Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 7.55.11 PMWe all have our weaknesses when it comes to food. From potato chips to candy bars, it can be difficult to maintain a heart-healthy diet these days. As a response to the growing heart disease rates in the United States, nutritionists have found many foods that aid in keeping your heart healthy and strong. Here are a few easy dietary tips to keep in mind.


Stick to red.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 7.56.34 PMApples, tomatoes, and cranberries are all said to improve heart health. A new study done by Ohio State University found that an apple a day can reduce LDL, a bad type of cholesterol, by up 40%. Tufts University found that eating tomatoes, a food rich in lycopene, can reduce coronary disease by 26%. To reap the full benefits, make sure to cook them first. This heating process allows your body to better absorb lycopene. Cranberry juice is well known for fighting bladder infections, but if you can stomach three cups a day, your heart will feel it too. This amount can help raise good cholesterol, known as HDL, by 10% and reduce heart disease by 40%. Apples, tomatoes, and cranberries are all high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.


Don’t forget Omega-3 fatty acids.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 7.57.17 PMNext time you dine at your favorite seafood restaurant, try ordering salmon for your main course. Salmon contains Omega-3s and can help reduce blood pressure and clotting. It can also lower your chances of dying of heart attack by up to 1/3 if consumed at least twice a week.

Stir up some oatmeal in the morning for a hearty breakfast. Like salmon, oatmeal is rich in Omega-3s and is also packed with fiber, folates, and potassium. This day-starter can lower bad LDL cholesterol and keep arteries clear. Use steel cut or coarse oatmeal and toss in some bananas for added fiber for that long day ahead.

Adding black or kidney beans to a batch of vegetable soup will show love for your heart and your tastebuds. Legumes contain Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber. When eaten four times a week, these beans are said to lower risk of heart disease by 22% compared to people who ate them less than once a week.


Don’t skip out on monounsaturated fats.

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 7.58.01 PMIf you want to quickly cut out an unhealthy ingredient, replace vegetable oil with olive oil when cooking. Olive oil is soaked in monounsaturated fat that lowers cholesterol and reduces risk of heart disease. Because the Mediterranean diet is high in olive oil and healthy fats, one study showed that men in Crete had a much lower risk of heart-related deaths.

Almonds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts are also great sources of healthy fats that fight off heart disease. These nuts are loaded with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and can be incorporated into your diet through salads, trail mix, yogurt, or fruit salads.

Lastly, on your next taco night, mix up a bit of guacamole using a fresh, ripe avocado. These monounsaturated fats allow for the absorption of other carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lycopene, which are essential in keeping your ticker ticking.

From red berries to green vegetables, there are so many ways to incorporate heart healthy foods into your diet! Being health-conscious doesn’t mean you have to start eating bland and unsatisfying foods. With these great dietary tips, both your taste buds and your heart will be happy!

Sources: AARP, Health, WebMD, HowStuffWorks