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These three F’s help make the grade for a fit heart

Fish, fiber and fruit are loaded with nutrients that make them tops in their field for heart protection. Making them a regular part of your meal plan is painless and the easiest way to lower your risk for coronary heart disease.

  • Fish. Fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids can boost heart health. It helps stop blood clots from forming, cuts the risk of irregular heartbeats, slows the growth of artery-clogging plaque and lowers blood pressure.

The American Heart Association suggests eating fish at least twice a week. Try mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon.

  • Fiber. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. When reading labels, look for the terms soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, while good for digestion, doesn’t seem to lower cholesterol.

Several health groups suggest eating five to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily. Americans get little more than half this amount. You can have your fill of fiber by eating oatmeal, bran-flake cereals, beans, whole-wheat bread, fruits and vegetables.

  • Fruits—and vegetables. Eating four to five servings a day of colorful fruits and three to five servings of vegetables provides a wide range of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals your body needs to reduce the risk of heart disease—and stroke and cancer, too. Fruits and vegetables also seem to reduce the buildup of fatty plaques that cause heart attacks.

Fruits and vegetables don’t even need to be fresh; frozen and dried provide the same benefits.

A fourth F—folate?

Folate is a form of water-soluble vitamin B that occurs naturally in foods such as leafy greens, dry beans and peas. A lack of folate can raise the level of the amino acid homocysteine in your blood, perhaps increasing your risk factor for heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Though further testing is still being conducted and folate supplements aren’t recommended, you can’t go wrong adding folate-rich foods to your diet. They include avocado, banana, asparagus, spinach, kidney beans, orange juice and strawberries.