How to Eat for a Healthier Heart
These tips help you select foods that may help keep your heart healthier.
Although you can't control all factors that affect your risk of developing heart disease, eating healthier is one risk factor you can control. A diet that includes plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and fish, with limited amounts of saturated and trans fat and sodium may help lower your risk for heart disease.
Here are a few ways to choose foods that are good to your heart:
- Know the difference between fats. Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are good for your heart when consumed in moderation, but saturated and trans fats are not. Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat, as found in fatty cuts of meat and cheese. Stay away from trans fats found in vegetable shortenings, margarines, crackers, cookies and foods made with partially hydrogenated oils. Olive oil, nuts and avocados are examples of good fats.
- Choose dairy wisely. When you consume cheese, milk or yogurt, selecting non-fat or low-fat options will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. This is beneficial to your heart because saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels.
- Don't forget omega-3 fatty acids. Commonly found in fish such as wild salmon and tuna, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, which is a precursor to heart disease. If you don't enjoy fish or are a vegetarian, try adding flaxseeds or walnuts to your diet.
- Embrace nuts. Nuts provide protein, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and other important vitamins and minerals that may help reduce your risk of heart disease. Some of the best options for heart health are walnuts and almonds. But limit portion sizes because nuts are calorie-dense foods.
- Seek out superfoods. Some foods contain nutrients that have been shown to offer heart health benefits, such as oats, broccoli, blueberries and wild salmon. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Green tea contains antioxidants that may protect you from heart disease.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth. Research shows that dark chocolate contains antioxidants that may help prevent cholesterol from sticking to artery walls, reducing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Chocolate also contains beneficial flavonoids. Of course, another way to enjoy something sweet is with nutrient-rich fruit.
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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD