While there are several factors that play into your heart health (including your activity level, sleep habits, and more), your diet is one of the most important components to consider. Maintaining a heart-healthy diet should especially become a priority as you age and your risk of issues like heart disease increases. In addition to cutting out high-sugar, high-sodium and processed foods (like these), it’s also helpful to add nutrient-rich foods to your plate every day. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there.
To discover some of the best foods you can eat regularly to help your heart thrive over 40, we spoke to nutritionist Dina Mustabašić. She told us that fatty fish, berries, and nuts and seeds are all great choices. Learn more about the heart-healthy benefits of each below!
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1. Fatty fish
When it comes to heart-healthy protein, Mustabašić reminds us that it doesn’t get much better than fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, mackerel, and anchovies, which she cites as “excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids .”
“It is recommended to consume fatty fish twice a week, as they can lower inflammation and triglycerides, and reduce the risks of arrhythmias and atherosclerosis,” she tells us. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats, and atherosclerosis is an artery disease caused by a buildup of plaque.
Fruit is an important part of any balanced diet—and if improved heart health is what you’re after, berries are one of the best ways to go. These tiny but mighty fruits are packed with antioxidants that can protect your body from free radicals and keep inflammation (one major risk factor in a range of diseases, including heart disease) at bay.
“Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are considered one of the healthiest fruits due to their high antioxidant content,” Mustabašić says. “Anthocyanins, antioxidants found in berries, can protect against oxidative stress and inflammation that can contribute to the development of heart disease.” Incredible!
Learn more about the benefits of berries here.
3. Nuts and seeds
Why not eat some nuts and seeds with your berries? Like fatty fish, this fantastic, filling snack is loaded with healthy fats.
“Nuts and seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the level of bad cholesterol or LDL,” Mustabašić says. “They are also rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are all great choices.” Yum! Chia seeds, in particular, are also great for weight loss, which you can read more about here.
Not only do these nuts and seeds work well as a snack, but they also make a great topping for a range of meals, such as oatmeal, yogurt and smoothie bowls.
The bottom line
Of course, keeping your heart as healthy as possible is about more than adding a few foods to your diet. It’s important to make healthy lifestyle changes like keeping your intake of processed foods and red meat to a minimum, exercising regularly, and even getting enough sleep. However, incorporating these three foods into your meals on a regular basis is one great step to take—not only for your heart, but for your overall health.
READ MORE: 3 Things To Stop Doing Because They Could Lead To Heart Disease