This article focuses on Heart Healthy Foods, explaining the top diet plans for a healthy heart, what you should eat, and what you need to avoid.

Heart disease is the primary cause of mortality across the globe. Maintaining a heart-healthy diet can lower your risk of heart issues.

What Are Heart Healthy Foods?

The foods you eat and your dietary habits significantly affect your cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol, and triglycerides.

A heart-healthy diet plan focuses on minimally processed vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

To maintain good heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following dietary guidelines :

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight by balancing calories from food with calories burned through exercise.
  2. Eating various fruits and vegetables is crucial for maintaining a healthy diet.
  3. It’s better to opt for whole grains instead of refined grains.
  4. Using liquid plant oils like olive oil instead of tropical oils like palm oil is better.
  5. Consuming protein from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, and lean meats is essential.
  6. Reduce the amount of added sugars and salt in your diet.
  7. Limit alcohol.
  8. Opt for minimally processed foods.

Heart-Healthy Foods List

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, non-fat and low-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats and oils are vital for a heart-healthy diet.

Fruits and Vegetables

1. According to consistent studies, diets that are abundant in fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables are essential for heart health as they contain antioxidants that aid in preventing injuries to the arteries. It is advisable to consume various fruits and vegetables, preferably fresh. However, you may eat canned or frozen but with low sodium. (Source)

2. Aim to incorporate a variety of colorful vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, edamame, beets, and carrots, into your daily diet as much as possible.

3. Eating leafy greens like kale, spinach, and bok choy can provide numerous health benefits. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, leafy greens are high in nitrates, which help to relax and widen blood vessels. Studies have shown that people who consume a diet rich in nitrate-containing vegetables, especially leafy greens, have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease by 12% to 26%.

4. Choose canned vegetables that have low sodium content.

5. If eating frozen, it is recommended to search for frozen vegetables that do not contain any added butter or sauces.

6. It’s essential to focus on eating fresh fruits such as berries, apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, guava, and papaya. Berries like strawberries and blueberries are especially good for heart health because they contain antioxidants that help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, contributing to heart disease. Studies have shown that eating blueberries regularly and in moderation can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

7. When selecting fruit, opt for fresh or canned, frozen, or dried varieties without added sugars.

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Whole Grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that substituting refined grains with whole grains may lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

You can improve your diet by including these types of whole grains:

1. Whole-grain bread, bagels, English muffins, and tortillas made with whole grains are healthier alternatives to baked goods made with refined flour, as they are high in fiber and nutrients.

2. Whole grain breakfast cereals – hot or cold.

3. Brown or wild rice, quinoa, or oats.

4. Whole-wheat pasta and couscous.

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Healthy Proteins

Plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts, and fish are excellent sources of heart-healthy protein options associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risks.

Legumes are a great source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Some common types of legumes include soybeans (including edamame and tofu), other beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas. Eating legumes can help promote heart health by reducing cholesterol levels and improving blood pressure. Various studies have shown that consuming more legumes can significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Nuts are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Research shows that consuming nuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Consuming oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines is highly beneficial for our health as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids known to reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent harmful inflammation in the body. Studies have found that having two to three servings of fish per week is linked to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure as compared to those who consume fewer servings of fish per week.

Choose lean meats and avoid processed ones. Options include 95% lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, and skinless chicken or turkey.

For healthier meat options, lean meats like 95% lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken, or turkey. Avoid processed meats.

Nonfat and low-fat dairy

Replacing full-fat dairy products with nonfat and low-fat options is a heart-healthy decision that increases unsaturated fat intake and lowers saturated fat intake. Unsaturated fats are linked to better cardiovascular health. Here are some low-fat dairy choices:

Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

Fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt

For cheese or cottage cheese, cheese fat-free or low-fat versions

Fortified soy beverages (soy milk) or soy yogurt

Unsaturated fats and oils

Replace saturated fats in your diet with foods that have healthy unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are in seafood, nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils.

For optimal heart health, it’s best to use oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for cooking.

Dietary sources of polyunsaturated fat include plant oils like soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils.

Some primary plant sources of monounsaturated fat are canola and olive oils and high oleic acid safflower and sunflower oils. Olive oil, in particular, contains a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants that can prevent damage to your body, including your arteries.

Avocado is a nutritious food that can be beneficial for heart health. It contains healthy fats, fiber, and a variety of micronutrients that are associated with cardiovascular well-being. According to a study, individuals who consume at least two servings of avocado per week have a 21% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack or related problem caused by coronary artery disease.

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Foods to avoid for heart health

Eating certain foods can improve your heart health and decrease the chances of heart disease. However, you must avoid foods containing high amounts of sodium (salt), saturated fat, added sugars, and alcohol to maintain a healthy heart. A low-quality diet is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

To maintain ideal heart health, the American Heart Association suggests avoiding these specific foods:

1. High-fat dairy products

2. Fatty meats

3. Processed meats

4. Partially hydrogenated oils and tropical oils

5. Processed foods

6. Beverages and foods with added sugar

7. Foods high in sodium

8. Alcohol

Best Diets To Avoid/Prevent Heart Disease

It’s essential to include heart-healthy foods in your diet to gain various benefits for your heart. It’s imperative to incorporate these foods into a balanced diet that you can stick to, along with other heart-healthy habits such as regular exercise and stress management, to ensure overall well-being.

Choosing a diet or eating plan with so many options can be overwhelming. The AHA analyzed ten popular diets and eating patterns to determine which ones align with the American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations for a heart-healthy diet.

According to AHA findings, some diets are more effective at promoting heart health than others. Two of the top diets for heart health are the DASH and Mediterranean diets. (Source)


The DASH diet, also known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, has been associated with improved heart health, including reduced risk of heart failure and lower blood pressure.

The DASH diet emphasizes fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, nuts, and vegetable oils while limiting sweets and saturated fats.

Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean-style diet is a primarily plant-based diet influenced by countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This popular diet is touted for its health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease.

A Mediterranean-style diet focuses on consuming various vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes. It also includes lean proteins such as fish and poultry, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, vegetable oils, and nuts. To stay healthy, the diet restricts the intake of added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.

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About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is an ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. HeJust Fitness Hub passed the Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says, “Age is just a number!”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is general and for information only because it doesn’t consider your health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalized health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should determine if the information is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.


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