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Top 7 Heart Health Foods

A growing body of research indicates that you can maintain or improve your heart health by eating certain foods. In fact, eating heart healthy foods can improve your quality of life at all ages, and when you consume cardiovascular superfoods, you can reduce your chances of heart attack and stroke. Here are our top seven foods for heart health:

  1. Oatmeal. In terms of heart health foods, rolled oats top the list. This grain literally acts like a sponge in your intestinal tract, soaking up cholesterol molecules so they don't enter your blood vessels and cause blockages. Rolled oats are rich in fiber. When adding oatmeal to your diet, be sure to choose plain, old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats. Avoid flavored instant oatmeal, which often contains added sugar.
  2. Berries. Berries of all kinds contain polyphenols and antioxidants. Polyphenols may cause your blood vessels to relax, which can help keep blood pressure down, according to a paper published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports. Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries make a delicious, heart-healthy addition to your breakfast oatmeal.
  3. Tomatoes. These delicious red fruits contain high levels of lycopene. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this compound may convey powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to your cardiovascular system. Cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce, and juice contain the most lycopene. Tomatoes also are an excellent source of potassium — a key mineral for heart health.
  4. Nuts. All tree nuts contain powerful antioxidants that keep your heart happy. Because nuts are high in fat, limit your intake to one or two ounces a day. Choose raw, unsalted nuts over processed varieties with added salt since excessive salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure.
  5. Beans, lentils, and peas. All types of legumes — beans, lentils, peas — provide a lot of heart-healthy fiber, according a study from JAMA Internal Medicine. For the greatest nutritional benefit, prepare dry beans from scratch. If you find that's too much work, opt for canned, unsalted beans. Drain and rinse them before eating.
  6. Broccoli, cabbage, and kale. These green vegetables supply a wealth of micronutrients that help your cells function at their best. As an added bonus, kale even contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be beneficial to heart health. Green vegetables also supply fiber and help you feel full.
  7. Avocado. This delicious, creamy fruit contains monounsaturated fat, which has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain potassium and antioxidants. When adding avocado for heart health, consume fresh varieties. Avoid processed, prepackaged guacamole, which may contain preservatives.

Eating a heart-healthy diet is a delicious way to maintain your cardiovascular system. By keeping your ticker in tip-top shape, you'll help your heart love longer.

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