25 Heart-Smart Foods

A food is considered heart-healthy if it meets specific criteria established by the American Heart Association (AHA), or if it has been shown in scientific studies to enhance heart health in some way.

Food products that are certified by the AHA display a badge with a red and white Heart-Check mark on their labels. The badge makes it especially easy for you to choose from among processed and convenience foods when you are looking for fast, easy-to-prepare meals for you and your family.

As a dietitian, however, I also recommend incorporating as many natural, whole foods into your heart-healthy diet as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are all naturally low in sodium and saturated fats—two of the nutrients you must limit if you are concerned about heart health.

The following easy-to-find foods are heart-smart standouts. Some, like blueberries, oatmeal, salmon, and beans, may even give your heart added protection.

Best Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are virtually fat-free and chock full of vitamins A and C, minerals such as potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals found only in plant foods that play an important role in protecting your heart. Berries, leafy greens, and other deeply colored fruits and vegetables are especially high in antioxidants, which protect against cell damage and keep your heart tissue healthy.

1.  Blackberries
2.  Blueberries
3.  Cranberries
4.  Raspberries
5.  Broccoli
6.  Kale
7.  Peppers
8.  Sweet potatoes
9.  Tomatoes
10.  Winter squash

Winning Whole Grains and Legumes

Dried beans and unprocessed or minimally processed grain foods are all high in fiber, which has been shown to significantly lower the risk of developing heart disease. The soluble fiber in legumes and some whole grains is particularly good at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

11.  Black beans
12.  Chickpeas
13.  Lentils
14.  Pinto beans
15.  Red bean
16.  Soybeans (including edamame, tofu, and soy millk)
17.  Barley
18.  Oatmeal

Nutritious Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and other heart-healthy fats. They are also rich in folate and magnesium, which also play specific roles in heart health. Oils and beverages made from nuts and seeds are also heart-smart foods.

19.  Walnuts
20.  Almonds
21.  Flaxseed

Fantastic Fish

Lean fish is an excellent low-fat source of protein, which makes it good for your heart. But oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation that can lead to heart disease.

22.  Salmon
23.  Tuna

Smart Oils

Most liquid plant oils are better for your heart than solid fats, such as butter and some forms of margarine. The following two make the list for being especially high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low in harmful saturated fats.

24.  Olive oil (for cooking and dressings)
25.  Canola oil

Though not on our top 25 list, lean sources of animal protein, such as seafood, poultry, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products can also be part of a heart-smart diet. Look for cuts and grinds of meat that are 97 percent (or more) fat-free.

To keep your heart in tip-top shape, the most important thing to remember is eat a wide variety of these and other healthy foods and to practice moderation to help maintain a healthy weight.

 


 

Sources:

American Heart Association: Heart-Check Mark
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HeartSmartShopping/Heart-Check-Mark_UCM_300133_Article.jsp#.T3OYAniEYqY

Cleveland Clinic: Heart and Vascular Health and Prevemtion/Nutrition Strategies to Reduce Your Risk of  Cardiovascular Disease. Web.