark chocolate that is 50% dark or higher is the healthiest for you. The higher the dark chocolate content, the better it is for you. Higher amounts come with a more bitter flavor, so work your way up to it. Stay away from sugar-laden dark chocolates, too. There are plenty of small amounts to choose from.
12. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are a powerful source of food for heart health because of their content of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids.
It is necessary to have a balance of Omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the body for overall health, including heart health. It is essential to choose fatty fish more often than fish high in mercury for those most health benefits, too.
The fatty fish with the most health benefits include sardines, salmon, herring, anchovies, cod, mackerel, rainbow trout, tuna, and more. Although, try to keep tuna to a limit as it normally has higher levels of mercury than the other. Overall, fish is an extremely healthy way to boost your heart health and help to prevent you from developing common chronic diseases like stroke, heart attack, heart disease, and more.
Heart health has many components to it, beyond eating a healthy balanced diet. To have and maintain a healthy heart, you need to keep up with regular exercise, eat well, quit smoking, and take care of your emotional wellbeing.
Adding more of these foods to your diet can help you prevent the top leading cause of death among Americans.
Take care of your heart by adding in these foods and switching them up, too. If you start to like one type of food group, try a new one the next week to get the most out of your nutrient profile.