Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are several heart conditions but the most common is coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks. Lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet, can help treat and prevent heart disease.

“Choose healthy meals and snacks to help prevent heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods,” reports the CDC.

Here are six superfoods that may benefit heart health and prevent heart disease.

1. Berries

Berries are packed with antioxidant polyphenols, which help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular health, according to research.

“Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and other berries are all bursting with plant-derived chemicals known as polyphenols. These may help protect the heart by neutralizing oxidized LDL, which forms plaque inside the arteries,” reports Harvard Health.

Regularly consuming blueberries and strawberries is linked to a significantly lower risk of heart attack, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Circulation. For an 18-year period, researchers closely followed the diets of more than 90,000 women. The women who ate these berries several times a week experienced a 34% lower risk of heart attack than women who ate these berries once a month or less.

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2. Avocados

Healthy fats, like those found in avocado, are essential to a healthy heart, according to the Heart Foundation.

“Despite avocados’ high fat content, the fat is heart healthy and monounsaturated,” says Christine Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian and co-author of “Food & Fitness After 50,” per AARP. “Avocado is also rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium, all nutrients associated with heart health.”

A 30-year study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that individuals who regularly ate avocados had a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who rarely ate avocados.

Researchers also noted that those who ate avocados at least twice per week had a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who rarely or never eat avocados.

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3. Dark chocolate

Chocolate is typically considered a dessert food but dark chocolate is rich in nutrients. Dark chocolate is packed with flavanols, a type of flavonoid that benefits the heart, helps with cell rebuilding and can help lower blood pressure, per Cleveland Clinic.

Regularly eating high-flavanol cocoa or dark chocolate is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and stroke, reports a study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

A 2017 review of studies found consuming dark chocolate three times every week lowered cardiovascular disease risk by 9%.

Research “suggests that chocolate consumption confers reduced risks of CHD (coronary heart disease), stroke, and diabetes,” the study review claims. “Consuming chocolate in moderation (1–6 servings/week) may be optimal for the prevention of these burdensome diseases.”

Be sure to eat dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to reap its benefits.

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4. Walnuts

Regularly eating nuts, particularly walnuts, is associated with lower risk of heart disease and heart disease mortality, a 2019 study reports.

“Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid, and are beneficial for improving cardiovascular health. They reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol balance, reduce blood pressure, and reduce risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. John Higgins, a professor of cardiovascular medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, per Medical News Today.

According to the Mayo Clinic, incorporating nuts into a healthy diet can help the heart by:

  • Improving artery health.
  • Reducing risk of blood clots.
  • Decreasing risk of high blood pressure.
  • Reducing risk of death from heart disease.
  • Lowering bad cholesterol levels.
  • Lowering inflammation associated with heart disease.

In a large, 32-year study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that people who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts at least five times per week had a 14% reduced risk of developing heart disease and a 20% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared to those who rarely consumed nuts.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are loaded with potassium, fiber, folate, vitamins C and K and lycopene — an antioxidant that can help protect against heart disease, per VeryWellHealth. A review of 25 studies shows a diet with tomatoes can reduce risk of heart disease. Researchers found that high blood levels of lycopene lowered risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%.

Frequently eating tomatoes is also beneficial to cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can increase risk of heart disease and stroke. A 2014 study found that drinking tomato juice four times per week lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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6. Oily fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and lake trout are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in lowering blood pressure and reducing fats in the bloodstream, per the Mayo Clinic.

“Eating fish fights heart disease in several ways. The omega-3 fats in fish protect the heart against the development of erratic and potentially deadly cardiac rhythm disturbances. They also lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation,” reports Harvard Health.

In an 18-year study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers closely followed the diets of more than 40,000 men. The men who ate one serving of fish per week experienced a 15% lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who rarely or never ate fish.

If you do not enjoy seafood, fish oil supplements offer many of the same benefits. Taking fish oil supplements may reduce risk of all-cause mortality, stroke, cardiac death and sudden death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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