A lot of the research on omega-3 fatty acids focuses on brain health, but these potent anti-inflammatories have benefits for your ticker, too. Research links inflammation inside your body to a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including plaque buildup, says Dr. Rader. So there’s speculation that reducing inflammation might reduce plaque in your arteries. Eating fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel is one way to get your fill of omega-3s, so try to eat some at least twice a week, says Taub-Dix.
Fat of any kind used to be at the top of the list of things that are bad for your heart. Not anymore: Research reveals that mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, are heart-healthy because they help lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol, says Taub-Dix. These green fruits also contain a decent amount of fiber.
Nuts are another good source of heart-healthy fats, and pistachios have this bonus: They’re filled with plant sterols, the same substances in cholesterol-lowering products that help block cholesterol absorption in your gut, says Karen Ansel, RD, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. If you’re allergic to nuts, you can also get plant sterols from sesame seeds.
In recent years, more people have started recognizing the health-boosting properties of this brilliant yellow spice traditionally used in Indian cuisine. A substance in the spice, curcumin, is an antioxidant that may help prevent fatty deposits from building up and blocking arteries, Ansel says. If you’re not a huge fan of curry, try a golden latte made with the spice.
Scientists have known for years that cruciferous veggies like broccoli have cancer-fighting abilities, but researchers are also examining broccoli’s role in heart health. There’s evidence that a compound in it called sulforaphane may assist the body’s natural defenses against arterial clogs by activating a certain kind of protein, says Ansel. Broccoli also has fiber and anti-inflammatory properties.