Diane May Nutrition Blog

The Best Foods For Heart Health

February 6th, 2020

Tomorrow you may see many people wearing red.  That is because February is National Heart Health Month.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. That equates to 1 in every 4 deaths. Good heart  health starts with what foods we put in our body.  A study published in JAMA three days ago suggested that those who consumed a high intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry, but not fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident CVD, whereas higher intake of processed meat or unprocessed red meat, but not poultry or fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality. What does this mean? We need to further investigate the implications of the animal proteins we consume and most likely consume more fish and less processed meat, meat and poultry. There are other foods we should always rotate in our diet for good heart health. A heart healthy diet will always include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish.  It is important to limit saturated fat, eliminate trans fat and reduce sodium and refined sugars. so what are some of the top foods to include in your diet?

  • Oats: a great source of soluble fiber as well as Omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. Other great sources of soluble fiber include berries, beans, apples and citrus. Oats naturally pull cholesterol out of the body. Great for breakfast or a snack. Just avoid the added sweeteners and sugars and opt to add cinnamon and berries for natural sweetness.
  • Salmon: A lean and healthy protein with the added benefit of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings a week of fatty fish. Other fatty fishes include, tuna, arctic char, sardines, cod, herring, mackerel and anchovies. A serving is 3 ounces.
  • Dark leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens such as kale, collards and spinach are a source of Vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting. Make sure you always talk to your doctor or RD if you are on blood thinners before increasing dark leafy greens. Dark leafy’s are also a natural source of nitrates, which can lower blood pressure (beet juice can do this as well). 
  • Flax: Flax (it is important that it is ground), is a source of soluble and insoluble fiber as well as Omega-3’s. Add to your morning yogurt or smoothie for added nutrition.
  • Almonds: Studies have found that the consumption of almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease. High in healthy fat, and Vitamin E as well as protein. They do have calories so be mindful. 11 almonds are 100 calories. Look for dry roasted and unsalted.
  • Brown rice: High in selenium, B complex vitamins, fiber and magnesium. It has been shown that a layer of tissue surrounding the grains of brown rice may work against angiotensin II, which is an endocrine protein that negatively impacts blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
  • Beans: A good source of fiber, protein and potassium. A diet that include beans and legumes has been shown to lower the risk for CHD (coronary heart disease). You can soak dry beans to reconstitute.  It is fine to use them out of the can but make sure to rinse them thoroughly multiple times to rinse off the sodium. It is a great idea to incorporate beans a few times a week as your protein instead of animal protein.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Packed with antioxidants, this monounsaturated fat can reduce inflammation and oxidation. A stable in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Blueberries: Loaded with anthocyanins, studies have shown that 1/2 cup serving a day can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as reduce blood pressure. 

These are just a handful of the foods we should have in our diet. A heart healthy diet should include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables-eat the rainbow. The more colors we consume, the better. We should strive to consume at least 5 servings a day of vegetables and fruits. One serving of vegetables is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. A serving of fruit is a 1/2 cup cut or 1 small hand fruit (such as an apple). We should incorporate monounsaturated fats, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fish. Eating less processed foods and more whole, plant based foods is a great start. Your heart will thank you! I liked this recipe so much, doing it again!

Arctic Char on a Bed of Kale

Arctic char, related to salmon and trout, is sustainably farmed, making it a “best choice” for the environment. It has a mild flavor and cooks up quickly. We like the taste and texture of lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale in this dish. Serve with mashed potatoes. Source: EatingWell Magazine, September/October 2009

Total:  30 minutes 

Servings: 4


Ingredient Checklist

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1-1 1/2 pounds kale, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped (14-16 cups)
  • 1 pound skinned arctic char or salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 4 lemon wedges for garnish


Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook shallot, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add broth, water and half the kale; cook, stirring, until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Add the remaining kale and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.

  • Step 2

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and place on the kale. Cover and cook until the fish is just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Step 3

Meanwhile, combine sour cream, horseradish and dill in a bowl. Serve the fish and kale with the sauce and lemon wedges.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:

334 calories; 16 g total fat; 3.4 g saturated fat; 90 mg cholesterol; 428 mg sodium. 1186 mg potassium; 12.4 g carbohydrates; 4.3 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 36.5 g protein; 11557 IU vitamin a iu; 138 mg vitamin c; 185 mcg folate; 254 mg calcium; 4 mg iron; 90 mg magnesium; 1 mg thiamin;


2 Vegetable, 4 Lean Meat, 1 Fat