12 Foods That Will Protect Your Heart

Adjust your diet to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and run strong.

Cardio exercise, like running, can keep your heart healthy, but it doesn’t make up for a bad diet. Eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oil, while cutting back on red and processed meats, and added sugar, can lower risk of heart disease by more than 30 per cent and chance of stroke by 20 per cent. The next time to you head to the grocery store, pack your cart with these ticker-friendly foods.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

These delicate salad greens are rich in phytonutrients and the B vitamins folate and B6. Together, these nutrients help protect blood vessels from damage that leads to clogged arteries.

Eat it Stuff greens into sandwiches and wraps, or stir a handful into soup and allow them to wilt.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Blueberries and strawberries are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. Eating three or more weekly servings may lower risk of heart attack, according to a study of young and middle-aged women.

Eat it Snack on as is, or blend frozen berries into a smoothie with frozen banana, milk and almond butter.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Talk about a power herb! Regularly adding garlic to your meals may lower blood pressure and reduce blood cholesterol levels – all good news for your heart.

Eat it Keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge to make it easy to add it to stir-fry and pasta dishes.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Soy contains compounds called isoflavones that studies show help lower levels of blood cholesterol. Additionally, people who regularly eat soy have a decreased risk for heart disease.

Drink it Use soy milk in your morning cereal, blend it into fruit smoothies, or substitute it in recipes calling for regular milk.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Walnuts, pistachios, almonds and other nuts contain heart-healthy fats that won’t elevate circulating cholesterol levels. Nuts are also rich in an array of phytonutrients that help lessen the inflammatory response in arteries, which could lead to the progression of heart disease.

Eat it Grab a handful, or toss into your salad or yoghurt.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Three cups per day is connected with a lowered risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and death from heart problems, according to one study. And because tea is mostly water, it counts toward your recommended daily fluid intake.

Drink it Bored of hot tea? Brew up a pitcher of sparkling iced tea, substituting cold seltzer water for the standard cold water.


Photograph: Mitch Mandel

Seafood, whether it’s canned tuna or fresh salmon, contains essential omega-3 fats. These fats help moderate the inflammatory response that occurs inside arteries. Consuming fish twice a week has been linked to lower risk of heart disease. But avoid regular consumption of larger fish, like swordfish, which has higher mercury levels.

Eat it Canned salmon is an easy way to boost the protein and healthy fats in any meal. Add it on top of a salad or stir it into a soup for a quick “chowder”.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

An ancient grain, kamut may cut blood cholesterol levels. In one small study, people saw a dip in cholesterol when regularly eating foods made with kamut. They also saw increases in blood levels of potassium and magnesium – two minerals connected with heart health.

Eat it Serve alongside grilled chicken breast and veggies, or substitute into rice pilaf recipes.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

The rich red colour of this fruit (and its juice) provides protection to your heart by lowering the likelihood that circulating cholesterol will clog arteries. One study showed that drinking pomegranate juice daily improved blood flow in heart disease patients.

Drink it Mix with sparkling water as a refreshing, rehydrating drink after a run.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

Eating foods containing lactic acid, such as yoghurt, may help keep your gums healthy. What does that have to do with your heart? Healthy gums can help keep your heart healthy, too.

Eat it Top Greek yoghurt with nuts, or make Greek yoghurt bark by topping it with toasted coconut and freezing it on a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

This power cereal is rich in soluble fibre, which helps block cholesterol absorption. Studies show that a daily bowl of oats can significantly bring down cholesterol levels.

Eat it Spice up your oats with savoury flavors, like herbs, vegetable broth, and a sprinkle of nuts or Parmesan to tailor it for lunch or even a quick dinner. Or add a scoop of protein powder and Greek yoghurt, for breakfast or a snack.


Photo: Mitch Mandel

A daily nibble of this treat may help reduce blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. When choosing your chocolate, keep in mind: the higher the cacao percent, the more heart-healthy flavanols it has. Start with at least 65 per cent.

Eat it A small square of dark chocolate makes a great dessert, and you can also sweeten your oatmeal with dark-chocolate shavings.

Additional reporting by Liz Applegate, Ph.D


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