5 Unexpected Heart-Healthy Foods

Eating well for a healthy heart is so often associated with all the foods you can’t eat. But there is a delicious variety of foods that are still completely on the table. Add these five options to your weekly meal rotation—and no, we’re not just talking kale and egg whites—and your heart will feel the love.

Avocados

Game-day foods just got a whole lot healthier. According to research from Penn State University, adding an avocado to your daily diet may help lower bad cholesterol, which can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This green fruit is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, and researchers found that people who ate a daily diet that included avocados for five weeks saw more improvement in their LDL cholesterol levels than people who followed other types of moderate-fat diets. Break out the chips!

Nuts

According to a Harvard University study, eating a handful of nuts twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly a quarter. The study, which followed more than 200,000 people, found that all types—including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, and peanuts—help prevent cardiovascular problems. And in equally good news, researchers also found no evidence that nuts lead to weight gain, despite their high fat content. Snack on!

Dark Chocolate

If you haven’t already heard, let us be the ones to share the great news. Studies show that a small serving of dark chocolate (made with 70 percent or more cacao) contains flavonoids that boost heart health and help lower blood pressure. And, a 2017 study in the journal Heart found that this sweet treat may also lower the odds of developing atrial fibrillation, a heart condition also known as AFib that causes an irregular heartbeat and increases the odds of stroke and heart failure.

Popcorn

No, we’re not recommending that extra-large buttery tub at the movie theater, but popcorn is a whole-grain that contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants associated with better heart health. Research from the University of Scranton found that popcorn, gram for gram, contains more polyphenols than fruits and vegetables do. And while a bowl of air-popped popcorn doesn’t weigh nearly as much as, say, a pineapple, it’s a munching-friendly way to add to your healthy nutrient intake.

Kiwis

Who knew this fuzzy fruit packed such a powerful punch? A Taiwanese study found that men and women who ate two kiwis a day for eight weeks had significant improvements in HDL, LDL, and total cholesterols. And other research has shown that kiwis may help lower blood pressure too. Not sure of the best way to eat them? Start fresh in the morning. Try adding them to your breakfast cereal or yogurt, or as a pancake topper.