9 foods to include in a heart-healthy diet

Following a heart-healthy diet throughout your life can go a long way toward keeping you in tip-top shape as you age. “In fact, heart disease is largely preventable“Says Walter Willett, MD, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “Eating a healthy diet, combined with not smoking and exercising regularly, could prevent about 80% of cases of heart disease.”

As a general rule, a heart healthy diet You should focus on whole grains, healthy fats, lean sources of protein, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. And you should minimize the refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fat.

But certain foods are particularly good for the heart because they have been specifically linked to cleaner arteries, lower cholesterol, blood pressure lower and / or less inflammation. Incorporating more of them into your overall healthy diet can help lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Still, it’s not so much about adding more food (and more calories) to your daily intake as it is about using these. heart healthy foods to replace those less healthy.

“You cannot add walnuts to a chocolate ice cream and think you’ve done something good for your heart, “says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, director and principal scientist of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University. “You need to eat a handful of walnuts as a snack instead of a handful of potato chips or add them to a salad instead of cheese ”.

So, when you’re looking for more heart-healthy options, here are 9 foods that stand out.


All the whole grains they are good for the heart (among other things). In fact, a 2016 analysis of 14 studies published in the journal Circulation found that for every serving of whole grains eaten daily, the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 9% (compared to not eating whole grains).

But oatmeal is a whole grain that deserves special recognition for its cholesterol-lowering powers.

“Oats are particularly rich in fiber soluble, ”says Willett. “And soluble fiber has been shown to bind to cholesterol and keep it out of the bloodstream.” There is enough evidence to support this claim, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers of oatmeal and certain oat products to advertise the claim “may help lower cholesterol” on product packaging.

To reap the benefits, you must consume at least 3 grams of soluble fiber per day; that’s the amount in ¾ cup of dry oatmeal. People who consumed that amount saw their levels of cholesterol “Bad” (LDL) an average of 9.6 mg / dL and total cholesterol at 11.6 mg / dL, based on a 2014 analysis of 28 studies involving 2,519 people and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

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According to the Department of Agriculture, apples are the second most consumed fruit (the bananas are the first) and have some important benefits for heart health.

The fruit, especially its skin, is rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanins (for red apples) that have been linked to cardioprotective effects.

And a 2012 study of 160 postmenopausal women found that those who ate 75 grams of dried apple per day (equivalent to about two medium fresh apples) lowered their total cholesterol by 9% and LDL cholesterol by 16% after 3 months. . After 6 months of eating apples daily, total cholesterol was lowered by 13% and LDL cholesterol by 24%. Additionally, apples are a major source of soluble fiber, providing about 1 gram in a medium apple.


Fish is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet, a type of fat that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3½-ounce servings of fish per week.

A 2017 analysis of 14 studies involving a total of 1,378 people, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, found that those who consumed between 0.7 and 5 ounces of fatty fish a day showed significant improvements in triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels. Triglycerides fell an average of 9.7 mg / dL and HDL levels increased an average of 2.3 mg / dL.

Unfortunately, some types of fish that are high in omega-3s have too much mercury (think of mackerel [macarela] or the tuna white) or are very expensive (like salmon). Sardines are a low-mercury option and contain nearly 1,000 mg of omega-3s in just 3½ ounces. Plus, they’re inexpensive, and because they come canned, they’re convenient.


Walnuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, as well as fiber, protein and a variety of minerals and antioxidants.

Castile or walnut nuts in particular may have a slight edge, thanks to their high levels of anti-inflammatory alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat found in plant foods. In a 2017 study published In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, it was found that people who ate a 1-ounce serving of walnuts 5 or more times a week had a 14% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (ECV) than those who did not eat nuts. But those who ate one or more servings of walnuts per week had a 19% lower risk of CVD.

Another review, published in 2017 in the journal Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming walnuts helped improve endothelial function, which means better blood flow through the vessels and to the heart.

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The food category known as vegetables (including lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas [chícharos] dried) is known for its heart health benefits.

These sources of protein plant-based are low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients, such as potassium, folic acid and vitamin B, which have been linked to lower blood pressure.

A 2014 analysis of 26 randomized clinical trials found that one serving of legumes per day (about 2⁄3 cup) lowered LDL cholesterol by 6.6 mg / dL.

While you can harness the power of legumes by eating any variety, lentils have one great advantage: they cook quickly. Unlike most Dry beans Requiring soaking and at least an hour on the stove, lentils just need a quick rinse and cook in less than 20 minutes.


Blackberries or berry (of all kinds) receive well-deserved attention for their heart health benefits. They get their red and blue coloration from antioxidant anthocyanins.

Blueberries have one of the highest levels of anthocyanins, with 120 mg per half cup. Some clinical trials have shown that higher anthocyanin intake can help lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce inflammation. A 2011 study that followed more than 150,000 men and women for 14 years found that those who consumed more than one serving of blueberries per week had a 10% reduction in hypertension compared to those who did not consume blueberries.


The dark green leafy vegetables they are a universally healthy food group, rich in many beneficial nutrients. And they all contain high doses of magnesium and potassium, both of which are important in helping to regulate blood pressure.

Among the green leafy vegetables, kale It stands out from the rest because it also contains high levels of the antioxidant lutein. Lutein gets a lot of credit for its role in preventing macular degeneration. But several studies have linked higher levels of this yellow pigment in the blood with reduced levels of inflammatory markers and atherosclerosis.

However, keep in mind that kale is high in vitamin K. Eating too much vitamin K can interfere with blood-thinning medications, especially if you suddenly consume too much. So if you take these medications, check with your doctor before eating lots of salads kale.


Beets contain a unique combination of nutrients that can protect the heart. Besides fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, they are one of the few foods that contain antioxidants called betalains. These compounds, the different types of which give red and yellow beets their color, can have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

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The beets They are also rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. One effect of nitric oxide is to help keep the endothelium, the lining of blood vessels, in good working order. When the endothelium is damaged, it can create the conditions for plaque buildup in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Nitric oxide also widens blood vessels, increases blood flow, and prevents arterial stiffness. Both of these effects help maintain healthy blood pressure, and some studies show that drinking beet juice helped lower blood pressure.


Rich in protein, tofu (made from soy) is a good substitute for meat. Research shows that when you replace animal protein with plant protein, it can improve your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

But soy also contains isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds that are believed to have beneficial health effects. Recently, in the magazine Circulation, the researchers published the results of 3 large studies that looked at the effects of isoflavones on heart health. Eating tofu one or more times per week was associated with an 18% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to eating it occasionally. The researchers found an even greater benefit in premenopausal and postmenopausal women not using hormone therapy; people who ate tofu had a 50% lower risk.

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The benefits of fruit

Looking for a great after dinner snack? On the television show “Consumer WorkshopConsumer Reports explains why fruit could be the answer.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2021, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with the advertisers on this site. Consumer Reports is an independent nonprofit organization that works with consumers to create a just, safe, and healthy world. CR does not endorse products or services and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2021, Consumer Reports, Inc.


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