9 Foods That Protect Your Heart

Many of us know what we’re trying to avoid because some foods can gum up the works, making it harder for the heart to pump and circulate blood effectively and raise the risk of heart disease. These substances include saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium, which can create inflammation and other harmful processes. 

Many foods that lack these fats and chemicals are OK to consume in moderation, but those that really boost heart function contain nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, soluble fiber and omega-3 fats. They’re generally low in calories, too. 

Reading through this list of heart-healthy foods, you might get a sense of déjà vu, since many of these appear on other lists of beneficial ingredients to include in your diet. That’s because, at heart, a good diet’s primary function is to protect your heart’s function from the effects of introducing harmful ingredients into your system:

Ground flaxseed
This contains those hard-to-find omega-3 fats, and can be sprinkled on salads, in smoothies and just about everything else you eat. It also brings soluble and insoluble fiber to the table, as well as plant compounds called lignans with antioxidant and estrogen properties.

Fresh herbs and spices
Adding flavor through these foods instead of using salt, butter and other heart-harmful things can preserve your heart’s function by itself; many have additional benefits.

Most types, especially green tea, contain antioxidants that fight the effects of free radicals and inflammation. Tea’s high levels of flavonoids and catechins are thought to be particularly effective at reducing inflammation.

This vegetable includes fibers, fatty acids and vitamins, which all play a role in regulating blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. It also contains sulforaphane, part of a family of chemicals known as ICTs that may protect cardiovascular health as well as fight cancer.

You may have to wait till summer for this one, but it’s also packed with nearly all of the nutrients found in acorn squash: alpha and beta-carotene, B-complex and C vitamins, calcium, folate and fiber.

Sweet potato
You can find potassium, fiber, folate, calcium, vitamins A, C and E and the anti-inflammatory compound choline here. Add its heart benefits to its ability to help regulate blood sugar levels and there’s no reason not to like it!

Known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, this fish can lower the risk of arrhythmia, lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and slow growth of plaque in the arteries as a result. 

These tiny fruits are stuffed with 25 different anthocyanins, a flavonoid that enhances coronary health by lowering blood pressure and arterial stiffness. That’s on top of their carotenoids, folate, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Acorn squash
This variety is loaded with beta-carotene, B-complex and C vitamins, potassium, folate, fiber, calcium and magnesium. It’s a great winter vegetable that can be roasted with olive oil, paprika and other spices for a deliciously healthy side dish.