12 Heart-Healthy Foods to Work into Your Diet

Boost nutrition, flavor and color in meals and snacks

A healthy diet can be good for your heart as well as your waistline.

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“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” says preventive cardiology dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart.”

“Try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground,” Zumpano says, recommending what she calls the “whole-foods diet.”

That diet includes, of course, heart-healthy foods such as nuts, fish, whole grains, olive oil, vegetables and fruits, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself occasionally with a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate, Zumpano says. She suggests using this list as a guide to create meals and snacks with a healthy focus. Just a few simple swaps could make a big difference for your cardiovascular health.

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12 foods that are good for your heart

  1. Eat fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout.
  2. A handful of healthy nuts such as almonds or walnuts will satisfy your hunger and help your heart.
  3. Berries are chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Try blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries in cereal or yogurt.
  4. Seeds. Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestogens to boost heart health. Take them in ground or milled form to reap the greatest benefit. Chia seeds also provide omega 3, fiber and protein and can be eaten whole. 
  5. Oats are the comfort-food nutrient powerhouse. Try toasting oats to top yogurt, salads or to add into a trail mix if you are not a fan of them cooked.
  6. Legumes. Dried beans and lentils ― such as garbanzo, pinto, kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and other good stuff. Veggie chili, anyone?
  7. A 4-ounce glass of red wine (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  8. Soy. Add edmame beans or marinated tofu in a stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner.
  9. Red, yellow and orange veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, tomatoes and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber and vitamins to help your heart.
  10. Green veggies. Popeye was right ― spinach packs a punch! So does kale, Swiss chard, collard/mustard greens and bok choy. Use these sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce. Broccoli and asparagus are filled with mighty nutrients such as vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber.
  11. Fruits such as oranges, cantaloupes and papaya are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
  12. Dark chocolate is good for your heart health. The higher the percentage of cocoa the better! (The fiber and protein increase with higher cocoa and the sugar decreases). If you are a fan of milk chocolate. start with at least 70% cocoa.

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