Top Heart-Healthy Foods: Best Foods for Cardiovascular Health

These 25 foods are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients that help protect your cardiovascular system.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

"There really is an abundance of fruits and vegetables in many colors, shapes, sizes that are good for your heart," says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a dietitian with the Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic. "You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating these foods every day."

Indeed, fresh produce provide the cornerstone for a heart-healthy diet because they help wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting blood vessels.

It's what Zumpano calls "the whole-foods diet. You want everything to be in its natural form, as it comes from the ground, the less processed the better," she says.

Whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fatty fish, and teas are just as important -- offering all sorts of complex heart-protective phytonutrients.

That's why variety is best in selecting heart-healthy foods, says Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and owner of Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver.

"Everyone's looking for that one magic food," Farrell tells WebMD. "But heart-healthy is not only about oatmeal and omega-3 fats. You need to look for ways to get all the different nutrients. Plus, you'll stick to a heart-healthy lifestyle longer if you have variety."

25 Top Heart-Healthy Foods

With the help of these nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association, we've put together a list of the "best of the best" heart-healthy foods.

The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. We've also got menu ideas -- so you can easily bring heart-healthy foods into your daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

1. Salmon
Nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids.
Menu Idea: Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.

2. Flaxseed (ground)
Nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.
Menu Idea: Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.

3. Oatmeal
Nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber.
Menu Idea: Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.

4. Black or Kidney Beans
Nutrients: B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Menu Idea: Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.

5. Almonds
Nutrients: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Menu Idea: Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.

6. Walnuts
Nutrients: Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Menu Idea: Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.

7. Red wine
Nutrients: Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids).
Menu Idea: Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.

8. Tuna
Nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.
Menu Idea: Here's lunch: Salad greens, fresh fruit, canned tuna. Keep "Salad Spritzer" - a light dressing -- in your office fridge.

9. Tofu
Nutrients: Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Menu Idea: Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.

10. Brown rice
Nutrients: B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
Menu Idea: Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).

11. Soy milk
Nutrients: Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.
Menu Idea: Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.

12. Blueberries
Nutrients: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Menu Idea: Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!