Heart disease accounts for nearly a third of all deaths worldwide (1 trusted source).
Diet plays an important role in heart health and can influence your risk for heart disease.
In fact, certain foods can affect blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Here are 15 foods you should eat to improve your heart health.
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and kale are known to be rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In particular, they are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect arteries and promote proper blood clotting (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
They are also high in dietary nitrate, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, and improve the function of cells that line blood vessels (4 trusted source).
Some studies have also found an association between increasing your intake of green leafy vegetables and reducing your risk of heart disease.
An analysis of eight studies found that a higher intake of leafy green vegetables was associated with a reduction of up to 16% in the incidence of heart disease (5 Trusted source).
Another study in 29,689 women showed that a higher intake of green leafy vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (6 Source of confidence).
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains include the three nutrient-rich parts of the grain: the seed, the endosperm, and the bran.
Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Compared to refined grains, whole grains are higher in fiber, which can help lower bad LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Multiple studies have found that including more whole grains in your diet can benefit your heart health.
An analysis of 45 studies concluded that eating an additional three servings of whole grains per day was associated with a 22% lower risk of heart disease (10 Trusted Source).
Similarly, another study found that eating at least three servings of whole grains significantly lowered systolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg, which is enough to reduce the risk of stroke by about 25% (Confidence source).
When buying whole grains, be sure to read the ingredient label carefully. Phrases like “whole grain” or “whole wheat” refer to a whole grain product, while phrases like “wheat flour” or “multigrain” may not.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and raspberries contain important nutrients that play a critical role in heart health.
Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to heart disease (12 Trusted Source).
Studies show that eating lots of berries can reduce many risk factors for heart disease.
For example, a study in 27 adults with metabolic syndrome showed that drinking a beverage made from freeze-dried strawberries for eight weeks lowered bad LDL cholesterol by 11% (13 Trusted source).
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Another study found that eating blueberries daily improved the function of cells that line blood vessels, helping to control blood pressure and blood clotting (14 Trusted Source).
Additionally, an analysis of 22 studies showed that eating blueberries was associated with lower LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and some markers of inflammation (15 Reliable source).
Berries can make a satisfying snack or a delicious, low-calorie dessert. Try adding a few different types to your diet to take advantage of their unique health benefits.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties (41 Trusted Source).
Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heart disease.
Low levels of lycopene in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke (42, 43 Reliable source).
A review of 25 studies showed that a higher intake of foods rich in lycopene was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke (44)
Another study in 50 obese women found that eating two raw tomatoes four times a week increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels (45 Trusted source).
High HDL cholesterol levels can help remove excess cholesterol and plaque from your arteries to keep your heart healthy and prevent heart disease and stroke (46 Trusted Source).
5. Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been widely studied for their heart health benefits.
In a study of 324 people, eating salmon three times a week for eight weeks significantly lowered diastolic blood pressure (21 Reliable Source).
Another study showed that long-term fish intake was associated with lower levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and systolic blood pressure.
Additionally, each 3.5-ounce (100-gram) decrease in weekly fish consumption was associated with a 19% greater chance of having an additional risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity (22 Trusted Source).
If you don’t eat a lot of shellfish, fish oil is another option to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish oil supplementation has been shown to lower blood triglycerides, improve arterial function, and lower blood pressure (23 Trusted Source, 24 Trusted Source, 25 Trusted Source, 26 Trusted Source).
Other omega-3 supplements like krill oil or kelp oil are popular alternatives.