Healthy Eating

10 Heart-Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet

Eat your way to a healthy heart.

By: Lexy Parsons

Our heart works around the clock to keep us healthy — it’s constantly pumping fresh, oxygenated blood to our organs, supplying our body with a continuous stream of nutrients, and keeping us alive. And beyond its own organ functionality, the heart plays a role in nearly all systems of the body. It communicates with the nervous system to control our heart rate, it connects with the endocrine system to control our blood pressure and regulate our hormones, and it works closely with the circulatory system. Really, the heart is vital for proper functioning in nearly all systems of the body! That said, keeping your heart healthy is a top priority.

And while there are many things we can do to support heart health — like minimize stress and give up unhealthy behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking — one of the most effective ways to support our heart health is through a balanced and nutrient-rich diet. Especially when paired with regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction!

Ahead, learn the importance of a heart-healthy diet. Plus, the best heart-healthy foods for ultimate well-being.

RELATED: 9 Daily Habits That Support Heart Health

The Importance of Diet For Heart Health 

While our diet plays a direct role in our overall health, there’s research to show it directly influences the health of our heart. In fact, research suggests eating too few heart-healthy nutrients or indulging in not-so-heart-healthy foods can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. So, what can we take away from this? Depending on our dietary choices, we can either help lower the risk of heart disease or increase it.

According to the American Heart Association, artificial and processed foods, excess salt and sugar, refined oils, and alcohol should be limited or avoided for optimal heart health. The good news is that you can find heart-healthy food choices with ease, even if you’re shopping for pre-packaged products. Start by checking the nutrition and ingredient label, then look for the Heart-Check mark label. This certification label is approved by the American Heart Association, indicating the food is heart-healthy. 

Now that you know the best types of heart-healthy foods, we’re sharing which ones should make an appearance on your plate!

10 Heart-Healthy Foods 

#1 Berries 

Berries may be small, but don’t underestimate their heart-healthy benefits! Thanks to their rich levels of fiber and antioxidants, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are some of the healthiest foods to support heart health. According to Harvard research, blueberries and strawberries are particularly rich in anthocyanins, antioxidants that lower blood pressure and support blood vessels functioning.

And get this — a study showed that eating just one cup of blueberries per day helped reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%! 

Plus, there are so many delicious ways to include them in your diet. Add them to smoothies, yogurt bowls, salads, and even baked goods!

#2 Salmon 

Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice per week, which studies have shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Additional heart-healthy fish rich in omega-3’s include mackerel, herring, trout, and tuna.

RELATED: The Healthiest Fats You Can Eat Every Day

#3 Walnuts 

Walnuts are another Omega-3 rich food source that boasts some serious heart-healthy benefits. And, getting the benefits may not require a huge change in your diet! Simply replacing a saturated fat source with a serving of walnuts (a healthy unsaturated fat source) has been shown to improve cardiovascular benefits. And, you don’t need a lot! According to the American Heart Association, just a small handful could reduce cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. 

Here are some ways to add walnuts to your diet:

  • Make a heart-healthy trail mix with walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, and freeze-dried berries
  • Sprinkle them on top of your yogurt or oatmeal bowl 
  • Stir them into a salad for a crunchy topping
  • Opt for walnut milk or walnut butter as a non-dairy milk or nut butter alternative

#4 Avocado 

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, healthy fats that decrease the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Research shows eating one avocado a day could increase antioxidant capacity and decrease LDL cholesterol levels, making these creamy fruits a welcomed addition to a heart-healthy diet! 

Add some avocado to your toast, mix it into your salad, or even blend it into your smoothie for a creamy, satiating snack!

#5 Oats 

Speaking of snacks that are creamy and satiating, try loading up your diet with a warming bowl of oatmeal or some easy-prep overnight oats. Oats are rich in heart-healthy fiber, which not only helps to stabilize blood sugar but could also help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

#6 Almonds 

Almonds are full of antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E, powerful nutrients that support a healthy heart. They’re also a nutritious source of monounsaturated fats, which, as we’ve seen, can reduce blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol. In fact, eating almonds is associated with increased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), which has been shown to reduce plaque buildup and keep arteries healthy.

Here’s how to enjoy them:

  • Swap dairy milk or yogurt for an almond-based alternative
  • Sprinkle raw or roasted almond slivers onto your stir fry, roasted veggies, or salad
  • Add a spoonful of almond butter to your breakfast bowl or smoothie
  • Snack on a serving of raw almonds alongside a piece of fruit

#7 Olive Oil 

Go ahead, give your salad or marinade a little extra drizzle of olive oil. This heart-healthy oil, made from cold-pressed olives, is rich in antioxidants, full of anti-inflammatory properties, and packed with monounsaturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, just ½ tbsp per day could reduce cardiovascular disease by as much as 15% while potentially lowering coronary heart disease by as much as 21%. 

#8 Beans

Need a reason to add beans to your diet? These healthy heart benefits may convince you! Results from one study found that bean consumption helped reduce systolic blood pressure. And, when consumed regularly, the American Heart Association states that beans could help improve your blood cholesterol. 

Add them to soups and stews, use them as a protein addition to salads or tacos, blend them into a yummy black bean dip, or even sneak them into chocolatey baked goods like brownies!

#9 Swiss Chard 

Spinach and kale often steal the spotlight, but don’t forget about this heart-healthy leafy green! Swiss Chard is rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. 

And while we know the benefits of eating our greens, you’ll be surprised to know just how powerful they are in supporting heart health! According to a research study with over 173,000 participants, just 1.5 servings of leafy greens per day reduced the risk of heart disease by 17%. Pretty cool, right? All the more reason to load up your smoothies, salad bowls, and stir-frys with a big old serving of extra greens!

#10 Seeds

Healthy seeds like hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds make a nutritious heart-healthy addition to any diet. They’re full of Omega-3’s and dietary fiber, two nutrients that have been shown to bust inflammation, reduce cholesterol, and lower blood pressure

Wondering how to incorporate them into your diet? Make a chia seed pudding, sprinkle some protein-packed hemp seeds onto your smoothie and salad, or blend up a homemade flax milk!

Wondering how to incorporate them into your diet? 

  • Make a chia seed pudding
  • Sprinkle some protein-packed hemp seeds onto your smoothie or salad
  • Blend up a homemade pumpkin seed milk
  • Sneak flax or chia seeds into baked goods recipes
  • Add pumpkin or sunflower seeds to homemade chocolate bark

5 Simple Ways to Enjoy Heart-Healthy Foods

#1 Fill Your Plate With a Variety of Colors

Colorful fruits and veggies contain powerful antioxidants that can support heart health. Aim to get a variety of colors each day, such as:

  • Red fruits and veggies like red bell peppers, strawberries, apples, and pomegranates
  • Yellow and orange fruits and veggies like carrots, summer squash, winter squash, sweet potatoes, mango, and lemons
  • Green fruits and veggies such as kale, broccoli, swiss chard, kiwis, avocados, and pears
  • Blue and purple fruits and veggies such as grapes, blueberries, cherries, eggplant, and purple sweet potatoes 

#2 Sprinkle Your Breakfast Bowl With Heart-Healthy Berries

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are low sugar fruits that pack in tons of antioxidants and heart-healthy benefits with little sugar or calories. Add some to your smoothie, yogurt, or morning bowl of oats!

#3 Top Your Salad With Heart-Healthy Additions

Instead of croutons, top your salad with omega-rich toppings like nuts, seeds, and avocado. You can even add a handful of antioxidant-rich berries and a drizzle of polyphenol-rich olive oil!

#4 Up Your Intake of Heart-Healthy Greens

Eating your veggies doesn’t have to be boring. Try blending kale into your smoothie, sneaking spinach into your baked goods, or topping your Buddha bowl with a sprinkle of microgreens.

RELATED: The Healthiest Dark Leafy Greens You Should Add to Your Diet

#5 Swap Sugary Snacks For Heart-Healthy Options

Skip sugary snacks like chips and cookies for a heart-healthy nut and seed mix made from almonds, walnuts, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.

The Takeaway

Your heart works so hard for you, so why not show it some love back? Fill your plate with heart-healthy foods like whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, leafy greens, and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. And to your best ability, support your heart health by limiting processed foods, excess sugars, and refined fats. While nutrition is key, don’t forget about other heart-healthy factors, too! Rest up with adequate sleep, get some daily movement, limit stressors, and schedule in some routine self-care. A routine visit with your Doctor is always recommended, too. If you follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips, you’re taking major steps in supporting your health!