6 Types of Food to Include in a Heart Healthy Diet Plan (and Some to Avoid)

Heart disease is the cause of most deaths worldwide for both men and women. Around 30.3 million adults in the U.S. have heart disease.

There are ways for you to take care of your heart to possibly avoid getting this disease. One way to take care of your heart is to follow a heart-healthy diet plan.

Are you wondering what you should eat for a heart-healthy diet meal plan? Keep reading, and we will tell you the best foods for your heart along with the ones you should avoid.

Foods for Your Heart-Healthy Diet Plan

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or just trying to prevent it, it’s important to change your diet. You also should take any medications prescribed to limit any further damage—check out these prescription prices on heart medications. Along with your diet and medication, you should also exercise at least 30 minutes a day, including walking, swimming, and riding your bike.

The best heart-healthy diet plan consists of low-fat dairy products, fish, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and skinless poultry.

Here are some foods you should try to include in your diet because they contain nutrients and minerals that are especially good for your heart.

1. Oily Fish

Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties that are good for the heart, and oily fish has omega-3 fatty acids.

You should try eating at least two servings of fish each week. These fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Albacore tuna
  • Lake trout
  • Herring
  • Mackerel

It’s essential to stay away from fish with potential mercury contamination if you are pregnant or nursing. Children should also limit this fish. Larger fish that may have mercury include marlin, shark, and swordfish.

2. Berries

Berries have important antioxidants like anthocyanins that protect against inflammation and oxidative stress. These two things can help develop heart disease.

Studies show that berries, like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, can reduce several risk factors that cause heart disease.

You can try eating these colorful berries as a satisfying snack or even a low-calorie dessert. Eat different kinds so you can take advantage of each of their unique health properties.

3. Avocados

Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, which may help lower cholesterol levels. Avocados also have a tremendous amount of potassium, which is vital to heart health.

Eating potassium each day can lower your blood pressure, giving you a 15 percent lower risk of a stroke.

4. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has powerful antioxidant properties. Lycopene is the bright red carotene that gives tomatoes color. It is also found in other red fruits and vegetables like watermelon, red peppers, and red carrots.

The antioxidant properties of lycopene can help neutralize free radicals and also prevent oxidative damage and inflammation. These all can cause heart disease.

5. Leafy Green Vegetables

On just about every health food list, you find leafy green vegetables—this is because they are rich with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Leafy greens, such as collard greens, kale, and spinach, are a good source of vitamin K, which protects your arteries and helps with proper blood clotting.

They also have nitrates that can help lower blood pressure and improve function in your arteries.

6. Whole Grains

Popular types of whole grains include barley, whole wheat, brown rice, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, and oats. Grains have three nutrient-rich parts: bran, endosperm, and germ. Whole grains are also high in fiber to help reduce cholesterol.

When looking for whole grains, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Look for words like “whole wheat” or “whole grain” and be leary of “multigrain” or “wheat flour.” These may not have whole-grain products.

Foods You Should Avoid

Along with eating the right foods, it’s essential to avoid or limit the following foods when eating for a healthy heart. Foods to limit or avoid include:

Processed foods

There are several things in processed foods that are not beneficial for a healthy heart. These ingredients include:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fats
  • High salt
  • High sugar
  • Additives and food coloring

Try cooking meals using whole foods for a healthier option.

Sugary Foods and Beverages

Try avoiding sugary drinks like energy drinks and soda. These drinks contain a lot of added sugars and calories.

You should limit calories from added sugars to about 10 percent or less of your caloric intake. That means if you eat a 2,000 calorie diet, you should not have more than 200 calories of added sugar.

By avoiding excess sugar, you can maintain a healthier weight, which helps prevent heart disease.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates have less fiber and can also cause imbalances in blood sugar.

Refined carbs include:

  • White flour
  • Sweet desserts
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cakes
  • Pastries
  • White rice, pasta, and bread
  • Pizza dough

Eating too many refined carbs can also lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, and both of these increase your chances of heart disease.

Red Meat

Red meat has high levels of saturated fat. You should try replacing red meat with a plant protein such as nuts, legumes, soy, and whole grains to lower your risk of heart disease.

Salt

Too much salt can increase your blood pressure, which also increases cardiovascular risks. Many processed foods have high levels of added salt, so it’s always important to read labels and monitor your sodium intake.

Alcohol

Consume alcohol in moderation. That means women should consume no more than one drink a day, and men should consume no more than two drinks a day.

There are conflicting reports on the moderate intake of red wine to protect your heart, so be sure to limit your alcohol.

Start Your Simple Heart-Healthy Diet Plan Today

As you begin eating foods in your heart-healthy diet plan, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plant proteins. Try eating foods on this list because they are rich with vitamins and nutrients vital to your heart health.

Looking for other ways to stay healthy? We’ve got you covered. Check out our Health section today to help you look and feel your best.