Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and are a source of potassium, a mineral also known for controlling blood pressure, according to Bridget Swinney, a Texas-based registered dietitian. “They are also a great source of vitamin C, fiber and carotenoids,” Swinney says. “Carotenoids have been associated with a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.” In addition to offering a beneficial dose of fiber, avocados have been shown to help the body absorb other antioxidants when eaten with veggies such as spinach and carrots, she says.
Packed full of antioxidants, berries are a great snack choice to keep your heart healthy. Berries increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol while lowering your blood pressure. In addition, the low-calorie, fat-free fruit (in any form: fresh, frozen, dried or cooked) contains nutrients that promote bone growth and the conversion of fat to energy. “These little cancer fighters combat oxidation and inflammation and should be eaten daily,” Frey says. As if that’s not enough, the hardworking fruit possess polyphenols, which have been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that causes blood vessels to relax.
Just a half-cup of beans a day will keep your heart in optimal shape, according to Georgia-based nutritionist Dr. Keith Kantor. “Soluble fiber is a key reason why beans are beneficial to your heart,” Kantor says. “The fiber binds to cholesterol and keeps it from being absorbed in the gut and building up to unhealthy levels.” Add some black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto or white beans to your next meal for that extra dose of soluble fiber, in addition to folate, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and B-complex vitamins, all essential nutrients to keep your heart healthy.