9 Heart-Healthy Foods to Eat During American Heart Month

key takeaways

  • In the United States, 1 in 4 people die each year from cardiovascular disease. It is the leading cause of death in Americans.
  • February is American Heart Month, which raises awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it.
  • Including heart-healthy foods and beverages in your diet is one way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

February is American Heart Month, and its goal is to raise awareness about cardiovascular health. The commemoration is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in four deaths each year.

While some risk factors for heart disease are beyond your control, such as having a family history of the disease, belonging to certain racial/ethnic groups, and being older, you can improve heart health by making lifestyle changes.

Heart Disease Statistics

heart healthy nutrition

In addition to quitting smoking, living an active lifestyle, and maintaining the weight that’s best for your body, there are some dietary choices that can have a profound impact on your heart health.

Many foods in a balanced eating plan support cardiovascular health, such as:

  • fruit
  • vegetable
  • whole grains
  • Beans and Nuts
  • Non-fried fish and seafood
  • low-fat dairy
  • minimally processed lean meat

Food insecurity linked to increased cardiovascular mortality

You should also limit some foods and drinks in your diet, such as:

  • added sugar
  • Fried food
  • Saturated fat
  • Added salt in large amounts (for example, in processed foods)
  • Alcohol

Here are 9 foods and beverages that research shows are good for cardiovascular health. While it’s great to include them in your diet year-round, American Heart Month is a great time to start eating more of them.

Walnut

Walnuts are nutritious and versatile nuts. You can use them as a topping in oatmeal, add them to a homemade assorted dried fruit, or enjoy some on their own as a quick snack.

Not only are walnuts a natural source of vital nutrients such as magnesium and polyphenols that support heart health, but they are also the only nut rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Since dietary ALA intake is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and premature death from coronary heart disease, walnuts are an important addition to a heart-healthy diet.

A 2021 study published in cycle It was found that when people added about 30-60 grams of walnuts (or about 14-28 half walnuts) to their daily diet, their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol) decreased significantly. On average, their LDL levels dropped by 4.3 mg/dL.

Data from another 2021 study was published in nutrients showed that people who ate nuts (including walnuts) at least five times a week were 19% less likely to have a stroke and 24% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

This study supports the idea that including walnuts as part of the daily diet may help lower cholesterol levels, which in turn supports heart health.

Can a handful of walnuts really lower your cholesterol?

Sorghum

Eating whole grains instead of refined grains has many positive effects on heart health.

Whole grains are associated with increased levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c, and C-reactive protein. You can experience these health benefits even if you have no history of CVD risk factors.

Sorghum is a unique whole grain option. It is a natural source of important heart-healthy nutrients such as plant-based protein and magnesium.

Research shows that plant-based diets—especially when they’re rich in high-quality plant foods like whole grains like sorghum—are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Choosing Whole Grains Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Ancient grains also naturally contain substances (called phenolic compounds) with anti-inflammatory and anti-atherosclerotic activity.

Sorghum is also a gluten-free grain, making it an excellent choice for people with celiac disease to support heart health.

A staple in African and Asian cuisines, sorghum is often featured in sorghum, but it’s becoming more popular around the world as a side dish or even popped as a snack like popcorn.

real tea

Whether you like it hot or iced, brew real tea (from tea tree Plants) part of your day has a range of health benefits.

According to 2018 published in Journal of the American Heart Association, Drinking tea can slow the natural decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (or “good” cholesterol) as you age.

In the study, the health of more than 80,000 people was assessed over a six-year period. Regular tea drinkers had slower declines in HDL cholesterol levels, which may lead to an overall 8% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

A 2020 study published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology It was found that people who drank real tea (including green, dark or oolong tea) at least 3 times a week had an approximately 20% lower risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease compared to those who drank tea less than 3 times a week .

In the same study, habitual tea drinkers had a 22% lower risk of premature death from heart disease.

Is tea good for your blood pressure?

Green tea is a special powerhouse. It contains many plant compounds (like EGCG) that have been shown to reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, and even reduce cardiovascular mortality.

Don’t like green tea? Black, green, and white teas are also rich in antioxidants that fight chronic inflammation.

low-fat dairy

Low-fat dairy products are included in many formal diets for heart health, including the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean Diet.

Dairy products are a source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which your body needs to support cardiovascular health.

A 2016 study found that low-fat dairy products were associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). Another 2016 study showed that drinking low-fat or fat-free milk was associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Low-fat dairy can also help the body fight chronic inflammation, a condition associated with an increased risk of heart disease, including heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiomyopathy.

Full-fat dairy may actually be good for your heart

According to a 2020 study published in the journal gut microbiome, consuming dairy or protein from milk does not increase inflammation. In some cases, it actually resulted in a reduction in at least one biomarker of inflammation.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults should aim to eat 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day.

If you are lactose intolerant, you can still reap the heart-healthy benefits of dairy by including lactose-free milk, yogurt with live and active cultures, and hard cheeses in your diet.

lentils

Packed with antioxidants, plant-based protein, fiber, and nutrients like magnesium and potassium, these tiny pulses are an effective way to support heart health.

Several studies have linked lentils to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, largely due to their bioactive compounds.

Plant-based diet may reduce stroke risk

100% Orange Juice

You probably know that drinking a glass of 100% orange juice boosts your immune system’s vitamin C, but this drink can also help your heart.

A 2017 study found that drinking 100% citrus juice may reduce CVD and ischemic stroke.

In 2021, a study found that people with higher intakes of bioflavonoids found in citrus called Hesperidin They had better blood lipid values ​​and blood pressure levels than those with lower intakes.

People with higher intakes of hesperidin also appeared to experience less oxidative stress and also exhibited fewer markers of inflammation than those who did not consume as much bioflavonoids.

Study: Two glasses of OJ a day lower blood pressure

salmon

Studies have shown that eating cold-water oily fish like salmon can support cardiovascular health.

In 2018, the American Heart Association issued a statement on the importance of eating oily fish, emphasizing that 1 to 2 seafood meals per week can reduce the risk of congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and sudden cardiac death .

These benefits are especially pronounced when seafood replaces the intake of low-nutrient foods.

Regular consumption of fish and seafood has also been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Thanks to the DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids found in these fish, these protein sources may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Do Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Lower Cholesterol?

date

Dates can be a great addition to sweet and savory dishes. This naturally sweet fruit is rich in polyphenols, especially flavonoids, micronutrients, and dietary fiber—all necessary for heart health.

A 2021 study suggests that eating dates may help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, but more research is needed to prove the link.

Dried Fruits Can Fill Nutrient Gap, Improve Diet Quality

olive oil

Olive oil contains healthy fats that are essential for cardiovascular health. It’s also versatile—you can drizzle it on salads or use it as a heart-healthy cooking oil.

A 2014 study of more than 7,000 adults at risk for heart disease looked at the possible benefits of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or extra virgin olive oil.

The study found that those who included the most olive oil in their diets had a 35 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 48 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

A 2022 study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology People’s diets have been studied for nearly 30 years. The study showed that people who ate more than half a tablespoon (7 grams) of olive oil per day had a 19 percent lower risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, compared to people whose diets were low in olive oil.

what does this mean to you

Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as your age and family history, cannot be changed. Your diet is one area where you can make choices to support your heart health and even reduce your risk of CVD.

Can Olive Oil Help You Live Longer?