1201 food sources for a healthier heart
Photo: Cleveland Clinic's Health Essentials

Here are the top 9 food sources you can add to your diet to benefit your heart:

1. Salmon

Salmon is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), lower triglyceride levels, slow the growth of plaque in your arteries, and slightly lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of omega-3 rich foods like salmon each week. A serving size is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.

Salmon is a versatile food. Grill it with a rub or marinade, chop some and add it to a pasta dish with fat-free marinara sauce, or add it to your salads for a protein punch.

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Photo: WebMD

2. Flaxseed (ground)

Ground flaxseed also has omega-3's, along with both soluble and insoluble fibre. It has one of the highest available sources of lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.

Ground flaxseed is easy to incorporate into your diet and can be mixed into just about anything you normally eat. Sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal, on top of low-fat yoghurt, mix into muffins, or combine into your smoothies.

What About Flaxseed Oil?

Flaxseed oil is loaded with omega-3s, but they are the less effective type known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA needs special enzymes to be converted to omega-3, and these enzymes are found in your body in limited supply. This means that at most, you can expect about 15% of your flaxseed oil omega-3s to be converted into its most useful forms. So while you certainly do get some benefit, it may be less than your supplement label suggests.

3. Dark Chocolate

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Photo: Medical News Today

Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, This includes one from 2012, which found that daily chocolate consumption could in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa.

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don't make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.

4. Barley

This grain is a good source of soluble fibre, which has some important heart benefits. Soluble fibre binds to cholesterol and related substances in the gut, keeping fats from building up in the body where they might eventually cause artery-clogging plaques, says Fung. It also slightly reduces cholesterol production in the liver, which can further help keep your lipid levels in check.

Fibre helps keep you feeling full, preventing overeating and helping with weight control, she says. Of course, while barley is a great source of soluble fibre in the diet, it certainly isn't the only source you should consider. You can reap the same benefits from other whole grains, including oats. Beans are a good non-grain option, says Fung. Beans also have the benefit of being high in protein, which makes them a good swap for meat in your dinners once or twice a week.

5. Oatmeal

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Photo: Drink Me Magazine

Oatmeal is a tasty breakfast food and another good source of those omega-3 fatty acids. And it is a fibre superstar, offering 4 grams in every one-cup serving. It also has nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and iron, On Health cites.

Oatmeal is a filling breakfast, and you can top it with fresh berries for an even more heart-healthy meal. Try fat-free oatmeal cookies, oat bread, or mix whole rolled oats into a turkey burger meatloaf.

6. Black or Kidney Beans

You know the schoolyard chant: “Beans, beans, good for your heart.” Turns out it's true! Beans have lots of soluble fibre, B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids.

Beans are so versatile. You can include them in soups, stews, or salads. Or make a meal out of them.

Try black beans on a whole-grain pita tostada with avocado, or combine them with corn kernels and onions to make stuffed bell peppers. Add canned kidney beans to a salad of cucumber, fresh corn, onions, and peppers, then toss with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Or bring black beans and kidney beans together for a delicious, nutritious vegetarian chilli.

7. Extra-virgin olive oil

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Photo: The Spruce Eats

Drizzle it over a salad, or use it to sauté an assortment of colourful vegetables; either way, this oil has a proven track record when it comes to your heart health. Olive oil is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Extra-virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which work in your body to prevent damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals that can harm cells, including those that make up the walls of your arteries. When the arterial walls are damaged, it's easier for fatty deposits to stick and form blood-blocking plaques, says Fung. So, keeping them healthy should be a priority.

8. Almonds

Nuts have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. And for a heart-healthy nut, almonds make a great choice. They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, fibre, and heart-favourable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Almonds are so easy to eat – you can top your yoghurt or salad with almond slivers, or snack on a healthy trail mix. You can also try them in cooking. Sprinkle them on a rice or quinoa dish, or spread them across some salmon for a nice crunch. Choose unsalted almonds for additional cardiac protection.

Just be sure your almonds are raw or dry roasted (rather than oil roasted), and keep portion sizes in mind. Though they are heart-healthy they are also high in fat, some of which is saturated fat. Like other nuts, almonds are dense with calories, and a little can go a long way. They are best eaten in moderation.

9. Walnuts

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Photo: Medical News Today

Walnuts provide a lot of the same health protection as almonds and other tree nuts. They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fibre, heart-favourable monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and phytosterols.

Also like almonds, walnuts give salads a hearty crunch. They taste great added to muffins and breakfast pancakes.

Though they are heart-healthy, they are also high in fat and calories and should be eaten in moderation. As with all nuts, keep walnut portion sizes in mind. One serving of walnuts should fit neatly in the palm of your hand, a portion that provides about 200 calories.

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