Many foods can help keep your heart at its best. Some help lower your blood pressure. Others keep your cholesterol in line. So add these items to your shopping cart:
This ocean-going fish is a top choice because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s have an anti-clotting effect, so they keep your blood flowing,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. They also help lower your triglycerides (a type of fat that can lead to heart disease).
Aim for at least two servings of oily fish each week, says the American Heart Association. A serving is 3.5 ounces. That’s a little bit bigger than a computer mouse.
Other options: Tuna, trout, sardines, and mackerel.
Nibbling on 5 ounces of nuts each week may cut your risk of heart disease in half. Walnuts have lots of “good” fats. When you use these monounsaturated fats in place of saturated fats (such as butter), you cut your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol.
Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fats. (They don’t have the same kind of omega-3s as fish, though.)
Other options: Almonds, cashews, pistachios, flaxseed, and chia seeds.
These berries are loaded with polyphenols -- antioxidants that mop up damage-causing free radicals in your body. They also deliver fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke.
Other options: Any berries -- strawberries, blueberries, blackberries -- are great choices. Fruits and vegetables in general are excellent choices because of their nutrients and fiber.
- Fat-Free or Low-fat Milk or Yogurt
“Dairy products are high in potassium, and that has a blood-pressure-lowering effect,” Johnson says. When you choose low-fat or fat-free dairy, you get little to no saturated fat, the kind of fat that can raise your cholesterol.
Other options: Most fruits and vegetables also have some potassium, Johnson says. Bananas, oranges, and potatoes are especially good sources.
Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber -- the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.