With the help of these nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association, we’ve put together a list of the “best of the best” heart-healthy foods.
The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. We’ve also got menu ideas — so you can easily bring heart-healthy foods into your daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
These 25 foods are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients that help protect your cardiovascular system.
Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.
2. Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.
Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods — yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.
4. Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Give soup or salad a nutrient boost — stir in some beans.
Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve “good” HDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.
Here’s lunch: Salad greens, fresh fruit, canned tuna. Keep “Salad Spritzer” – a light dressing — in your office fridge.
Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice “firm” tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.
10. Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).
Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too — for trail mixes, muffins, salads!
Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).
16. Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.
Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It’s a pretty side dish.
Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sautÃ©ed spinach, pine nuts, raisins.
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!
Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.
24. Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids).
A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.
Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.
Your Guide to Nutrients in Heart-Healthy Foods
Phytoestrogensare substances in plants (like flaxseed) that have a weak estrogen-like action in the body. Studies suggest that flaxseed lowers the risk of blood clots, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmias. It may also help lower total and LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, and even blood pressure.
Phytosterols are plant sterols that chemically resemble cholesterol — and seem to reduce blood cholesterol. All nuts and seeds, including wheat germ, have phytosterols.
Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids.
Polyphenols are another set of antioxidants that protect blood vessels, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol. Flavonoid polyphenols include catechins, flavonones, flavonols, isoflavones, reservatrol, and anthocyanins. Non-flavonoid polyphenols include ellagic acid (found in all types of berries).
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon) and alpha-linolenic fatty acids (found in plant foods like walnuts) help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.
B-complex vitamins — like Vitamin B-12 (folate) and vitamin B-6 — protect against blood clots and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Niacin (vitamin B-3) helps increase HDL “good” cholesterol.
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.