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Superfoods for Heart Health

7 min read

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Reviewed

by Dr. Kurt Hong

Woman preparing superfoods for heart health

Cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of death in the U.S. However, the good news is that dietary modifications can play a significant role in maintaining heart health.

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The foremost reason behind cardiovascular deaths is an unhealthy lifestyle. Tobacco and excess alcohol use can be contributing factors. In addition, obesity, a lack of exercise, a high intake of saturated fats, and a diet low in plant-based foods significantly increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases. 

Studies report that saturated fats can increase total serum cholesterol levels, promoting the development of atherosclerotic coronary heart disease as well as peripheral vascular disease.

Luckily, there are many heart-friendly foods that can improve heart health and prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, coronary artery disease, sudden cardiac failure, and death.

In this article, we will discuss the top 5 superfoods for a healthy heart. 

Top 5 Superfoods for Heart Health  

Diet plays an important role in heart health. Certain foods can naturally maintain heart health without artificial sources or supplements. 

For example, leafy green vegetables are an enriched source of vitamin K, which promotes healthy clotting, protecting your arteries from damage and clot formation. Vegetables are also a wonderful source of B vitamins, in particular folate. Increased consumption of folate has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease by 16% and the risk of stroke by 24%. In addition, whole grains contain abundant dietary fibers, which help reduce blood cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Below, we have compiled the top 5 foods you should include in your daily routine for a healthy heart:

Leafy Greens 

Leafy green vegetables are a top source of vitamin K, antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, and other vitamins. 

The nutritional value of leafy greens helps in healthy blood clotting, which in turn protects arteries from stiffening.  

Hardening of arteries leads to plaque formation, decreasing blood flow to the heart and other vital organs. Reduced blood flow can lead to heart attack or stroke. Healthy arteries allow proper blood supply and flow and adequate oxygen delivery while maintaining blood pressure and heart health. 

There are multiple food options of leafy greens to choose from, including spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce. You can add these items to your salad or consume them with your meals.

Whole Grains 

Whole grains are a source of dietary fibers, which significantly reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, protecting the heart from various coronary artery diseases. 

Moreover, whole grains contain phytochemicals and antioxidants, providing anti-inflammatory effects and promoting heart health. The potassium and phosphorus in whole grains help manage blood pressure.

A meta-analysis of 12 studies reports that daily intake of whole grain foods resulted in a 26% reduction in risks for coronary heart diseases. 

Some nutritious whole-grain foods include oats, quinoa, whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, barley, and corn. Make sure you are eating whole grains, not just refined grains (such as pasta and flour), since only the whole grains provide optimal fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Berries 

different berries in bowl.

Berries are one of the refreshing fruits that have exceptional nutritional value. They are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K, fibers, and polyphenols, like micronutrients and anthocyanins. 

The antioxidants in berries help fight cell damage and reduce oxidative stress, contributing to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol and the risk of heart attacks.

Clinical studies have reported that the constituents in berries have been shown to improve cardiovascular profiles in patients. 

The berries rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and polyphenols include:

  • Blueberries 
  • Strawberries 
  • Raspberries 
  • Cranberries 

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Fatty Fish  

Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fatty acid that works by lowering body inflammation. 

The inflammation-lowering effects of omega-3 fatty acids prevent blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disorders and stroke. 

Reduced inflammation slows down the formation and growth of plaques, which prevents the hardening of arteries, reducing the risks of coronary artery disease.

Fatty fish also helps lower triglycerides and blood pressure, contributing to overall heart health. 

Fatty fish that contains sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include: 

  • Light, canned tuna fish
  • Sardines 
  • Salmon (wild caught)
  • Herring
  • Halibut
  • Cod 

The recommended amount of fatty fish for adults is two servings per week. One serving size should be 113 grams or 4 ounces. 

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are another delicious yet nutritious food that offers exceptional benefits for the heart. They are a packed source of fiber and healthy fats that help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, and fiber. They can help to reduce inflammation and lower bad LDL levels.

Walnuts are among the most heart-friendly nuts. They contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish. 

Walnuts are a great alternative for fulfilling the essential fatty acid requirements in people who don’t eat seafood or other plant-based foods.  

The omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in walnuts help lower inflammation and reduce triglyceride levels, decreasing the risks of various cardiovascular diseases.

Other nuts known for improving heart health because of their micronutrient, fiber, and unsaturated fat content include peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts.

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