11 Heart-Friendly Foods You Should Add To Your Diet

One in four deaths in the United States is a result of some heart disease.

Heart diseases as the leading cause of death are projected to affect more than 130 million adults in the US by the year 2035. These number would need an estimated 748.7 billion dollars for direct medical costs.

If we plan to focus on preventing the risk factors for heart diseases, we can significantly reduce the expected 130 million new cases of heart disease. Major risk factors include diabetes, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

A simple approach to protect the heart from diseases is to add heart-healthy food to our diet and avoid foods bad for the heart.

11 Heart-Healthy Foods

11 heart-friendly foods you should add to your diet.

“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing the cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” according to Julie Zumpano, a dietitian at Cleveland Clinic.

To help keep your heart healthy, we have compiled for you a list of heart-healthy foods.

1. Oatmeal

Your heart would definitely shout hear, hear for anything that has low cholesterol and high soluble fiber. Oatmeal easily fits into this category. It acts as a sponge in your digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol before it absorbs into your bloodstream.

Just make sure you opt for oats, not the instant oatmeal packed with sugar.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown pasta, brown rice, rye, barley, and brown bread are also heart friendly.

Many studies have discovered the benefits of whole grains in heart health.

An analysis of multiple research studies was conducted to measure the dose-response relationship between whole grain consumption and risk of heart diseases. The results showed that the intake of whole grains reduces the risk of heart diseases. These findings also support the dietary recommendations regarding inclusion of whole grains to a balanced diet.

You can easily switch between these varieties to satisfy your taste buds.

2. Berries

Raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are packed with anthocyanins (antioxidants). These are the compounds responsible for red and blue color of plant foods, but they may also help control the blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and dilate blood vessels; both have a positive effect on heart health.

Studies repeatedly show that eating berries is linked to better heart health. A 2013 study conducted on female participants concluded that eating three servings of berries (blueberries and strawberries) per week lowers the risk of heart attack by 32% as compared to those who eat less.

berries for heart health

Berries also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL: low-density lipoproteins).  An analysis of studies showed that berries reduce

  • Bad cholesterol
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Inflammation
  • Systolic blood pressure

The best thing about berries is their deliciousness. Anyone can enjoy them, even someone with diabetes.

Related article: Diabetic Diet – Put These 13 Foods On Your Plate – P.S. Avoid These 13 Foods  

3. Nuts

Nuts make a necessary component of your heart healthy diet plan. A variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios, contain heart-friendly fiber and nutrients.

Most people avoid nuts due to their high-calorie content. However, they are an excellent choice when eaten in moderation.

We’ll describe walnuts and almonds in greater detail because of their special benefits to the heart,

Walnuts

Packed with fiber, copper, manganese, and magnesium, walnuts are a great way to protect your heart against diseases. Incorporating just a few servings to your diet can significantly reduce total cholesterol.

A study of 365 participants showed that individuals who added walnuts to their diet have a decline in LDL and total cholesterol as compared to those who didn’t add walnuts to their diet.

In another study, eating walnuts was associated with up to 16% reduction in bad cholesterol and 2-3 mm reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

Almonds

Almonds contain a long list of nutrients necessary for your heart health. They contain monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which have been found to exert positive effects on the lipid profile of children with high cholesterol. Consuming MUFAs is also protective against metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders that increase the risk of heart diseases.

A six-week randomized controlled trial on the effects of almonds on cardiometabolic risk showed that eating 43 grams of almonds reduced LDL cholesterol and belly fat, two important risk factors for heart diseases.

Almonds are nutrient-dense food. To calculate your daily calorie requirements to prevent going overboard.

4. Dark Chocolate

While milk chocolates and other attractive sugar bars don’t make the best foods for your heart, dark chocolates do.

You’d be glad to know that many studies have associated dark chocolate consumption with better heart health. A 2012 study showed that a daily intake of dark chocolate may reduce stroke and minor heart attacks.

Dark chocolates are rich in cocoa, which may help reduce the blood pressure. This link between cocoa and blood pressure was discovered in the study of Kuna Indians, a tribe on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. Hypertension in these individuals was close to non-existent, even when the salt intake was high.

When the Kuna migrated to the urban areas and changed their dietary patterns, the incidence of high blood pressure increased among the group. This new rise in the blood pressure cases was then investigated, and it was found that the Kuna used to have a high intake of cocoa as a beverage, which had a protective role against blood pressure.

A research study showed that individuals who ate dark chocolate five times a week had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease as compared to those who didn’t eat dark chocolate.

While buying a dark chocolate, make sure it has a high percentage of cocoa. A high-quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher contains most flavanols.

5. Garlic

Garlic’s use for medicinal purposes dates back to centuries. It is the main ingredient in Ayurveda as well. Now, medical research has proven as well that garlic has many health benefits like positive effect on heart health. Garlic is believed to be heart-healthy because of its compound, allicin.

According to one study, consuming 600-1500 mg of garlic extract daily for 24 weeks gives the same results as a common prescription drug for blood pressure control does.

Several other studies also indicate that the garlic extract can prevent platelet buildup. By doing so, garlic extract can reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots. One review of 39 studies revealed that garlic can cut down on the total cholesterol by an average 17mg/dL. Moreover, it can reduce the bad’ LDL cholesterol by 9mg/dL in people with high cholesterol.

6. Fish

Fish like salmon and sardines are one of the healthiest foods for the heart. They are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque accumulation in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides.

According to the American Heart Association, one should eat fish, preferably fatty fish, at least two times a week. One study in 324 people shows that consuming salmon three times a week for eight weeks can significantly lower the diastolic blood pressure.

The same study states that every 100-gram reduction in weekly fish consumption can increase at least one additional risk factor for heart disease, like diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure by 19 percent.

If a person does not like to or cannot eat seafood, he/she can take their omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Fish oil supplements are believed to lower blood triglycerides, decrease blood pressure, and improve arterial function.

7. Seeds

Flax seeds, as well as chia seeds, are filled with omega-3 fatty acids. Apart from the fatty acids, they are also loaded with fiber that is also good for heart health.

Hemp seeds contain arginine—an amino acid that is linked to lower blood levels of many inflammatory markers. Whereas, flaxseed can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Many studies have shown that consuming these seeds as part of a diet can help decrease the risk factors of heart disease. These risk factors include blood pressure, inflammation, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

Related article: 7 Seeds With Amazing Health Benefits

Another study in people having high blood pressure indicates that consuming 30 grams of flax seeds every day for six months can lower the systolic blood pressure by an average of 10 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg.

You can add seeds in your routine diet in several ways. You can add them in a ground form with other heart-healthy foods like dried cranberries, blueberries, or oatmeal. You can also add the ground seeds in soymilk and fruit to prepare a smoothie.

8. Avocado

This soft, creamy fruit comes with a lot of health benefits, as it is loaded with healthy fats. As in olive oil, monounsaturated fats are abundant in avocados. Because of that, avocados can effectively lower heart diseases risk factors like cholesterol.

Another study in 17,567 people suggests that eating avocados regularly have 50 percent lower chances to develop metabolic syndrome. The fruit is also rich in potassium, which is crucial for heart health. Just one avocado provides 975 milligrams of potassium, which is 28 percent of the amount required in a day.

Consuming 4.7 grams of potassium every day can lower the blood pressure by an average of 8.0/4.1 mmHg. This decrease in blood pressure can lower the risk of stroke by 15 percent.

Related article: 12 Amazing Health Benefits of Avocados

9. Green tea

Green tea is known for its numerous health benefits, be it fat burning or improved insulin sensitivity. It is filled with catechins and polyphenols that play the role of antioxidants to reduce inflammation, prevent cell damage, and protect the heart’s health.

One review of 20 studies shows that higher consumption of green tea catechins can lead to significantly lower levels of LDL (bad) and total cholesterol. Moreover, a 2011 review of research studies states that the intake of green tea is linked to a small decrease in cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol levels are a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. So, drinking green tea can help prevent heart disease and stroke. However, the review did not identify the quantity of green tea one should consume to enjoy its health benefits.

Another review focused on the effects of green tea on people with high blood pressure. It did find that green tea can reduce blood pressure but failed to determine whether this reduction can prevent heart disease.

One analysis of 1,367 people shows that green tea can decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Another small study has shown that consuming green tea extract for three months can lower blood pressure, LDL and total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

A green tea supplement or drinking matcha—a drink that is like green tea but is made with the whole teal leaf, can also be good for the heart health.

Related article: 7 Best Herbal Teas For A Refreshing Day

10. Chickpeas

Chickpeas and other legumes like lentils are a great source of soluble fiber—the one that can reduce the bad cholesterol in your blood.

However, if you plan to consume canned beans, opt for no-salt or low-sodium varieties because sodium can increase your blood pressure. If you are consuming the beans with salt or sodium, run the beans through the water to get rid of the added salt.

Related article: Chickpeas: An Inexpensive Way To Improve Your Nutrition

11. Broccoli, Spinach, and Kale

Leafy greens are loaded with health benefits. They are among the ‘super foods’ that are beneficial for almost every system of your body. They are high in carotenoids, which play the role of antioxidants and flush the harmful compounds from your body. They are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale are rich in vitamin K, which helps protect the arteries whole promoting proper blood clotting. Some studies indicate that increased intake of leafy greens can lower the risk of heart disease.

A review of eight studies has shown that increasing the intake of green vegetables is linked to an up to 16 percent decrease in the risk of heart disease.

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