In the United States and worldwide, more people die from cardiovascular diseases than any other. In the U.S., 1 in every 5 deaths is from heart disease.
Heart disease refers to a collection of conditions that affect the heart and circulatory system. Some of them are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure, and peripheral artery disease.
Up to 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle—exercising, keeping a healthy weight, and choosing good foods to eat.
Foods good for the heart and circulation include organic fruits and vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, and healthy sources of fat.
But how to know exactly which are foods good for the heart and circulation? And are some better than others?
We’ve done the research to find the 14 top foods good for the heart and circulation. Keep reading to learn more.
Foods Good for the Heart and Circulation: What to Look For
The foods you eat directly impact the condition of your heart and circulatory system.
Certain nutrients can help improve your heart health more than others. When considering foods good for the heart and circulation, look for those that contain the following:
- Vitamin K
- Monosaturated Fats
- Omega-3 fatty Acids
Let’s quickly review how these nutrients can affect your heart health.
Vitamin K is essential to the health of your heart and blood vessels and can prevent arteries from becoming blocked by plaque. A study published in 2021 shows that a diet rich in vitamin K can reduce the risk of heart diseases related to plaque build-up by up to 34 percent.
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that support your health in various ways. Polyphenols are one group of antioxidants that are especially beneficial for your heart health and can reduce your risk of cardiovascular events by up to 47%.
Polyphenols-rich foods good for the heart and circulation include fruits, vegetables, tea, and various oils. Some foods that have especially high polyphenol content are:
- Herbs including cloves and dried peppermint
- Berries such as black elderberries, blueberries, and blackcurrants
- Cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts and broccoli
- Flaxseed and extra-virgin olive oils
- Coffee and tea, but especially green tea
The foods we eat can have three different categories of fats in them:
- Unsaturated fats – healthy fats
- Saturated fats – unhealthy fats
- Trans fats – harmful fats
Monounsaturated fats are one type of unsaturated fat. They lower LDL cholesterol which is vital because LDL is what clogs arteries with plaque build-up. Foods good for the heart and circulation that have monounsaturated fats include avocados, nuts—look for almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts—and plant-based oils particularly olive, canola, peanut, and safflower oils.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The other type of good fat is polyunsaturated. The two main types are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While both are great for your health, omega-3 fatty acids are the ones in foods good for the heart and circulation.
Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglyceride levels in your blood, stop artery-clogging plaque from building up, and can lower your blood pressure. Foods with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty cold water fish—salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring
- Seafood—oysters, crab, and mussels
- Some seeds and nuts—walnuts, pecans, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds
A diet high in fiber—especially from whole grains—can keep your heart healthy. There are two types of fiber found in foods: soluble and insoluble. Both types are beneficial for your heart and circulation.
Soluble fiber lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber, especially from whole grain cereals, reduces the rates of occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
Nitrates are often thought of as harmful because they are added to cured meats such as hot dogs, cold cuts, and bacon. However, nitrates also naturally occur in plants such as green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and beets.
Our bodies convert nitrates to nitric oxide, which regulates blood pressure and blood flow and protects the heart from damage. While cured meats can provide us with needed nitrates, they are terribly unhealthy food choices. For healthy nitrate foods good for the heart and circulation, choose fresh, organic vegetables as your nitrate food source.
Including potassium-rich foods in your diet can lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. When you have too little potassium, you may develop hardening of the arteries, a serious condition that blocks blood flow.
Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods good for the heart and circulation, including fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some fish. Some of the best sources of potassium are starchy vegetables like potatoes and acorn and butternut squashes, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, bananas, and avocados.
The Top 14 Foods Good for the Heart and Circulation
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains are at the top of our list of foods good for the heart and circulation.
One of the best ways to improve your heart health is to eat three servings per day of whole grains.
Look for opportunities to swap foods with refined grains—such as white rice or those made from white flour—for ones made with whole grains. Some great choices include whole grain bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, and quinoa.
2. Whole Oats
Whole oats are technically included in the whole grains category, but they are such an amazing food for improving cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease, they deserve a separate listing.
Rich in antioxidants, potassium, and a great source of soluble fiber, oats are another one of the best foods good for the heart and circulation.
Be sure to stay away from instant or quick oats as they are highly processed and can often be full of sugar and artificial flavors. Oat groats are the most whole form. Other good whole grain oat choices are steel-cut and rolled oats.
3. Organic Spinach
When it comes to heart health, spinach is one of the super foods good for the heart and circulation. Spinach is an excellent source of:
- Vitamin K
- Insoluble fiber
These nutrients together work to lower cholesterol and plaque build-up and improve heart and artery health. Spinach is one food you absolutely want to buy organic because of the high levels of pesticides found in almost all non-organic spinach.
4. Organic Kale
Kale is a leafy green superfood full of polyphenols and other antioxidants. It is also packed with nutrients, including heart-healthy nitrates, potassium, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin K, which all work to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, kale is one of the best foods to eat for vitamin K.
As with spinach, choose organic because of high levels of pesticides in non-organic.
5. Organic Broccoli
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable packed with nutrition. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, polyphenols, potassium, and nitrates and contains both insoluble and soluble fiber.
Full of nearly all the best nutrients for heart health, broccoli is one of the top foods good for the heart and circulation.
6. Organic Beets
There was a good reason you were told to eat your beets growing up. Beets are a primary healthy source of nitrates and good sources of polyphenols, potassium, and soluble and insoluble fiber.
For the most benefit, eat them raw or drink beet juice. When cooking, steam beets to avoid losing too many healthy nutrients. Pickled beets are also a good option, but be sure to choose ones with lower sodium and sugar content.
7. Organic Carrots
Another root vegetable with high levels of nitrates, carrots are great for your heart. They are full of fiber and potassium and are great for your health, especially when raw.
Keep raw carrot sticks on hand in your fridge and the next time you’re looking for a healthy snack, choose them over chips or cookies.
8. Organic Avocados
Monounsaturated (healthy) fats can help lower your cholesterol, and avocados are a nutrient powerhouse of healthy fat. Additionally, they are fantastic sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin K, and potassium.
If you’re trying to lose weight, be cautious of the calorie content. Avocados are nutrient-dense, and just a third of one can provide the nutrients you need for only 80 calories.
9. Organic Berries
Organic berries—especially blueberries and blackberries—are super foods good for the heart and circulation. It is extra important to look for organically grown berries as their thin skins can easily absorb pesticides.
Four types of berries that every heart-healthy diet should include are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. They are high in polyphenols and soluble fiber. Additionally, blueberries and blackberries are excellent sources of vitamin K.
10. Organic Raw Nuts
Snacking on nuts instead of chips is an excellent heart-healthy food swap to make. Many nuts are rich in potassium, polyphenols, monounsaturated fats, and soluble fiber.
Walnuts and almonds, in particular, are foods good for the heart and circulation as they may lower your cholesterol and protect your arteries.
11. Organic Whole or Ground Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil) are the best non-seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds protect your heart and arteries with their high fiber content, polyphenol antioxidants, and potassium.
It’s easy to add ground flaxseeds to your diet. Sprinkle it on oatmeal or yogurt. Add ground flaxseeds to smoothies. Or bake it into breads, muffins, and other baked goods.
12. Wild-Caught Salmon
Eating oily fish twice per week can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Don’t know which is the best fish to add to your diet? Look no further than salmon. A cold-water fatty fish, salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, salmon is rich in vitamin K and potassium.
13. Rainbow Trout
Rainbow trout in the U.S. is a game fish, and wild-caught rainbow trout cannot be sold in stores. However, farmed trout has the same great benefits.
Like salmon, rainbow trout are an excellent way to get omega-3 fatty acids. And it also is high in potassium and vitamin K.
14. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rounding out our list of foods good for the heart and circulation is extra virgin olive oil. Use olive oil to help you make the switch from unhealthy saturated fats in your cooking. Olive oil—especially extra virgin olive oil—is a great source of polyphenols and vitamin K and is mainly comprised of monounsaturated fat.
Lead a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
With a few simple changes, such as swapping unhealthy foods in your diet for foods good for the heart and circulation, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.