Treat your heart to these 25 healthy foods

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
health foods, heart-healthy,, atherosclerosis, cholesterol

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, so why not give your heart a valentine combo of 25 healthy foods. The list, compiled by, contains some well-known foods and some surprises. Some of the items may not be among your favorites; however, others most likely are. One common denominator—they are all heart-healthy. Don’t cherry pick just your favorites, give the others a try and add some variety to your diet.

Wild Salmon (not farmed)
Broiled, grilled or baked, this tasty, fleshy fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that improve the metabolic markers for heart disease. It also has high levels of the antioxidant selenium, which has cardioprotective properties.

Sardines (fresh, not canned)
Although these little Pisceans are a common fish bait, they are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil, which reduces the risk of sudden heart attacks in people who have experienced previous attacks. Canned sardines are not hear-healthy because they are high in sodium.

Liver contains heart-healthy fats. Primitive humans ate the entire animal and carnivores often prefer organs such as the heart over muscle tissue.

This nut is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, Vitamin E, and folate, all of which promote healthy hearts. Walnuts are also high in polyunsaturated fats. Eat them unsalted to avoid the sodium.

Like walnuts, these crunchy, meaty nuts are high in omega-3s, and provide an alternative to those who may not like the bitter bite of fleshy walnuts.

Chia seeds
A spoonful of this plant-based omega-3 dynamo contains only 60 calories and helps reduce bad cholesterol and plaque buildup. Mix them with yogurt, soup, or sprinkle on a salad.

This should be good news to java junkies. Coffee is high in antioxidants and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Up to three cups a day have been reported to improve cognition levels and might reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Green tea
Lower hypertension by pouring yourself a cup of this beverage long favored by Chinese herbalists for its medicinal benefits. In its soothing warmth are catechin and flavonids, antioxidants with multiple cardio benefits including reducing blood clots.

Soy milk
This beverage is high in the organic compound isoflavones, which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Unlike animal milk, this beverage contains no cholesterol and is naturally low in fat. In also contains niacin, which helps boost circulation.

Red wine
Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound with antioxidant properties, which can also help prevent cancer. Resveratrol is found in dark-skinned berries and grapes. Madirans and Cabernets typically contain large amounts of procyanidins, an antioxidant that helps reduce cholestrol and increases arterial health.

Dark Chocolate
Another surprise! However, select the healthiest types, which contain at least 70% cocoa. Cocoa has been linked to lower blood pressure, because its flavonols relax arteries, and increase blood flow. Make sure your chocolate does not contain saturated fats from additives such as palm oil.

The highly publicized benefits of eating your oatmeal have long shown that it does an excellent job of lowering cholesterol. Stick to the the plain, non-processed kind. Instant and flavored oats are often loaded with processed sugar.


These wrinkly little critters have been reported to help reduce high blood pressure. The reason: raisins are high in potassium, which helps lower hypertension and increases immune-boosting antioxidants.

These dark berries are packed with resveratrol and flavonoids, another antioxidant that helps prevent coronary disease. Add them to your oatmeal, in a smoothies, or in yogurt.

George Bush the elder avowed his hatred of the vegetable and others of both party affiliations share his view. However, this green vegetable is low in cholesterol, high in fiber, and contains a wealth of antioxidants.

Brussels sprouts
This veggie is also beloved by some and hated by others. This mini-cabbage is heart-healthy; it reduces inflammation in the cardiovascular system and improves blood vessel health.

This white veggie is loaded with antioxidants, is high in fiber, and contains allicin, a component of garlic shown to help lower the risk of heart attacks and reduce cholesterol. Its benefits are comparable to broccoli. Can’t decide between the two? Try the combo product, broccicflower.

These treats from below the earth’s surface are an excellent source of Vitamin C, calcium, and iron, which help reduce high blood pressure. Eat the skin, too, because it is full of heart-healthy nutrients.

Whole grains
Select gluten free whole grains such as oat bran and rice, which regulate cholesterol. Avoid processed, refined grains, which are loaded with glutens that have been associated with cardiovascular ailments such as atherosclerosis.

Eat the whole apple, including the skin, which contains all the antioxidants are, notably polyphenols, which shield cholesterol from free-radical assaults. Apples (of any color) also contain pectin, which blocks absorption of cholesterol, and fiber; thus, lowering LDL cholesterol.

Oranges are another good source of pectin and also contain a flavaonoid that lowers blood pressure and reduces artery inflammation. Citrus also contains hesperidin, a plant chemical that improves blood flow to the heart, and vitamin C, a potent protector against stroke.

Like all citrus fruits, grapefruit is high in Vitamin C which, according to research, can help protect against stroke and helps reduce cholesterol. On the down side, grapefruit can interact with some prescription medications, either lowering or increasing their effect.

This fruit, also known as the alligator pear, is high in monounsaturated fats, which are regarded as “good fats” that can help minimize blood cholesterol and blood clots. On the downside, they are high in calories (240 per average-sized avocado).

Avocado oil
Pressed from the fruit, avocado oil has been hyped as a heart-healthy cooking oil because of its ability to modify fatty acids in tissues around the heart. A 2005 National Institute of Cardiology study reported that the oil could decrease atherosclerosis.

Olive oil
The extra virgin variety is the best choice because it contains higher levels of “good fat” and antioxidants to help unclog your arteries. In addition, it is considerably healthier for your heart than vegetable oil and its cholesterol-inducing “bad” fats.