Show your ticker some love by filling up with research-backed, heart-healthy foods—and dodging a few others.
According to 2016 research conducted by Norwegian scientists, eating just 1 ounce of peanuts and tree nuts—which include almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and more—per day is connected to a 20 percent reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause. The likely hero: nuts’ heart-supporting monounsaturated fats. Nosh on a full handful per day (around 25 almonds).
Packed full of omega-3s, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Research shows that omega-3s reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, lower blood pressure and even reduce risk of an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Aim to eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week, each around 3.5 ounces (about the size of a standard checkbook).
EAT: Blueberries and Strawberries
Loaded with antioxidant anthocyanins, whole berries offer numerous heart-health benefits. A 2016 meta-analysis from Chinese researchers found that daily berry intake significantly lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure and other biomarkers for heart disease in both healthy people and those with ailing hearts. Even better: Fresh and frozen berries deliver the same benefits. Add a handful to salads and your morning smoothie or overnight oats.
AVOID: Salt, Sugars, Trans Fats
Heart health depends on the foods you don’t eat, too. Excess salt can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels, so limit your sodium intake to fewer than 2,300 mg per day by prioritizing unprocessed foods. Soda’s simple sugars and even artificial sweeteners significantly increase heart disease risk. And man-made trans fats raise bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol.