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Delicious Foods That Are Heart-Healthy

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a history of heart problems, you have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. You can lower your risk by making this small change: At each meal, choose foods that are good for your heart.

Most diets are based on foods you shouldn’t eat. Instead, take a positive approach and focus on foods that are good for you.  

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Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, at no cost to you. Learn more. 

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Eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The fiber in these foods helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Put these on your plate with every meal to reach these daily amounts: At least 5 cups of fruits and vegetables and three 1-ounce servings of whole grains a day.

Eat more beans, legumes (like lentils), seeds, and nuts. Your weekly target: 4 servings of either nuts, seeds, or legumes such as black beans, garbanzos (also called chickpeas), or lentils.

Put healthier fats to work for you.  Favor unsaturated fats, such as canola, olive, and peanut oils. These oils are less likely than butter or lard to clog your arteries.

Eat fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including albacore tuna, salmon, and sardines. Omega-3s seem to lower triglycerides, fight plaque in your arteries, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of abnormal heart rhythms.

Eat lean protein. Make beans, nuts, fish, and chicken your mainstays, and keep portions in check. The American Heart Association suggests you eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week. Some cuts of meat have more fat than others, so look for leaner choices. If you’re craving some type of processed meat -- bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, sausage, chicken nuggets, or jerky -- limit those, too.

Feed your body regularly. When you skip a meal, you’re more likely to overeat later. For some people, eating 5 to 6 mini-meals works best to limit calories, help control blood sugars, and regulate metabolism. For others, 3 meals a day works better, since extra meals can trigger overeating. See which approach works for you.

Experiment with new flavors. Try using dried herbs and spices instead of salt, which can drive up your blood pressure. For chicken, try using rosemary, garlic, or sage. For fish, try dill or tarragon. Vinegars are another way to liven up ho-hum food.

Celebrate each pound you lose. Small steps add up. Dropping even 5 or 10 pounds -- even if you're still technically overweight afterward -- will cut your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

As important as your diet is, you'll also do your heart a favor by doing these things:

Exercise. Be as active as possible. It strengthens your heart, improves blood flow, raises "good" HDL cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar and body weight.

If you smoke, quit. No matter how many years you've been smoking, know this: Research shows that quitting works as well -- if not better -- than just about any heart drug available. Quitting now will lower your risk of death from heart disease by 33%.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 06, 2012
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Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
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Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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