Heart Healthy Diet: 12 Foods That Can Save Your Heart

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

heart healthy diet

Following a heart-healthy diet is vital to keep heart disease at bay. Did you know that there are 12 foods that can save your heart?

Eating these and other nutritious foods while avoiding not-so-healthy options is the best way to maximize heart health and your overall wellness.

To trade in your current eating habits for a heart-healthy diet, gradually replace unhealthy foods with those rich in heart-healthy fats (fatty fish, fish oil, or plant-based fats), fiber, and protein.

A heart-healthy diet contains foods that reduce your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Such foods are often rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats (fatty fish, fish oils, or plant fats), or combinations of these nutrients.

Following a heart-healthy diet also means limiting foods that aren't so great for the health of your heart.

Follow the heart-healthy diet below to live a longer, healthier, and happier life!

Learn how you can improve your health today by making these 5 easy lifestyle changes!

Heart Healthy Diet: 12 Foods That Can Save Your Heart

Here are the 12 top heart-healthy foods to add to your diet:


Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy plant fats that benefit your overall health, especially when eaten in place of animal fats.

Research shows that high consumption of avocados reduces your chance of developing heart disease.

Eating these and other plant fats instead of animal fats offers the most heart-healthy benefits.

Add avocados to salads, soups, sandwiches, omelets, and more!

Eat smashed avocados on whole-grain toast, add avocado to your shakes and smoothies, or dip fresh veggies in homemade guacamole.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), protein, and cholesterol-lowing fiber.

Studies show that eating nuts reduces death from heart disease, inflammation, and other heart disease risk factors.

Add nuts to nutritious homemade smoothies, eat them as a snack between meals, or put nuts in salads, soups, stir fry with veggies, rice, whole-grain cereals, oatmeal, or Greek yogurt.

Dip fresh apples, pears, or bananas in peanut or almond butter, or add nut butter to protein smoothies!

Fatty Fish

For many reasons, tuna, salmon, and other fatty fish are part of a heart-healthy diet.

These foods are rich in protein, which enhances healthy weight management.

Fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids like eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA).

Researchers found that these fats lessen your risk of a heart attack, other heart problems, and death from heart disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests eating fish (especially fatty fish) at least twice weekly to maintain a healthy heart.

Women of childbearing age and young children should avoid fish high in mercury.


Black beans, lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, and other legumes are the perfect addition to a heart-healthy diet.

These superfoods are loaded with plant protein and fiber, including soluble fiber.

Researchers found that soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol, lowering your chance of heart disease.

Add heart-healthy legumes to your meal plan by eating them with salads, rice, soups, chili, or veggie dip.

Try three-bean salads, salsa with black beans, or veggie burgers containing beans or other legumes!


Vegetables are a staple when following a heart-healthy diet.

Veggies are loaded with antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering fiber.

They also aid in healthy weight management and help reduce inflammation.

Eat plenty of vegetables in a heart-healthy meal plan by filling about half of each plate of food with non-starchy vegetables.

The other half should consist of protein foods, whole grains, or starchy vegetables (peas, lentils, corn, sweet potatoes, or dried beans).

We call this the Perfect Plate!


Fruits are rich in cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber and antioxidants that reduce inflammation and other heart-disease risk factors.

Choose blueberries, strawberries, peaches, pears, kiwi fruit, oranges, bananas, oranges, or other fresh fruits.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 1.5-2 servings of fruit daily while consuming 1,600-2,400 calories daily.

Whole Grains

Studies support the effects of eating whole grains to reduce heart disease risk factors — especially if you eat them instead of refined grains like white bread.

Whole grains are packed with fiber, including cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber.

Include brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain couscous, barley, quinoa, oatmeal, or whole-grain breakfast cereals in a heart-healthy diet.

Aim to fill 1/4 of each plate of food with whole grains or starchy vegetables to minimize heart disease and its risk factors.


Eating edamame benefits your heart's health in many ways.

It's packed with plant fats, cholesterol-lowering fiber, and satiating protein.

Research shows that soy-based foods help reduce heart disease risks, hot flashes, and even depression.

Add edamame to a heart-healthy diet by eating it steamed, in soups or salads, or in protein-rich smoothies!

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a hallmark part of Mediterranean diets, which studies show reduces the risk of heart disease, its risk factors, and other chronic diseases.

Olive oil is loaded with healthy fats

To add it to a heart-healthy diet, choose olive oil-based salad dressings or oil and vinegar with salads, sauté or roast veggies in oil, and cook meals with olive oil.

Use olive oil-based tub butter instead of regular butter and baste lean meats, poultry, fish, seafood, or vegetables in olive oil before grilling these foods.

Black and green olives are also a good source of disease-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.

Add olives to rice dishes, salads, soups, or veggie trays!

Green Tea

It's probably no surprise that green tea is part of a heart-healthy meal plan, as it aids in healthy weight management and is packed with inflammation-reducing antioxidants.

Caffeine in green tea enhances your body's ability to burn fat and keep your metabolism going strong.

Studies have found numerous benefits of green tea for a healthy heart.

One review shows that drinking at least 1-3 cups of green tea each day lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease, compared with drinking less than 1 cup of green tea daily.

Drink green over ice, mix it with milk, consume it piping hot, or add green tea to smoothies to reap the benefits of fat-burning caffeine and disease-fighting antioxidants.

However, avoid too much caffeine as it can cause heart palpitations.

Dark Chocolate

Eating dark chocolate is a nutritious way to curb a sweet tooth, as studies show that dark chocolate, a superfood rich in antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.

Consume dark chocolate instead of other desserts, or add it to protein shakes as part of a heart-healthy diet!


Like green tea, coffee helps boost energy, stimulate metabolism, burn fat, and aid in healthy weight management.

Studies show that drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

One such study found that drinking coffee lessens your chance of heart disease death, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, strokes, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

The researchers found that drinking 3-4 cups of coffee daily provides such benefits.

Foods to Limit or Avoid

Certain foods and drinks increase heart disease risks more than others.

Examples of foods to avoid or limit as much as possible include:

  • Alcohol
  • Processed meats like regular bacon, ham, hot dogs, and deli meats
  • High-fat cuts of red meat
  • Foods high in added sugar (sweets, sugary drinks, sugar-sweetened condiments, etc.)
  • Foods high in sodium

Too much sodium boosts your chance of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, while added sugar increases your chance of obesity, another common heart disease risk factor.

The AHA suggests limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day for most adults.

Additional Ways to Reduce Heart Disease

In addition to adopting a heart-healthy diet, consider the habits below to reduce your chance of developing heart disease:

Minimize Stress

Stress is harmful to your heart, as it can cause damage to healthy arteries.

You can reduce stress by trying yoga, massage, meditation, or other relaxation techniques, taking time for yourself, and lightening up a busy schedule.

Don't Smoke

Smoking can cause problems for your overall health, including your heart.

Tobacco smoke can damage the arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack.

If you need help quitting, check in with your doctor about smoking-cessation strategies that are best for you.

Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly, especially doing cardiovascular exercises like cycling, using an elliptical machine, jogging, swimming, or stair climbing, helps control blood pressure and minimize heart disease risk factors.

Try to exercise at least 3o minutes daily and keep your body moving often throughout the day.

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is a risk factor for gaining weight, as it can increase hunger hormones and keep you from having the energy needed to stay active.

Research found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep nightly increases your chance of a stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Make sleep a top priority to maintain exceptional heart health!

Aim to get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to minimize heart disease risk factors.

Have Good Oral Health Habits

Studies found that poor oral health is associated with heart disease.

To minimize your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems, floss every day, brush your teeth after meals and use mouthwash if your dentist suggests it.

Minimize your added sugar intake, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and attend professional teeth cleanings with your dentist and hygienist at least every six months.

Consider Dietary Supplements

Some dietary supplements, such as fiber supplements and fish oil, may reduce heart disease risk factors and lessen the need to take medicine for high cholesterol or other heart-related problems.

Ask your doctor which dietary supplements, if any, are best for you.

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Erin Coleman
B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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