Top 5 Heart-Healthy Foods for You and Your Family

by Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

February is American Heart Month and in honor of that, we’d like to raise our forks to some top foods to keep your most important muscle strong and healthy. Find out how you can incorporate more of these favorites onto your plate every day!

  1. Blueberries (OptUP Score: 88): Fresh or frozen, these little blue pearls are “berry” special. Blueberries have been specifically studied for their polyphenol anthocyanin content, which may reduce inflammation and help manage blood pressure. Give pancakes, whole-wheat muffins, salads or yogurt a special boost with a handful of blueberries.
  2. Oats (OptUP Score: 100): You “oat” to be having more oats! Of course a whole grain made the list and oats is our top pick. Oats have a whopping 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup. The soluble beta-glucan fibers in oats give us an added layer of protection by reducing cholesterol and lending a hand in improving blood sugars. Although classically made into a hot breakfast cereal or cookies, oats have evolved to much more. Try them in a homemade granola, smoothie, soup or fruit crisp.
  3. Avocado (OptUP Score: 100): Loved for their striking green color, year-round availability (thank you, warm Mexican climate), and the creaminess they impart, these fruits (yes, fruits!) help build up our defenses against heart disease. The calories in avocados are mostly monounsaturated fats and research shows that replacing saturated fats (think butter and cream) with unsaturated fats lowers our cholesterol. We can (avocado) toast to that!
  4. Garbanzo beans (OptUP Score: 94): Another versatile food, garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas) work hard to protect our hearts. Garbanzos contain plant sterols to combat high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Make it a “½ cup habit” by subbing in hummus for mayo or adding ½ cup cooked garbanzo beans into your next grain bowl. But don’t toss that empty can in the recycling bin just yet! The liquid or “aquafaba” from a can of chickpeas can be whipped into an egg alternative for mousse or tiramisu.
  5. Brussels sprouts (OptUP Score: 96): We may not have adored them as children, but Brussels sprouts are making a comeback for adults. As a popular standalone crispy appetizer at fine dining establishments, mixed into crunchy slaws or in hashes for brunching, Brussels provide fabulous flavor, along with 3 grams of fiber and 120% Daily Value of Vitamin C (a potent antioxidant which may prevent or delay heart disease) per cup.

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.