Keeping your arteries from getting gummed up starts with putting certain foods in your shopping cart. Here are dozens of targets for the next time you hit the grocery store.


Omega-3 fatty acids may not sound like something good for your ticker, but don’t be fooled by the name: This essential nutrient is a “healthy fat” that’s a powerhouse when it comes to heart health.

Omega-3s work to protect against artery plaque buildup by lowering triglyceride levels and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in your blood. (HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol.)

Certain types of fish are swimming in omega-3, says Zumpano. Top from-the-seas sources include:

  • Salmon.
  • Herring.
  • Mackerel.
  • Halibut.
  • Tuna.
  • Trout.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that adults eat 8 ounces of seafood per week as part of a healthy diet.

Nuts and seeds

Getting omega-3 into your diet doesn’t have to require a fishing rod. You can find it on land, too.

Walnuts offer a healthy dose of the plant-based version of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A variety of seeds also offer the anti-inflammatory benefits of ALA, including:

  • Flaxseed.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Hemp seeds.

But while walnuts and those seeds are packed with healthy fats, those are still fats that are high in calories. So, pay attention to serving size, cautions Zumpano. It’s best to look for unsalted options, too.


Berries may be small, but they can have a BIG impact on heart health.

Fiber in berries also may help lower cholesterol by reducing your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol.

Popular heart-healthy berry options include:

  • Blackberries.
  • Blueberries.
  • Raspberries.
  • Strawberries.
  • Fruits

As long as you’re shopping for berries in the produce aisle, research shows that many other fruits also can protect your heart. The list includes:

  • Apples.
  • Citrus (such as oranges).
  • Grapes.
  • Mango.
  • Papaya.
  • Pears.
  • Pomegranate.

Oats and other whole grains

The humble oat is a rockstar when it comes to protecting your heart. In fact, Zumpano says making a bowl of oatmeal a regular breakfast choice can help lower your total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Consider using more of these heart-healthy whole grains as well, like:

  • Brown rice.
  • Quinoa.
  • Whole-wheat products.
  • Farro.


Beans check a lot of boxes when it comes to nutritional value. Whatever legume you prefer lentils, for instance, or maybe garbanzo, pinto, kidney or black beans ­you’ll be doing your heart a favor with every bite.

Studies show that consuming legumes can act as a positive force on blood pressure and cholesterol, two factors in cardiovascular disease.

Soy-based products

Substituting soy-based food such as tofu or edamame beans for “animal protein” OK, meat can help lower cholesterol levels while also providing other protective benefits, says Zumpano.


“Eating the rainbow” is a colorful phrase often used to encourage healthy food choices. But this isn’t just an artistic suggestion. Each hue also brings different phytonutrients and antioxidants to the table to boost heart health.

And of course, don’t forget your leafy greens! Nitrates in salad building blocks such as lettuce, spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard can keep arteries relaxed and open for better blood flow.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is teeming with beneficial antioxidants called flavonoids, which can help improve blood flow and blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels, says Zumpano. These flavanols also fight cell damage.

But remember, dark chocolate should still be considered a treat despite its positives. Moderation is key given the saturated fat content.