Foods For A Healthy Heart: Good and Bad Diet for Heart

11healthy diet foods for a healthy heart with foods to avoid for heart
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A healthy heart is essential for your overall health and well-being. A heart that can pump blood effectively to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues and organs is healthy. This can increase energy levels, reduce fatigue, and improve quality of life. Heart disease also known as cardiovascular disease is a term used to describe a range of conditions that affect the heart and the blood vessels. These conditions include coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and valve disorders.

Morbidity refers to the incidence or prevalence of a disease or condition while mortality refers to the number of deaths caused by the disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of both morbidity and mortality worldwide and its impact is growing and varies according to age, sex, and geography. According to the WHO, cardiovascular disease is responsible for an estimated 17.9 million deaths per year, accounting for 31% of all global deaths.

5 Symptoms of Heart Disease

  1. Discomfort
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Chest pain
  4. Fatigue
  5. Palpitations

4 Complications of Heart Disease

  1. Heart attacks
  2. Stroke
  3. Heart failure
  4. Arrythmias

How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease?

The impact of heart disease through morbidity and mortality can be reduced through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and managing stress. Medications and surgery must be the last resort. Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health.

Unhealthy Diet for Heart

Consuming a healthy diet is associated with a lower risk of acquiring cardiovascular disease. An unhealthy diet will increase the heart disease risk. Consuming a diet rich in sodium is one of the risk factors contributing to heart disease.

Equally, a diet high in saturated and trans fats is also associated with a high risk of heart disease because it increases the levels of cholesterol in the blood. This cholesterol starts accumulating in the blood vessels resulting in heart disease.

6 Foods Bad for Heart

Below are list of bad foods for heart:

1. Deep-fried Foods

These are a major trigger of heart disease. They are high in calories and unhealthy fats which cause inflammation, clog arteries, and lead to heart attack for sure. They also tend to be high in salt and additional sugars which raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. Many of us, don’t know that deep frying turns food toxic meaning that it oxidizes cholesterol and messes with the functions of various organs as well as vital hormone production.

The toxins produced during deep frying are known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). AGEs cause inflammation and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The fried chicken nuggets contain nearly 7000 kilounits of AGEs per 90 grams compared to pan-fried chicken breast which had only 4000 kilounits of AGEs. Better than that chicken boiled in water containing lemon has 861 kilounits of AGEs.

Deep frying also increases the number of acrylamides which is a carcinogen linked to an increased risk of cancer. When you eat deep-fried foods, your body has to work harder to eliminate these toxins. These toxins oxidise blood’s cholesterol which stiffens the arteries. This doesn’t allow arteries to expand and they lose their elasticity. Many ruptures and cracks thus appear in the arteries resulting in blockages to blood flow. A 120-gram fried food intake increases the risk of heart disease by 3%.

2. Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates like simple sugars, processed food items and many more also increase the risk of heart disease. Breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals are some of the examples of food consumed every day which are a pure source of refined carbohydrates.

In the production of these refined carbs, the fibers and other important nutrients are lost. These also get quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and cause blood sugar levels to spike.

With time, this can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, both being a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Refined carbs also promote inflammation in the body, also responsible for heart disease.

3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a common food additive that has been linked to heart disease. MSG is added to food to enhance flavor but it also increases blood pressure, risk of stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

MSG also results in increased body weight, dyslipidemia, oxidative stress, inflammation, gastritis, and duodenal ulcers. The various common names with which MSG is listed on the labels of packed foods are- E620, E621, E622, E623, E624, E625

4. Vegetable Oils

Many Vegetable oils are bad for health because they easily become rancid, due to which they cause inflammation in the body e.g. sunflower seeds are high in PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) which are protected by a hard outer shell.

But as soon as these are churned into oil, these PUFAs start getting oxidized means the oil turns rancid, which leads to further oxidation of cholesterol in the body. The MUFA-rich oils like olive oil and coconut oils are safe to be used. Both contain saturated fat, which does not turn rancid.

5. Processed Meats

The chemicals used to cure the meats include nitrates, damaging the lining of the blood vessels leading to inflammation and hence making the blood vessels stiff and consequently high blood pressure. This makes the heart work harder leading to a heart attack. Every 50 grams of processed meat per day increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 18%.

6. Soda

One average can of soda contains around 9 tsp of sugar which is the daily limit for adults, all packed into a single can. After drinking soda, blood glucose levels spike and a high blood sugar triggers a domino effect for cholesterol oxidization, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. Inside the liver, soda gets quickly converted to fat which gets stored in the liver cells and can lead to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

One soda per day leads to diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Artificially sweetened drinks sold as zero sugar contain aspartame/saccharin as the sweetener. Drinking diet soda every day can lead to a 67% rise in type 2 diabetes and a 36% rise in heart disease. Instead of soda go for soda water, tea, pomegranate juice, or cranberry juice (without added sugar).

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Healthy Diet for Heart

Eating a diet that is low in calories and high in nutrients can help in maintaining a healthy weight and consequently lowers the risk of heart disease. Similarly, a diet high in dietary fiber also lowers the risk of heart disease. Here the concept of portion control of your food also plays an essential role in promoting a healthy weight and thus a healthy heart.                          

7 Foods Good for Heart

1. Oats

Oats are a great source of fiber known to lower the bad cholesterol/LDL cholesterol levels in the body.

Consuming oatmeal or oat bran can significantly reduce total cholesterol levels by 5-10% and LDL cholesterol levels by 7-10%

2. Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are known to reduce the inflammation in the body and improve overall heart health. Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish in a week.

3. Berries

Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and improve heart health. These can be chosen either in frozen form or as fresh. But never purchase the processed ones as they contain large amounts of added sugars. These can be made into smoothies or a healthy dessert.

The endothelial lining of blood vessels remains healthy if one consumes blueberries for eight weeks regularly. The health of the endothelial lining to a great extent affects your heart’s health. Blueberries and raspberries have high levels of antioxidants in them like anthocyanins and flavonoids. These anti-oxidants reduce inflammation in the body.

4. Nuts

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are a great source of healthy fats, fiber as well proteins. They are known to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.  These can be incorporated into your daily diet. The risk of heart disease can be reduced by up to 40% by consuming nuts regularly.

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5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the blood vessels. But it must be checked on its label before purchasing dark chocolate that it must contain 70% cocoa solids. Consuming dark chocolate on alternate days for 3-4 weeks may reduce high blood pressure. Apart from decreasing high blood pressure, dark chocolate also increases the levels of HDL/ good cholesterol and decreases the levels of LDL/ bad cholesterol.

6. Green leafy Vegetables

Leafy greens like spinach, bathua, mustard leaves, fenugreek leaves, collard, kale, amaranth, turnips, etc reduce the risk of heart disease because these are rich in many vitamins (vitamin K), minerals (magnesium and potassium), and antioxidants. They reduce inflammation in the body and improve blood pressure, thus improving heart health. If one consumes an extra serving of green leafy vegetables daily, the risk of heart disease is reduced by 16%.

7. Avocados

Avocado is a great source of healthy fats that are known to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and increase the levels of good cholesterol. These also reduce inflammation in the body. Consuming one avocado per day for six weeks can significantly improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. It reduces the high systolic blood pressure. Along with this, one avocado per day also lowers high blood pressure and thus is good for people suffering from hypertension.


Heart health depends majorly on a healthy diet. All the seven foods listed above must be incorporated into the daily diet of a person suffering from hypertension, high cholesterol levels, or any type of heart disease. This is a simple and effective way to keep your heart healthy. Always remember that a healthy diet is just one aspect of a healthy heart. Along with this, one must also do regular physical activity, stress management and avoid smoking.

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About the author

Nidhi Gupta is an ACE certified personal trainer and nutritionist with over 10 years of experience helping people reach their fitness goals. She is passionate about helping people live healthier lives and loves sharing her knowledge and expertise with others. Get in touch with her to learn more about how she can help you on your fitness journey.
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