Healthy Heart Guide: Article 1 of 7

Eating for a Healthy Heart

This blog post from the Nutrition and Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital highlights the heart-healthy foods you should eat regularly.

How do nuts keep the heart healthy?

Scores of studies show that eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, nuts may help by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels, improving dilation (opening) of blood vessels and fighting elevated blood pressure.

Tips for eating more nuts:

  • Snack on ¼ cup or a handful of nuts each day.
  • Add them to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt and side dishes.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted nuts to limit added sodium.

Why are whole grains important for heart health?

Research shows that eating whole grains is associated with a lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease. The fiber and antioxidants within the whole grains are credited with its health-promoting benefits.

Tips for eating whole grains:

  • Check package labels on breads, cereals and crackers. Look for the word “whole” in the list of grain ingredients. Try to make sure it is the first ingredient as well.
  • Use whole-wheat flour in recipes calling for flour.
  • Eat “ancient” grains, such as amaranth, kamut, millet, quinoa and teff.

How can legumes improve heart health?

Beans, dried peas and lentils not only improve cholesterol levels, but they also help you manage blood pressure. One meta-analysis involving 26 clinical trials found one daily serving of legumes was associated with a modest but significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

Tips for eating legumes:

  • Aim for at least one meatless meal per week.
  • Puree beans and add to meat as an extender.
  • Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content. This also will decrease the gassy side effects of legumes.

What kinds of fish keep your heart healthy?

Many studies show that people who eat fish are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease than people who do not eat fish. The decreased risk may be linked to the nutrients within the fish that may prevent blood clots, clogged arteries, inflammation, elevated blood pressure and high triglyceride levels.

Tips for eating fish:

  • Eat 12 ounces each week. This is equal to about four decks of playing cards.
  • Ensure that at least one to two servings are oily types of fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and rainbow trout. These fish are packed in omega-3 fatty acids and they’re low in mercury.
  • Make healthy seafood selections, avoiding deep-fried fish fillets or dishes with cream, cheese or buttery sauces.

What are the health benefits of olive oil?

Olive oil contains many phenolic compounds – phytonutrients associated with anti-inflammation and vasodilation (enlarging of blood vessels).

Tips for using olive oil in your meals:

  • Try olive oil on bread, in salad dressings and with vegetables. You also can use olive oil to substitute for milk, cream and butter if making mashed potatoes.
  • Drizzle your oil rather than pouring it to ensure calories don’t add up.
  • Choose an extra-virgin variety when you can.

Heart-healthy recipe

This recipe for chardonnay poached salmon is an excellent source of heart-healthy ingredients, including olive oil and the beneficial nutrients found in salmon.

Before you go,

Our experts address congenital heart conditions, heart disease and symptoms of heart problems. They advise on steps you can take to keep your heart healthy and strong. Read more articles about breakthroughs in treating heart conditions.