The heart is a highly tuned machinery. To keep it running in peak shape, you need to provide heart-healthy nutrition. And that means you should adopt a heart-healthy diet. Some meals offer tremendous heart perks, but how would you choose?
Diet has a significant impact on heart health and can influence your risk of developing heart disease. Choosing nutritious foods can help you avoid heart attacks and strokes. Knowing which foods to consume more of and which to avoid will help you maintain a heart-healthy diet. You should consume the following 15 nutrients to maintain a healthy heart.
1. Fatty Fish & Fish Oil
The body can produce all fatty acids except Omega-3 and omega -6 fatty acids. That is why it is important to consume them for a healthy heart. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, have been extensively studied for their heart-health advantages. Eating salmon fish and seafood regularly also reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease and keeps a healthy heart. These fish include DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce heart disease and stroke risk. Another 2020 research proves that fish consumption is connected with a decreased risk of heart disease, depression, and death.
Dietary Recommendations: The American Heart Association (AHA) stated in 2018 highlighted the significance of eating oily fish, emphasizing that eating 1 to 2 seafood meals per week (12 ounces (two meals) each week) may lower the risk of congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and unexpected cardiac death.
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are well-known for their vitamins and mineral content. The link between the leafy green diet and heart health has been researchers’ talk for a long time.
- Leafy Greens contain a high proportion of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promotes good blood clotting.
- According to one study of eight publications, increased leafy green vegetable consumption was related to a reduction in the risk of heart disease of up to 16%.
- Leafy greens are also enriched with nitrates, which have been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, and increase blood vessel cell activity.
- High consumption of leafy green vegetables was connected to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease in another research of 29,689 women.
- Consumption of spinach has been proven beneficial for cardiovascular health in 2015 research.
Dietary Recommendations: The American Dietary Guidelines recommend five servings of vegetables per day for 2000 calories. One of the five vegetable servings should be green leafy vegetables. According to the NIH, men need 120 mcg of Vitamin K1 while women need 90 mcg. But for heart health, the research found that 0.25 milligram/day of Vitamin K2 lowered heart disease mortality by 57%.
Most nuts seem to be healthy, but some may be better for your heart than others. For example, walnuts have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in them. All of these nuts appear to be good for a healthy heart.
Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids from plants, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fiber, heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and phytosterols. Along with being a good source of magnesium and polyphenols, walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid. Due to the fact that dietary ALA consumption is associated with a decreased risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease, walnuts are an excellent complement to a healthy heart.
- In 2021 research published in Circulation, participants who ate 30–60 grams of walnuts (or 14–28 walnut halves) per day had significantly lower LDL cholesterol (commonly known as “bad” cholesterol).
- 2021 research published in Nutrients found that eating an ounce (approx 29 grams) of nuts (especially walnuts) five times a week reduced the risk of stroke by 19% and death by 24%.
- In another research, regular consumption of walnuts has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Dietary Recommendations: While they are beneficial to the cardiovascular system, they are also heavy in fat and calories and should be consumed in moderation. As with all nuts, walnut portion proportions should be considered. One walnut serving should fit perfectly in the palm of your hand, providing around 200 calories.
Almonds. Almonds are an excellent choice for a heart-healthy nut. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that nuts can help decrease blood cholesterol levels. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids from plants, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are critical nutrients that may help prevent heart disease. It has also been proven by researchers that almond consumption is related to increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which can help prevent plaque accumulation and keep your arteries clean. (1) (2).
Dietary Recommendations: Almonds are abundant in nutrients, but also heavy in calories. If you’re attempting to lose weight, measure your servings and eat less. 1 ounce of almonds, or approximately 23 almond nuts, is the recommended daily serving size according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants such as flavonoids, which may benefit keeping a healthy heart.
- According to research, consuming chocolate in moderation (no more than 6 servings per week) may lower your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Numerous controlled research has demonstrated that cocoa and dark chocolate can help increase blood flow and blood pressure. (1)(2)(3)
- Dark chocolate’s flavanols can help lower insulin resistance, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. (1)(2).
Dietary Recommendations: The appropriate “quantity” of chocolate for cardiovascular benefit is unknown. The study found a heart-health advantage from chocolate usually characterized by consuming 100 grams of chocolate more than once a week. Choose high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of at least 70% and consume it in moderation to get the advantages of its heart-healthy properties.
5. Red Wine
Several decades of research have established a link between red wine consumption and a decreased risk of heart attack and cardiovascular illness, making it a healthy heart compound. Resveratrol which is present in red wine may help prevent blood vessel damage, lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), and prevent blood clots. Scientists discovered in 2006 that procyanidins in red wine helps keep blood arteries healthy.
A 2019 study found that red wine consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of mortality in the United States. According to 2012 research, nonalcoholic red wine can also lower blood pressure.
How can some other antioxidants help our health and aging? Read the full article here.
Dietary Recommendations: For men, this implies 2 drinks per day or less, and for women, 1 drink per day or less (because there is a difference in how men and women metabolize alcohol).
6. Whole Grains
Refined carbs raise the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, whole grains offer protection. Increasing your intake of whole grains has been linked to improved heart health.
- According to one analysis of 45 studies, consuming three more servings of whole grains daily was associated with a 22% decreased risk of heart disease.
- Eating a diet high in plant-based foods, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, and keeping salt intake below normal ranges can be very beneficial in preventing and controlling hypertension.
- Based on the Heart Foundation review of whole grains and the heart, eating whole grain foods can cut your risk of heart disease by up to 30%.
- A recent 2021 review proves that eating three servings of whole grains every day will help lessen the chance of developing heart disease and keep a healthy heart.
Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, and quinoa.
Dietary Recommendations: The USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 5 to 8 ounces of grains each day, with 3 to 6 ounces being whole grains. One ounce of grain equals one slice of bread or half a cup of cooked pasta or rice.
7. True Teas
“True” teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China and East Asia and is used to make blends. Making real tea a part of your daily routine provides a number of health advantages, whether you drink it hot or cold.
According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, tea consumption can help reduce the normal decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (or “good” cholesterol) that happens with age. According to another 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who consumed true tea at least three times per week (green, black, or oolong) had a roughly 20% lower risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease than those who consumed tea less than three times per week. According to the same study, tea drinkers had a 22% lower risk of dying prematurely from heart disease.
Green tea is a special kind of superfood. It includes several plant components (such as EGCG) that have been demonstrated to decrease inflammation, control blood pressure, and even cut cardiovascular death rates. Two cups of tea per day may reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and 3 cups of green tea per day may reduce the risk of cardiac death by 26%. (1)(2)(3)
Dietary Recommendations: Drinking green tea in moderate amounts (about 8 cups daily) is likely safe for most people.
8. Oranges and Orange Juice
Oranges are sweet and juicy and include cholesterol-lowering fiber pectin. Additionally, they contain potassium, which aids in blood pressure regulation. You probably already know that drinking a glass of 100% orange juice helps enhance your immune system’s vitamin C levels, but the drink can also benefit your healthy heart.
- A 2017 study discovered that consuming 100% citrus juices may be associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic stroke.
- In 2021, the researchers discovered that those who consumed more hesperidin, a bioflavonoid found in citrus, had healthier blood lipid and blood pressure levels than those who consumed less of this nutrient.
- In 2011 research it was found that two glasses of orange juice per day improved blood vessel health in one research. Additionally, it decreased the blood pressure of the participants.
Dietary Recommendations: It is recommended that you consume no more than 8 ounces (240 ml) of juice every day since the juice contains high content of sugar – find out why sugar is bad for you here.
9. Low Fat Dairy
Low-fat dairy products provide nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which your body requires to maintain cardiovascular health. According to the findings of a 2016 study, low-fat dairy products were related to a lower risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). Another study conducted in 2016 demonstrated that drinking low-fat or fat-free milk was associated with a lower risk of having a stroke.
Dietary Recommendations: Adults should attempt to consume 2–3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy items each day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Those sensitive to lactose can still benefit from dairy by consuming lactose-free milk, yogurt, and hard cheeses.
Lentils are high in fiber, folate, and potassium, making them an excellent choice for heart, blood pressure, and cholesterol management. Additionally, they contain energizing iron and vitamin B1, which aid in maintaining a stable heartbeat. Numerous studies have connected lentils to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, owing partly to their bioactive components.
- When a person substitutes a high fiber meal, such as lentils, for meat in their diet, they reduce their risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), increasing fiber consumption can help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol.
- Lentils’ potassium, calcium, and magnesium content have been shown to naturally lower blood pressure. Foods rich in these minerals are a critical component of the DASH diet plan. This diet is recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for lowering blood pressure.
- One eight-week trial demonstrated that consuming 1/3 cup (60 grams) of lentils daily boosted HDL (good) cholesterol and dramatically decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in 39 adults who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes making it a heart-healthy food.
- Lentil proteins may be sufficient to prevent the angiotensin I-converting enzyme, which commonly constricts blood vessels and hence raises blood pressure.
- A daily serving of lentils can considerably lower “bad cholesterol” and hence the risk of heart disease as per research.
Dietary Recommendations: opt for roughly 1 to 1 ½ cups of cooked lentils per serving.
All three types of seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds, are excellent providers of heart-healthy nutrients such as fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Adding these seeds to your diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride, helping in a healthy heart.
Hemp seeds are abundant in arginine, an amino acid associated with decreased blood levels of certain inflammatory indicators which are heart-healthy. An anti-inflammatory effect of gamma-linolenic acid present in hemp seeds may help prevent disorders like heart disease is also proven in the results of certain research. (1) (2). Animal research has also proven the effect of hemp seed oil to assist heart healing after a heart attack. (1) (2) (3) A daily dosage of 1 to 2 tablespoons is recommended for hemp seed consumption.
Flaxseeds. This gleaming, honey-colored seed has three heart-healthy components: fiber, phytonutrients known as lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil include alpha-linolenic acid, which may help people with heart problems. Consuming milled flaxseed as a supplement to your diet offers several health advantages. There is evidence that flaxseed consumption of 1 table spoon per day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and may also benefit other disorders such as gastrointestinal health and diabetes. How can flaxseeds help in breast cancer prevention? Learn here.
Chia seeds are another heart-healthy dietary source. Soluble fiber, like chia seeds, can help decrease total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This reduces the risk of heart disease. In rats, consuming chia seeds decreased blood triglyceride levels and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. In a few human studies, chia seed supplementation effectively lowered hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease. (1)(2)
Dietary Recommendations: A standard dosage guideline is 0.7 ounces (20 grams or around 1.5 teaspoons) of chia seeds twice each day. Remember to drink plenty of water to prevent any stomach adverse effects. While no precise flaxseed intake is advised, 1-2 tablespoons daily are considered healthful.
12. Olive Oil
Experts agree that olive oil — especially extra virgin — is good for you. According to one study, people who used the most olive oil had a 35% lower risk of developing heart disease. Additionally, increased use of olive oil was connected with a 48% decreased chance of dying from heart disease. Olive oil contains a high concentration of oleic acid and antioxidants and has been shown to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
Another research done proved that those who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Using olive oil instead of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5% and coronary heart disease by 7%. Very interesting few researches have proved that it also lowers blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and premature mortality. It lowered the requirement for blood pressure medication by 48%. (1)(2)(3).
Dietary Recommendations: The FDA and the European Food Safety Authority recommend taking roughly 20 grams or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation, according to a 2018 study.
Over the decades, garlic has been utilized as a natural cure for a number of diseases. Garlic contains a substance called allicin, which is believed to possess a plethora of medicinal properties. In one study, consuming garlic extract in doses of 600–1,500 mg daily for 24 weeks was found to be equally effective at lowering blood pressure as a commonly prescribed medication.
- A study published in 2016 found that supplements containing aged garlic extract aided in the reduction of blood pressure and the improvement of total cholesterol levels.
- Garlic supplements helped reduce blood pressure, according to a 2019 study, this reduction in blood pressure reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 16-40%. The findings came from 12 research involving 553 persons with hypertension.
- Additionally, a review of studies conducted between 1955 and 2013 revealed that garlic reduces total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels “moderately to dramatically.” When consumed for more than two months, garlic assisted in lowering total cholesterol by 8%.
Dietary Recommendations: Adults are generally recommended to consume 4 g (one to two cloves) of raw garlic per day.
Avocados are immensely popular in the health and wellness community due to their high nutritional content and numerous health advantages. Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease.
- Avocados are particularly high in potassium, a vitamin necessary for cardiovascular health. Indeed, one avocado contains 975 milligrams of potassium, or roughly 28% of the daily requirement.
- Being able to consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day can drop blood pressure by an average of 8.0/4.11 millimeters of mercury, which is related to a 15 percent reduced risk of stroke.
- In addition to raising levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol and lowering levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, avocados may also help prevent atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of plaque along artery walls. (1) (2)
- A daily avocado can help reduce harmful cholesterol in overweight and obese persons, according to a 2015 American Heart Association study.
Dietary Recommendations: The serving size is 1 medium avocado (50 grams or 1.7 ounces) for a day.
Remind yourself that it’s what you do in the long run that is important. It will help your health and heart for years to come if you follow these simple diet recommendations.
Are There Any Supplements for a Healthy Heart?
According to health care specialists, physical activity, eating nutritious meals, lowering stress, and keeping a healthy weight are all essential components of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Learn more about such methods to keep a healthy heart in our article here.
But supplements for heart health might sometimes be perplexing. There is a variety of evidence present over this and here we will discuss the most popular supplements that are considered heart-healthy and what research says about them. The American College of Cardiology (JACC) issued a series of reviews on dietary supplements and the heart in 2021. The take-home message on multivitamins remains the same: these supplements do not reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or mortality. But they can be used in conjunction to maintain good heart health after even having a heart disease.
Fish oil contains the two most frequent omega-3 acids are DHA and Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA). There is some evidence from 2020 research that consuming more fish oil reduces the risk of coronary heart disease considerably. It also states that a fish oil supplement (including EPA and DHA) can lower triglycerides by approximately 15%. There is recent research that suggests that taking a high-dose fish oil supplement may aid people with heart disease who take a cholesterol-lowering medicine. A study found that taking the supplement twice daily resulted in a 25% reduction in cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, when compared to a control group.
Consult your doctor before taking fish oil supplements if you are on blood thinners or anticoagulants like aspirin or warfarin. If you are planning to take fish oil supplements, you may need to watch your diet. Because taking fish oil supplements and eating fatty fish regularly may result in an overdose of omega-3, which can induce blood thinning. If you don’t have heart disease, eat two servings of fatty fish a week or eat healthy vegetarian food that is rich in nuts and healthy oils instead of taking fish oil supplements.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring antioxidant produced by the body. Additionally, it is available as a supplement. According to certain research, cardiac disease is associated with a deficiency of CoQ10. However, it is difficult to determine if CoQ10 depletion is a cause or effect of cardiac disease.
According to some research, CoQ10 may help lower blood pressure, while another study discovered that people with high triglycerides, high cholesterol, and a history of heart attack saw improvements in their LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure, after taking 200 mg of CoQ10 daily for 12 weeks. There is evidence that CoQ10 may assist with muscular symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and cramping that can occur when patients use cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. Around 10% of persons who take statins have muscular soreness. That is why some cardiologists prescribe this supplement for the treatment or prevention of muscular pains associated with statin therapy.
Red Rice Yeast
Red yeast rice is prepared by steaming white rice with Monascus purpureus yeast. Monacolin K, the active component in the prescription cholesterol-lowering medication lovastatin, is found in the resultant red-hued extract. Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated that supplements containing 4 to 10 milligrams (mg) of monacolin K can help decrease cholesterol levels thus promoting a healthy heart. (1) (2) (3).
Supplementing with red yeast rice may assist in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol. However, the supplements’ safety and adverse effects remain uncertain. The majority of red yeast rice supplements contain other components that may be harmful to heart health. There is a gap in knowledge on the interactions of these compounds and the potential negative effects.
Always consult your doctor before adding vitamins or supplements to your regimen. While certain vitamins are harmless, some may be damaging to the heart.
While the data on heart-healthy vitamins and supplements are divided, eating heart-healthy meals like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, combined with fiber and water, mentioned above already provides the nutrients required for optimum heart function and keeping a healthy heart.