Even if you’re fit and stick to a decent diet, it pays to consider your heart health starting now (yes, now). Cardiovascular disease is, after all, still the number one killer, and the harmful plaque that builds up in your arteries is a lifelong process, so developing good habits now will help you down the road.
While you may not be able to control factors like genetics, you are very much in charge of what you eat. Diet plays a huge role in the formation of arterial plaque, and you’ve no doubt heard plenty about the things you should avoid. But there is also plenty of evidence that the following foods are heart-friendly, so make sure you’re adding these to your regular menu rotation. Bonus: They also taste great.
1. Honey Nut Cheerios
Whole grain oats were declared heart-healthy by the FDA more than 20 years ago, and Honey Nut Cheerios are a great source, providing .75 grams per each ¾-cup serving. The beloved cereal contains soluble fiber, a nutrient that, when consumed at three grams per day, has been shown to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels as part of a heart-friendly diet. Plus, the honey-flavored O’s are just plain delicious. So, it shouldn’t be hard to add a bowlful to your diet.
Sweet, colorful, and downright delicious, there are many types of fruit that are beneficial to heart health. Citrus fruits are packed with soluble fiber and flavonoids, which aid in improving cholesterol levels. Berries contain all-important fiber as well as antioxidants like anthocyanins, which may help dilate blood vessels, and polyphenols, which may help prevent cardiovascular disease. And watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline. Your body uses that compound to make nitric oxide, a substance that maintains blood vessel health and enhances blood flow.
Nuts of all varieties including almonds and walnuts are a good source of both healthy fats and fiber, two nutrients that can help keep cholesterol levels in check. You can eat them plain, toss them on oatmeal or whole grain cereal like Honey Nut Cheerios, or enjoy them as nut butter—just look for the natural kind with no added sugars, and be sure to pay attention to portion size. Keep your snacking to a small handful (about 1.5 ounces of whole nuts). If you have a nut allergy, try some of the many seeds that have similar benefits.
Silky, buttery salmon (along with fish like sardines and mackerel) contains tons of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that it can help lower cholesterol and protect against cardiovascular disease. Don’t save your fillets for a special occasion; the American Heart Association recommends getting two servings of fatty fish like salmon every week.
Stock your pantry with heart-smart Honey Nut Cheerios.