35 Superfoods for Your Heart
Your heart’s health should be a primary concern for you, just as your general health is. Your heart is the organ responsible for getting your blood to flow. With a good flow of blood, oxygen and important nutrients reach your body as required.
But things don’t always work as expected, especially with worsening eating habits. Bad eating habits and unhealthy lifestyles are fueled by busy schedules which seem to be trapping many. But does that mean you cannot do anything about it?
In the United States, 610,000 people die of heart disease annually. 735,000 people suffer a heart attack every year. These facts paint a very grim picture of the state of the health of many people’s hearts.
Certainly, prevention is better than cure. And this is the route this article wants you to take in regards to your heart’s health.
If you are still alive and either have never suffered a heart attack or have survived one, then you should embark on a serious journey of ensuring you prioritize your heart’s health.
Despite the busy schedule you may have, avoid the temptation of going for dietary supplements. Eating the right food is better than taking supplements. To help you in this, we put together 35 superfoods to help you get your heart in good shape.
This list provides you with a lot of options so that you cannot get stuck due to food availability or taste preferences. Read through and start building a stronger heart today.
These fruits are not only delicious but full of nutrients that help you stay healthy in many ways. According to research, a consistent consumption of strawberries reduces total cholesterol by around 9%, LDL (bad) cholesterol by about 13% and triglycerides by about 21%.
Eating these fruits also leads to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker for inflammation in the body. They also reduce oxidative stress, the imbalance between the production of free radicals and your body’s ability to counter them.
Eating grapefruits will greatly increase your heart’s health due to the nutrients it contains. With potassium, choline, vitamin C and lycopene, grapefruits are a common fruit used for a healthy diet. While potassium helps reduce blood pressure through vasodilation, lycopene helps fight off heart disease as it is an antioxidant.
However, you should not take grapefruits if taking heart medications. This is because it stops your body from metabolizing heart medication. This results in high levels of the medication inside your body. Your body can only assume these high levels to be an overdose, something that would pose a danger.
3. OILY FISH (tuna, sardine and salmon)
Oily fish should have a permanent and very important place in your diet. Apart from being sources of protein, some B vitamins and selenium, their great importance is the Omega-3 fatty acids. These fish provide us with the Omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA which are essential for your body.
Some of the best sources are tuna, sardines and salmon. For every 100g (3.5 ounce) of these, you will get 1.6g, 1.5g and 1.5g of the fatty acid respectively. Some of the fish like mackerel have higher amounts of Omega-3 but also contain high levels of mercury.
You can still eat them but not very often. You can see more fish and their Omega-3 content here.
4. LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES (kales, spinach, broccoli, parsley)
You probably know these as good sources of vitamin k, which helps in blood clotting. You are very right. It however appears that there is more to this vitamin than previously known. This study found that vitamin k reduces the risk of hemorrhage.
Deficiencies in this vitamin in your diet could lead to a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), which basically means that your heart’s left ventricle could become dangerously enlarged. With LVH, an enlarged heart becomes ineffective at pumping blood.
With an ineffective blood pump, all sorts of health problems can occur. That’s not something you would want to experience.
This is another super vegetable that is full of nutrients. Apart from having vitamin k like kales and spinach, it has B vitamins which help lower homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine can lead to plaque formation in arteries. This is one of the ways a heart attack and stroke come about.
At the same time, asparagus contain saponins which have anti-inflammatory benefits. They also help regulate blood pressure.
Oranges are more commonly known for their vitamin C content, something that is vital for your immune system. More than that, they contain a lot of fiber which help reduce cholesterol. This study showed that taking orange juice reduced the levels of bad cholesterol.
These fruits also have potassium which helps reduce blood pressure as well as prevent irregular heartbeats. Oranges also contain folates which help reduce levels of homocysteine.
Potatoes are a good source of potassium, like many other foods in this list. Any food that gives you potassium is good for your heart as it reduces blood pressure through vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels).
They also contain vitamin C which protects arteries from the damaging effects of cholesterol. When taken with the skin, the potassium which is higher than in bananas goes a long way in reducing the risk of high blood pressure. Also, potatoes have no cholesterol or saturated fat. You also get magnesium and fiber.
Basil has a good combination of nutrients which secure it a place in our list of superfoods for your heart. Some of them are iron, calcium, folate, manganese, potassium, vitamins A and K. As seen with some foods already, potassium and vitamin k are great for your heart.
That’s not all though. It has Omega-3 fatty acids and also has antioxidant benefits. It has magnesium which helps relax muscles and blood vessels, leading to reduced high blood pressure. There are many ways to use basil and to get started, watch the below video for a chicken recipe from Thailand.
These are arguably one of the best superfoods for your heart. With vitamins B5, B6, E and K, potassium and folate, you really get a lot of health benefits in one serving. Pomegranates reduce blood pressure and help fight atherosclerosis by reducing the size of the atherosclerotic lesions.
These fruits also improve the flow of blood to the heart while reducing the cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels. Since LDL oxidation forms plaque in the arteries, the antioxidant power of pomegranates works against the oxidation, thereby minimizing the narrowing of arteries.
10. NON-FAT/LOW-FAT MILK
Whole milk is certainly nutritious but so are the low-fat and non-fat alternatives. Although fat-soluble vitamins are lost during the removal of fat from milk, low-fat milk is usually fortified with vitamins A and D. For your heart’s health, the very low levels of fat are key.
More than that, low-fat milk has magnesium, folate and potassium, all of which help in your heart’s health. It helps lower the risk of atherosclerosis and reduce the levels of LDL from people who used to take whole milk.
Yogurt is delicious, whether plain or flavored. While touted for its benefits on your gut, enjoy the super benefits of this great drink that also ranks highly among weight lifters for protein intake.
By itself, yogurt consumption has been linked with reduced levels of high blood pressure. In this study, the benefits of taking yogurt were seen when hypertensive people took two or more servings of yogurt a day. When taken while maintaining a healthy diet, it reduced their risks of developing heart diseases.
12. OLIVE OIL
For a long time, the Mediterranean diet has been praised for helping lower the risks of heart attacks. And the reason has been traced to among others, the fact that olive oil is the main oil used in those diets.
With different qualities of the oil, the benefits come from the monounsaturated fats. This oil has anti-inflammatory compounds as well as antioxidants. Using olive oil has been shown to not only benefit your heart but also fight dementia, depression and even obesity.
For all the benefits however, ensure you buy extra virgin olive oil.
13. WHEAT GERM
Much of the wheat consumed today is processed. Although manufacturers process wheat to give it a longer shelf life, a negative effect is compromised health. You can however improve your heart’s health greatly by adding wheat germ to smoothies and yogurt.
Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat kernel. As such, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals which are key for your heart. With potassium, it helps lower your blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium in your blood. Too much sodium raises blood pressure but potassium counters this.
Wheat germ also has antioxidants in the form of vitamin E which help prevent chronic heart disease.
14. DARK CHOCOLATE
Do you find it hard to resist chocolates? Well, now you have a reason to justify the desire. But just to be sure about it, we are talking about dark chocolate. The difference between dark and other chocolates is that the ‘dark’ version has higher amounts of cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
The benefits behind dark chocolates being good for your health have been based on the abundant levels of flavonoids in cacao beans. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and have among others, anti-inflammatory benefits.
Taking dark chocolate, you lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots and improve the flow of blood to your heart. So, kick away the guilt and have some chocolate—dark chocolate.
15. WHOLE GRAIN CEREALS
All whole grains offer serious benefits to your health. This is simply because they have not undergone the process of refining which removes the bran (outer covering) and germ (embryo). These two hold the key to much of the nutrients needed for your heart’s well-being.
The fiber in whole cereals lowers cholesterol by binding to it before it is absorbed into your body. This ensures it is removed through normal excretion. Fiber also helps in lowering blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Whole grains are also high in B vitamins which reduce the levels of Homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid which when in excess, leads to inflammation in the arteries.
Don’t we all love oats. Or at least we have heard a lot about them and think they are good. Well, yes they are. And they come in different forms. But the good thing is that all the different forms have the same nutritional value.
Oatmeal however goes beyond making you feel full, the work of fiber. This fiber also helps combat LDL (bad) cholesterol. More than that, oatmeal has been shown to have doses of antioxidants which curb inflammation. Though the amounts are not much, consistently eating oatmeal will put you on the right path towards achieving the benefits.
Nuts are a wholesome option for many who desire to snack the healthy way. And they serve this purpose well. With fiber, they reduce the need to eat a lot and consequently, prevent you from taking attractive but unhealthy foods.
On top of that, nuts have vitamin E which helps in many ways including fighting plaques in your arteries. The build up of plaque often leads to coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
Nuts also have Omega-3 which is essential to your heart’s health. They have L-arginine too and that helps in making your blood vessels relax and ease blood flow.
Flaxseed (Linseed) is the plant with the highest amounts of plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is necessary for fighting the bad cholesterol and is available either from the seed or oil derived from the seed.
With around 73% polyunsaturated fat, 18% monounsaturated fat and only 9% saturated fat, flaxseed is a very healthy food. It helps reduce blood triglycerides, reduces blood pressure and inflammation while having no effect on the good cholesterol.
You can get tips on how to include it in your diet here.
These legumes are a good source of fiber. More than that, they have folate and magnesium. Folate helps regulate your homocysteine levels thus helping you prevent heart disease.
As a source of magnesium, you will appreciate this small legume once you know that magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of many enzymes. Lower levels of magnesium in your body increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This mineral also helps regulate blood pressure.
Watch the below video to know more on how magnesium helps your cardiac system and how to detect a deficiency.
This vegetable has been known to provide many health benefits plus of course, a great taste when added to food. For your heart’s health, garlic does many things to ensure a smooth flow of your blood. One way it does this is by strengthening your arteries and lowering your blood pressure.
Garlic also helps you recover from heart attack, lowers triglycerides and reduces the formation of plaque in your arteries.
21. RED WINE
Red wine has for a long time been rumored to be good for your heart’s health. There have been studies done and many of them indicate that there is indeed a connection between taking red wine and lower risks of heart diseases. This has made red wine more popular.
It is however important to note that you should not just start gulping on this red drink. Positive effects have been observed in people who take it as part of a meal. Meaning, you form a habit of taking just a glass or two while adding other healthy foods to your diet.
At the same time, a professor has found that the antioxidants in red wine can help in the coronary angioplasty procedure. This is the procedure of widening narrow or blocked coronary arteries. So, red wine can help both prevent and cure heart disease.
These nuts are high in fats. But the good thing is that the fat is the good type—monounsaturated fat. Native to the Mediterranean climate, almonds are one of the common ways to snack healthily with benefits reaching your heart.
The fat helps lower bad cholesterol while increasing the good cholesterol. They also contain calcium, fiber, vitamins E and B. The vitamins help in fighting free radicals in your body.
If there is one food high in antioxidants, then it is the fruit blueberry. Though tiny, blueberries are great for fighting free radicals. More than that, the anthocyanin in blueberries is believed to aid in heart health.
These fruits have also been shown to lower blood pressure thus reducing the risk of heart disease. At the same time, they have the ability to fight inflammation and prevent the arteries from becoming stiff.
High in proteins, soy foods provide protection from the damaging effects of high levels of cholesterol in your blood. Soy foods contain 12% saturated fat, 29% monounsaturated fat and 59% polyunsaturated fat. The fatty acid ALA in soy beans has been shown to have positive effects against coronary heart disease.
Soy foods also help lower blood pressure as well as facilitate vasodilation and reduce triglyceride levels.
You may not know it, but tomatoes are not vegetables as commonly presumed. They are fruits, according to science. They contain many beneficial nutrients among them fiber, folate, vitamins A, B, C and E.
The most important nutrients however are lycopene and potassium. Potassium helps lower blood pressure and relax your blood vessels. Lycopene on the other hand, is an antioxidant that does more than fight free radicals. It also helps lower bad cholesterol.
For optimum benefit, it is best to consume tomatoes which have either been processed or cooked as opposed to fresh ones. This way, lycopene can be absorbed more easily.
26. GREEN TEA
This tea is known to be loaded with antioxidants. This explains the many benefits of adding green tea to your diet. One study found that people who took more than five cups of green tea daily reduced risks of heart attacks and stroke by 26%.
Green tea is also good at lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. More than this, the tea helps in vasodilation, prevent the buildup of plaque, aid in recovering from a heart attack and reduce the risk of abdominal artery explosion.
Avocados are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats which help in fighting the bad cholesterol. They contain vitamin B6 and folate which help regulate the levels of homocysteine in your blood. High levels of this amino acid increase your risk of getting a heart attack.
They also provide you with the potassium which helps lower blood pressure. With vitamin E in avocados, you can expect a lower risk of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries due to plaque sticking on the arterial walls. Avocados also give you dietary fiber.
An apple a day keeps heart disease away. A study done at Ohio State University found that eating one apple a day for one month lowered the levels of bad cholesterol by 40%. The apple intake prevented LDL oxidation, the culprit of atherosclerosis.
The active ingredient shown to produce these results is polyphenol. This is also available in supplement form but the study showed that the apples do a better job than supplements.
Reason? Possible better absorption or the presence of other helpful compounds. So, instead of rushing to buy the supplements, just go for the real thing—it’s better.
Carrots have three vitamins which help it become one of the heart’s superfoods you cannot ignore. Contrary to what many people think, carrots don’t provide you with vitamin A. They have lots of beta-carotene, the compound which your body converts to vitamin A.
In your body, vitamin A helps prevent hypertrophy (the thickening of ventricular walls) as well as suppress the processes which cause heart failure due to stress. Carrots also have vitamin B6 as well as vitamin K which is essential in blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding.
The vitamin C in carrots helps prevent coronary heart disease. One cup of chopped carrots provides you with around 7.6mg of vitamin C (10% of daily requirement for women and 8% for men). You also get 16.9 micrograms of vitamin K (14% daily requirement for men and 19% for women).
30. LEAN BEEF
This is beef that does not have any visible fat. As such, it does not increase the risk of higher cholesterol levels in your body. In fact, research has shown that lean beef can actually have some great benefits for your heart.
With Omega-3 fatty acids, you can at least rest assured that lean beef is good company. It has vitamin B12 which helps lower the levels of homocysteine thus reduce the risk of heart disease while also maintaining the nervous system.
31. KIDNEY BEANS
Kidney beans have good amounts of various minerals as well as fiber. Fiber in the beans is helpful in lowering cholesterol in the blood. The folate in kidney beans comes in to help lower the levels of homocysteine.
They also contain some manganese, a mineral which helps fight inflammation. They have magnesium which helps regulate blood pressure while providing other minerals important for your heart’s health like potassium and vitamin K.
Walnuts, like other nuts, are high in nutritional value. They contain the plant-based Omega-3 fatty acid ALA which is essential for your body’s functioning. Folate is also present in walnuts as well as vitamin E.
Many studies have been done and proved the positive effects of including walnuts into your diet. Walnuts have been shown to lower the levels of bad cholesterol and improve the functioning of the endothelial cells. These are the cells which line the inside of your blood vessels.
Thirsty? No need to take soda. Indulge in the freshness of this fruit and your heart will thank you for it. With lycopene and beta-carotene, watermelon is a great antioxidant which fights heart disease as well as cancer.
Providing you with vitamins A and C, watermelon consumption provides a healthy dose of antioxidants. With higher levels of lycopene than tomatoes, watermelon is one of the best fruits for fighting hear attack as well as lowering your blood pressure.
Instead of just eating the fruit plain (nothing wrong with that), you can also get more creative. Watch the below video for a watermelon smoothie idea.
Beetroot has been shown to help people who have heart failure increase their muscle power by 13% just two hours after drinking beetroot juice. This juice also improves your stamina when exercising.
The dark color of beetroot comes from the water-soluble antioxidants called betalains which greatly help your heart health. Beetroot also contains folate, manganese and magnesium, all of which have their place in improving your heart’s health.
A word of caution: find out if you are prone to calcium oxalate kidney stones or have low blood pressure. If you do, then stay away from beetroot as the conditions may worsen. Seek to get the indicated nutrients from any of the other sources listed here.
Widely available, bananas are known mostly for their potassium content. But there is more to bananas than potassium. For example, they have vitamin C, manganese and magnesium. Bananas also have good levels of fiber to help in cholesterol control.
Still, that’s not all. Ever wondered why bananas are loved by weight lifters? Bananas are often included in both pre-workout and post-workout meals because they provide a quick boost of energy.
Since you know that your heart’s health is not just pegged on food alone but also on exercise, bananas help you have better results in this.
With such a list of great foods for your heart’s health, you have no reason not to have a happy and healthy heart.