Employee & Community Health

Heart Healthy Foods

2/16/2016 by Dr. Denise Dupras

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February is the month of hearts, particularly yours. Here are 11 everyday foods that you can eat to your heart's content and help keep it healthy for a lifetime. 

  • Salmon. Fresh, canned or frozen, this versatile fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids that promote health. Trout, herring and mackerel are good, too. 
  • Oatmeal. Comforting on a winter's day, oatmeal is high in fiber and other heart-friendly nutrients. Choose quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats rather than instant. 
  • Berries. Blue or red, fresh or frozen, berries are little nutrient powerhouses, including antioxidants that your heart will love. 
  • Dark chocolate. Savor chocolate that contains 60% or more cocoa (sorry, milk and white chocolate lovers). Benefits include helping lower blood pressure and inflammation and improving blood clotting. 
  • Tomatoes. They're high in heart-healthy potassium, as well as lycopene, which may help get rid of "bad" cholesterol and keep blood vessels open. Canned, fresh, even sun-dried - all are good!
  • Avocadoes. Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, they're also high in antioxidants and potassium. Guacamole, anyone? 
  • Nuts. Grab a handful of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts or macadamia nuts for their heart benefits including fiber and vitamin E. Walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Look for varieties that are low in salt. 
  • Broccoli, spinach, kale. These dark-green leafy vegetables pack a nutrient wallop - antioxidants, fibers and tons of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene. Kale even has some omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • Sweet potatoes. And their other red, yellow and orange veggie buddies like carrots, red peppers and acorn squash. They contain loads of carotenoids, fiber and vitamins. 
  • Dark-colored beans. Think kidney or black beans, which are high in fiber, B vitamins, minerals and more. Let them star in soups, stews and chili. 
  • Red wine. A four-ounce glass (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels, thanks to a compound in the skins called resveratrol. You also can get resveratrol from non-alcohol sources, like natural peanut butter and grapes. 

Ah, but there's more than just eating the right foods. Even the most heart-healthy foods and beverages should be enjoyed in moderation, so watch those portion sizes. Your heart will love you for it. 

Dr. Denise Dupras is a general internist in Employee and Community Health's Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine. She completed her MD-PhD at Mayo Medical School and her residency in Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Her interests include medical education and evidence-based medicine.