According to ProMedica Wellness Dietitian Kinsy McNamee, “eating a variety of heart healthy and nutritious foods is one of the best things you can do for your heart.” ProMedica cardiologist Kamala Tamirisa, MD, agrees. Dr. Tamirisa says diet plays an important role in preventing heart disease, which is currently the number one killer in the United States, contributing to more deaths than all cancers combined.
Eating heart healthy foods does not mean you need to switch over to a specific diet regimen. McNamee and Dr. Tamirisa recommend these 10 foods that you can add into your diet to slowly build more nutritious, heart-friendly habits.
Sometimes referred to as “nature’s candy,” fruit has a lot of great vitamins and nutrients for your body. McNamee advises that you “eat the rainbow,” meaning you mix up your diet with fruit of various colors. This helps ensure that your body is getting a variety of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Learn more about 8 great fruits to add to your diet.
Similar to fruit, when it comes to vegetables, try to eat a variety of colors. If you can’t find a good variety of fresh vegetables, don’t worry; frozen, jarred and canned are just fine. McNamee advises watching your salt intake if you opt for canned (low-sodium options are best), but assures that any fruit or vegetable is better than no fruit or vegetable.
3. Fish and lean meat
According to Dr. Tamirisa, fish is especially good for bringing up your good cholesterol, thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re just getting started with seafood or need some help, watch this video from ProMedica Wellness Dietitian Nathan Drendel on how to shop for the healthiest seafood. When it comes to meat, try to stick to eating it about once a week and opt for skinless poultry. Check out these easy meatless recipes if you need inspiration for your week.
4. Flax and chia seeds
Flax and chia seeds are both good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, says McNamee. Flax seeds are a little bit higher in omega-3 and chia is a little bit higher in fiber. Fiber is especially good for heart health because of its ability to lower cholesterol. Try out this oatmeal parfait recipe with chia seeds to start your morning off right.
Nuts can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and can help lower your cholesterol. So consider topping your salads or dishes with some almonds, cashews or walnuts. Just be careful to watch the portions; nuts require portion control.
6. Low-fat dairy
Dairy has nutritional benefits, but opting for low-fat varieties will help keep your cholesterol and heart health in check. That’s because diary contains saturated fats, which tend to raise blood cholestorol levels. Here are some tips of choosing healthy milk and yogurt at the grocery store.
Beans are a powerhouse of soluble fiber and one of the best things you can introduce or increase in your diet to protect your heart, says McNamee. They are great at lowering cholesterol and easy to add into meals. Need some recipes? Try white bean vegetable soup or black bean quesadillas.
8. Healthy oils
Dr. Tamirisa advises avoiding tropical oils (such as coconut and palm oil) which can add saturated fat to your diet. Instead, use nontropical oils such as canola, sunflower or safflower oils. Olive oil is also good but not at high temperatures, such as deep frying. Read this article to learn more about healthy oils.
Cocoa contains flavonoids which can help decrease inflammation of your heart, says McNamee. But not all chocolate is equal. To get the benefit out of dark chocolate, you want to make sure it’s at least 60 percent dark chocolate solids (60% cacao or more). These rolled chocolate truffles will satisfy your sweet tooth with heart healthy ingredients.
10. Red wine
According to McNamee, properties in alcohol may bump up your good cholesterol. Of course, everything in moderation. Women should drink no more than one glass per day and men should drink no more than two. Learn more about the benefits of red wine in this article with cardiologist and wine enthusiast Paul Berlacher.