Heart health has a lot to do with the foods we eat, and adopting a plant-forward eating approach is a great place to start.
Think fruits & veggies, beans & legumes, nuts & seeds, and whole grains when building your plate. Other foods—such as seafood—also support heart health. However, plant foods are the only place you’ll find fiber—a nutrient strongly linked with keeping your heart healthy and strong.
We understand that identifying heart healthy foods can sometimes be challenging, so we created a Wellness Key to help simplify shopping.
This key indicates a product or recipe is low in fat and no more than 1g saturated fat, 480mg sodium, and 60mg cholesterol per standard serving of an individual food. Contains at least 10% of the daily value for one of the following: protein, dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron or potassium.
Note: “Meal-type products” contain a combination of servings from two or more food groups. These products have different nutritional criteria than servings of individual foods. Single proteins (meat, poultry, game, and seafood) also have different nutritional criteria.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies. It supports heart health by helping to lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol—two main risk factors for heart disease.
It’s also only found in plant foods, which are full of other nutrients and compounds that are beneficial for heart health—such as the antioxidants found in fruits & veggies and whole grains.
All plant foods contain different amounts and types of fiber. So, eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day is your best bet. A good daily goal for fiber is 25g for women and 38g for men. To boost your fiber intake, make your meals Half-Plate Healthy by filling half the plate with fruits & veggies and the other half with whatever you like!
Let’s unpack the key foods and food groups that are linked to heart health, and find easy ways to add more of them to your plate.
The fiber and plant protein in nuts and seeds help you feel full, so enjoying them as a snack or sprinkled on oatmeal, yogurt, salads or soup can be a great way to manage hunger.
Almonds and peanuts are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which may help decrease damage to cells and slow the development of plaque in your arteries. Most nuts are also a good source of magnesium, a mineral often linked to healthy blood pressure and diabetes prevention.
Many studies have shown that eating nuts and seeds improves cholesterol, reduces inflammation, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Nuts and seeds have significantly more unsaturated fats than saturated fats. These healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats are linked to heart health. Among all plants, walnuts, chia, and flaxseed contain some of the highest levels of Omega-3s, a special unsaturated fat shown to promote brain and heart health and reduce inflammation.
Dark leafy greens are some of the most under-consumed vegetables in the American diet, yet they provide many nutrients that are beneficial to your heart. Most greens contain nutrients like Vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium that can lower your blood pressure and help keep your arteries flexible. Their dark green color also suggests the presence of plant compounds which may provide a variety of health benefits including lowering your risk of heart disease. Make leafy greens a regular feature on your weekly menu to enjoy their heart health benefits!
Not all greens taste alike—each green has its own unique flavor and texture. Swiss chard, for example, has a sweet flavor while collard greens have a flavor similar to cabbage. Baby spinach is mild in flavor and soft in texture and may be the best place to start if you are new to eating greens. Explore the world of greens and discover which kind you enjoy so you can make greens a part of your everyday meals!
Check out our Simple Sautéed Greens recipe for an easy way to get more greens on your table. It takes just 3 simple ingredients and works with whichever greens you prefer. You can also add a handful of your favorite greens to any smoothie recipe. This heart-healthy addition will turn your smoothie a beautiful green color with minimal change in flavor.
Salmon is a great choice for heart health! Whether wild-caught or farm-raised, salmon is an excellent way to get protein, micronutrients, and heart-healthy omega-3s.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats that don’t promote plaque buildup in your arteries like saturated fats do. Research has shown that omega-3s may benefit heart health and function, and may decrease your risk for heart disease and stroke. Try to eat at least 2 servings of heart-healthy fish every week.
Salmon is an easy heart-healthy addition to balance a meal alongside your favorite veggies and whole grains. For simple and delicious ways to add salmon to your plate, check out our chef-developed salmon recipes or try your hand at one of our cooking techniques perfect for salmon, such as grilling or pan searing. You can toss any leftover salmon into a green salad for lunch the next day. Canned and pouched salmon are quick and affordable options to get the same benefits of fresh fish, and can even be used the same way as tuna for sandwiches and casseroles!
Whole grains are a great way to get fiber, a nutrient which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Whole grains contain the entire grain—the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains, on the other hand, are processed in a way that removes the bran and germ, stripping away important nutrients. Some of those are added back if the product is enriched. However, fiber is not usually one of the nutrients that is added back during the enrichment process. To enjoy the heart health benefits of fiber, try making half your grains whole!
While shopping, look at an item’s ingredient list and choose products that list “whole” or “whole grain” first. For example, look for “whole wheat flour” when choosing breads, cereals, or pastas. Some grains are always whole grain, such as oatmeal and quinoa. Other whole grain picks include whole wheat flour, brown rice, and popcorn.
For Wegmans Brand products and recipes, look for our Whole Grain Wellness Key.
We often hear from folks that they find it challenging to make the switch to whole grains. You might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t require a major change to your plate (or bowl)! There are so many ways to easily fit whole grains into your day. Try any or all these simple swaps to get started:
Not ready to take the “whole” leap? Try mixing whole grains in with your refined grains, such as rice, pasta, or cereal. The key is to make half your grains whole, in whatever way works for you!