To me, there’s nothing more healing than a good meal shared with my favorite people. Not to get all sappy on you, but it’s just good for the heart—to reconnect with friends and fam IRL and nourish our hardworking, ever-amazing bodies.
And since February is American Heart Health month, what better time is there to focus in on the foods that can boost cardiovascular health? (And maybe set aside some time to spend with our nearest and dearest too ❤️)
After all, heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in the US (eek!). I say this not to scare you, but because our lifestyles have such a HUGE impact on our heart disease risk. By moving our bodies regularly, managing stress, and eating well, we can tune up our hearts…and live healthy for longer. Plus, apart from increasing longevity, eating heart healthy foods can also improve circulation, help you manage your weight, and even get a boost in energy. Ummm…who doesn’t want that?
So without further ado, here are the 10 foods I recommend eating for a strong and healthy heart. Enjoy ‘em with people you love for additional health benefits and good mojo.
1. Fish (like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, halibut, cod) and fish oil
Wild-caught, cold-water fatty fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, aka heart-health heroes. Omega-3s can decrease heart-disease-causing inflammation, reduce the risk of heart rhythm disorders, lower blood pressure, and even help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Aim for two servings of fatty fish each week. (My broiled salmon and spicy citrus broccolini recipe is a great place to start.)
2. Nuts and seeds (like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds)
Nuts and seeds are lil’ nutritional powerhouses, rich in monounsaturated fats, plant sterols, fiber, and (you guessed it!) omega-3s. A small handful of these bad boys a day can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and protect your heart’s arteries from inflammation.
I often whip up these homemade breakfast bars—loaded with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nut butter—when I want to start my day off with allll those good fats and omega-3s.
3. Avocados and avocado oil
Oh avos, how I love you. High in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and potassium (an essential nutrient for heart health), avocados can help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of metabolic syndrome. 🥑 😍
4. Olive oil and olives
Olive oil and olives are full of healthy fats—which help boost “good” HDL cholesterol—and rich in heart-healthy antioxidants that can protect your blood vessels. Both are a staple in the Mediterranean diet…and they probably should be in your diet too 😉
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are jam-packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation—and reduce your risk factors for heart disease. One easy way to eat more berries, even when they’re out of season? Buy ‘em frozen and toss a handful in your morning smoothie!
6. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
Flaxseeds give us a trifecta of heart-healthy goodness: containing fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and omega-3s, they support your heart by helping maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Grind whole flaxseeds to get the most nutrients.
7. Red, yellow, and orange fruits & veggies (like carrots, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and red peppers)
Packed with beta-carotene (aka Vitamin A), Vitamin C, fiber, lycopene, and potassium, fruits and veggies in this corner of the color spectrum can help lower blood pressure, boost blood vessel health, and reduce “bad” cholesterol levels. (And these spiced sweet potatoes with maple vinaigrette are straight up heavenly if you’re in the market for a recipe.)
8. Leafy green veggies
We all know greens like spinach, kale and collard greens are good for us—they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But they’re particularly high in vitamin K—which helps protect your arteries and promotes proper blood clotting—and nitrates—which keep your blood vessels healthy and help bring down blood pressure. One of my favorite ways to eat up a lot of greens? Put them in a frittata!
I know we already talked about red fruits and veggies but tomatoes need their own spotlight. Lycopene, the natural pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting harmful free radicals in the body and reducing inflammation. Tomatoes have also been linked to increased levels of “good” cholesterol.
P.S. These tuna salad stuffed tomatoes are a delish way to eat a whole tomato in one sitting. (Hello, lycopene…plus, omega-3s from the tuna!)
10. Dark chocolate (70% cacao or greater)
YAS, save the best for last! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which can protect your arteries and guard against heart disease. To get the most from your chocolate, stick with 70% cacao or greater—and be sure to watch for added sugars (which could cancel out any health benefits).
Personally, I think these gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookies would be excellent with dark chocolate chips or chunks. 🍫 ❤️
Need a little help designing (or sticking with) a heart-healthy eating plan? Please reach out with any questions…or leave a comment below!