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The 11 Best Foods To Lower Heart Disease Risk

February 7, 2024

We’ve all heard the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but when it comes to avoiding visits to the cardiologist, it’s more than just apples that can do the trick. Many healthy foods you may already enjoy can help keep your heart in tip-top shape.

It’s important to focus on heart disease, as it’s the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. In fact, one person dies every 34 seconds from heart disease.

Food can be a powerful ally in keeping yourself well; here are some to focus on.

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1. Avocados

No doubt you’ve heard that avocados are rich in healthy fats, but what does that mean? There are several different types of fats, and each of them can impact the body in different ways. The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in avocados and can help lower the risk of heart disease.

“Healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, help you absorb certain vitamins and minerals, and they provide certain vitamins and minerals,” says Amy Margulies, RD. “Eaten in moderation, both kinds of unsaturated fats may help improve your blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats.”

2. Oatmeal

Breakfast fuels your day, and oatmeal is one popular option that’s good for heart health.

“Beta-glucan is a specific type of soluble fiber found readily in oat and barley grains,” says Colleen Christensen, RD. “It has a beneficial role in things like insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, and they’ll have a bigger impact on things like cholesterol levels. When this soluble fiber swells it can trap things with it, like fats in your blood, and allow you to excrete them.”

Related: 7 Creative Oatmeal Toppings To Try if You’re Bored of the Same Bowl

3. Plain yogurt

Though some of the sugar-filled, ultra-sweet varieties of yogurt may be tempting, you’re better off with plain when it comes to preventing heart disease. (You can always add fruit, nuts, or other healthy ingredients to flavor it.) The nutrients found in yogurt help to regulate blood pressure, which alleviates stress on the heart.

“Plain yogurt packs potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help promote normal blood pressure,” says Elizabeth Ward, RD. “High blood pressure puts excessive stress on the heart by causing arteries to narrow, making the heart work harder to pump blood, which can cause it to weaken.”

4. Soy

Soy products such as “tofu, edamame, and tempeh are rich in several compounds that benefit the heart, including isoflavones, a category of phytonutrients,” Ward says. “Research showed that people who ate just one serving of tofu weekly had a 19% lower risk for heart disease than those who rarely consumed it.”

5. Berries

Berries are beautiful and sweet — but they also pack a lot of power.

“Berries are high in fiber and high in antioxidants, both of which are great for lowering disease risk,” says Jamie Nadeau, RD. “Research has shown that eating more berries can lower LDL cholesterol and improve blood pressure.”

digging into a bowl of yogurt with blueberries and walnuts


6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds may be tiny, but they’re extremely beneficial in helping to maintain a healthy heart.

“Chia seeds are high in fiber and high in omega-3 fatty acids, both of which may lower the risk for heart disease,” Nadeau says. “Chia seeds are specifically high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol.”

7. Leafy greens

Leafy greens like kale, arugula, and bok choy have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease — and reduced risk of obesity and cognitive decline, too.

“Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, are high in fiber and high in antioxidants, which both can contribute to lower disease risk,” Nadeau says. “They are also high in nitrates, which may be beneficial for heart disease risk because nitrates convert to nitric oxide, which can relax and open blood vessels.”

8. Beans

Beans are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and have been shown to reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure,” says Laura Yautz, RD.

When purchasing canned beans at grocery stores, Yautz recommends choosing low-sodium options.

Related: 7 Ways to Turn a Can of Black Beans into a Healthy Dinner

9. Garlic

A kitchen staple in many cultures, garlic is good for more than just making food delicious. It contains a high amount of phenols, chemical compounds that work to help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

“Consuming more garlic may help lower your risk of heart disease by way of the many phenols, saponins, and organosulfur compounds, including allicin and captopril, that they contain,” says Kiran Campbell, RD. “Studies show that these have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial factors in addition to cardioprotective benefits, including reducing blood pressure, total cholesterol, and other risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases.”

10. Salmon

Salmon contains an abundance of protein and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower the risk of heart disease.

“Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, and research shows that omega-3s can positively impact cardiovascular health by lowering triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and inflammation,” says Charlotte Martin, RD.

The omega-3s found in fish are so heart-healthy that the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to help maintain heart health and lower the risk of developing heart disease.

11. Tomatoes

“The red pigment in tomatoes is from a carotenoid called lycopene that has been linked to prostate health in men,” says Wendy Bazilian, RD. “There’s also some evidence that lycopene and other carotenoids, along with vitamins A, C, and E in tomatoes, may help reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation, which plays a key role in building plaque in the blood vessels, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Research has shown that women who consume the highest amounts of tomato-based foods have greater protection against heart disease.”

When they’re out of season, you can grab tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes. Look for lower-sodium options with no added sugar.

Read next: We Asked Two Cardiologists for Their Top Heart Health Tips

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