Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Karen Janson, M.D. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Most of us have heard about the importance of prioritizing heart health from a friend, nurse, or medical journal. But with a seemingly endless list of remedies, knowing where to start can sometimes feel impossible. Luckily, there’s heart-nourishing potential within one of our everyday tasks: eating.
The nutrients packed inside our food harness the power to promote heart health in more ways than one. With the right knowledge, anyone can unlock them. Building and maintaining diets for heart health can be achieved with just five common foods.
Together, we’ll identify what those foods are and why they play such an integral role in nourishing our hearts and bodies.
The good news is that our bodies collect nutrients that naturally aid heart health. In fact, the body absorbs HDL, or good cholesterol, through healthy foods. Diets for heart health involve plenty of organic foods and less processed food—the search for heart-healthy food starts in the soil.
It can be difficult, and often impossible, to restrict yourself to just a few foods for the rest of your life. So, while you’re exploring the world of culinary fare, steer toward foods and food labels that contain the following nutrients and organic compounds helpful in boosting your heart health:
If you’re eating out at a restaurant or are unsure of the nutritional content of your food, consider leaning toward plant-based plates with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose foods with low saturated fat, trans fat, unhealthy fats, processed, food, and added sugar. A heart healthy diet should focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fat, legumes, and plant protein or oily fish.
The foods below contain high amounts of the nutrients we just reviewed. Many of them follow the helpful rule we mentioned above: start in the soil. Adding these foods into your weekly routine could contribute to healthy and satisfying diets for heart health.
Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread are packed with fiber, producing an abundance of heart and overall health benefits. The fiber found in whole grains can improve inflammation, lower blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol levels. 
Look for whole grains such as:
Remember: Not all grains are not created equal. Be sure to check your food labels for whole grain and whole wheat, as these contain the nutritional components that their white flour counterparts typically lack.
Fruits, especially berries ripe with antioxidants, have been shown to reduce LDL and blood vessel inflammation, which clears the passageway for blood and oxygen to make their way to the heart. Fruits are also high in fiber.
Favor these fruits in your grocery store cart:
Vegetables of all kinds are a primary source of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. Leafy greens are especially healthy for the heart. The consumption of leafy green vegetables has been shown to reduce heart disease by up to 16%.
Collect a garden of these leafy greens for your kitchen:
Legumes are a rich source of plant protein to add to a heart-healthy diet. These small meal additions have a huge impact—they provide beneficial B-vitamins and potassium while lending a capable hand in fighting high levels of LDL. 
Put these legumes at the center of your plate:
Fish are a primary source of omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fats that are beneficial in diets for heart health. Studies show that fish consumption is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease and heart failure. 
Look for oily fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as:
The speed at which bodies absorb and process nutrients from food varies from person to person. It often depends on the current state of the body, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and many more factors.
However, studies show that coupling a heart-healthy diet with exercise produces stronger results compared to upgrading the diet alone. So, adding exercise to your heart-healthy lifestyle routines could increase the speed of heart benefits. 
Where heart-healthy food is rooted in land and sea, unhealthy foods for your heart are just the opposite. To keep your heart in good shape, avoid food from factories, boxes, and bags. Additionally, do your best to steer clear of red meat and full-fat dairy, as they often contain high levels of bad cholesterols.
Consider consuming these foods in low moderation to maintain a heart-healthy diet.
There’s no need to deprive yourself completely of a birthday cake or your favorite thin-crust pizza every once in a while. In fact, whole-grain bread and cakes are becoming more widespread as consumers pay closer attention to health. The most essential part is consuming higher-risk foods in moderation and increasing your intake of nutritious, heart-healthy foods.
The heart is at the center of your body’s functions. As such, it can be vulnerable to both internal and external threats. When these threats manifest, they can sometimes lead to serious health problems. Understanding their direct impact on the heart is the key to taking care of it.
Lifestyle habits are almost always a choice. Reducing or eliminating these habits is an excellent place to start when considering ways to lead a more heart-healthy lifestyle.
The following factors may negatively impact your heart health:
There are also certain pre-existing or long-term health conditions that can increase your risk of heart disease. You may be able to sidestep some of these conditions by living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a heart-healthy diet. However, some may be genetic and unavoidable.
Here are some common health conditions that can negatively impact your heart health:
If you have—or think you have—any of the health conditions listed above, seek a blood test to detect high levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, or insulin. Talk to your healthcare provider to make a healthcare plan to control your symptoms and risks.
Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle can start right at your dining table. Sprucing up your meal plan with the five heart-healthy food groups we’ve discussed can strengthen your heart health while providing a host of other nourishing benefits.
The first step to a heart-healthy diet is understanding your heart health today—and that’s where we come in.
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Our Heart Health Test measures both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels as well as other blood-level components that are vital to predicting your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious conditions.
Take control of your heart health at home today. Get started with our Heart Health Test to kick off your journey to better health.