10 Heart Healthy Foods to Work into Your Diet

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of all races in the United States. Also known as cardiovascular disease, it’s caused by inflammation and plaque buildup inside blood vessels. This leads to narrowing or blockage inside the vessels, which causes heart attacks and strokes.

American Heart Month is focused on raising awareness about heart disease. At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, we’re here to be your partner in heart health. Our team is highly trained in preventing and managing heart disease, helping men and women make smart choices to improve cardiovascular health and overall wellness.

To find out more about how you can reduce your risk of heart disease, book a consultation with our cardiologist, Dr. Kunal Patel, online or on the phone. Today, Dr. Patel shares 10 heart-healthy foods to work into your diet and why they’re beneficial for your body. 

1. Avocado

Fats often get a bad reputation in the world of healthy eating, but monounsaturated fats are healthy fats that are linked to improved brain function, heart health, and more. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats along with potassium for heart health.

Eating avocados regularly can reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and high cholesterol. The potassium in avocados can contribute to lower blood pressure and lower risk of stroke.

2. Leafy greens

Leafy greens are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Vitamin K, which is found in greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, helps keep arteries healthy and promotes healthy blood clotting.

Regularly eating leafy greens can reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease. The nitrates in leafy greens fight arterial stiffness and improve blood vessel function.

3. Berries

Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries have antioxidants called anthocyanins that reduce inflammation and free radical damage that contribute to heart disease.

Eating berries can reduce cholesterol, lower your risk of metabolic syndrome, and control blood pressure. Consider snacking on berries to boost heart health or make berries the centerpiece of salads and desserts. 

4. Whole grains

Whole grains contain all the most beneficial parts of grain. Foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, and quinoa are examples of whole grains. When foods contain not only the nutrient-rich germ and endosperm, but also the fiber-rich bran, they can lower your risk of heart disease.

When compared to refined grains like white bread and commercially-baked cakes and pastries, whole grains have more fiber, which may help lower both “bad” cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

5. Nuts

Almonds and walnuts are dense in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, copper, and manganese. They’re also high in fiber and monounsaturated fats, which are both good for your heart health.

Regularly eating almonds and walnuts can contribute to lower cholesterol levels, which is a plus for your heart. While nuts have numerous heart-healthy benefits, they’re also high in calories, so watch your portion sizes.

6. Seeds

Flax, hemp, and chia seeds can all have heart-healthy benefits. They contain omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and contribute to lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, as well as reduced inflammation.

These seeds can be baked into breads or added to oatmeal or smoothies for a heart-healthy boost. 

7. Fatty fish

Omega-3 fats boast numerous benefits for the heart. Fatty fish, including tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines, all contain high levels of this supernutrient. Omega-3 fats improve heart health by reducing inflammation, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

However, many Americans don’t eat much seafood. If you don’t want to add fish to your diet, consider taking fish oil supplements, which is an alternative way to get omega-3 fats and reap the heart-healthy benefits.

8. Beans

Beans have a compound called resistant starch that helps feed healthy bacteria in the gut. Eating beans and legumes can reduce cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels. Diets rich in beans and legumes may also lead to lower blood pressure and reduced inflammation, both of which can lower your risk of heart disease. 

9. Garlic

Garlic is a popular seasoning, but it also has medicinal benefits. Allicin, a compound naturally found in garlic, has been proven to help treat high blood pressure.

Garlic may also reduce cholesterol levels in people who suffer from high cholesterol. In some cases, compounds in garlic help stop platelet buildup in blood vessels, which can reduce your risk of blood clots and stroke.

Eating raw garlic or crushing it and letting it rest for a couple of minutes before adding it to your meal allows the allicin to form. If you want the benefits of garlic without adding it to your food, oral garlic supplements are available.

10. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that benefit the heart. Eating dark chocolate regularly has been linked to lower risk of heart disease and lower risk of calcified plaque buildup in arteries.

Despite the heart healthy benefits of dark chocolate, it can be high in calories and sugar. When adding chocolate to your diet for heart health, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa and enjoy it in moderation.

Making a few small changes to your diet can result in stronger heart health and improved well-being. Let our team help you find the right heart-healthy lifestyle changes for you. Book an appointment online or call one of our offices in Newark and Secaucus, New Jersey.

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