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Eating for a Healthy Heart: Heart Healthy Foods

Updated on September 15, 2012

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. To help prevent heart disease the American Heart Association has issued guidance on the diet that we should follow including the following pointers:

  • Grain Products - Eat 6 to 8 servings each day at least half of which are whole grain products.
    A serving is one slice of bread, 1oz. of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice.
  • Fruit and Vegetables - Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day from a wide variety of colors and types.
  • Dairy Products - Eat 2 to 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat dairy products daily.
  • Lean Meat, Poultry or Seafood - Eat 3 to 6 oz. (cooked) of lean meats, poultry or seafood per day.
  • Fats and Oils- Limit your intake to 2 to 3 servings per day using vegetable oils and soft margarines most often to minimise the amount of saturated and trans fats that are consumed.
    1 serving = 1 teaspoon of soft margarine or 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.
  • Nuts, Seeds and Legumes - Eat 3 to 5 servings per week .
    1 serving = 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter or ½ cup dry beans or peas..

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As useful as this guidance is it is very general and it does not tell us which are the best foods to eat to reduce our risk of heart disease.

The main way in which we can adjust our diet to protect our heart is to increase the amount of fiber we eat, as a diet rich in soluble fiber helps to decrease our LDL cholesterol levels and to eat unsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil to help reduce our triglycerides levels.

I've chosen four foods to highlight in this article

  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Kidney Beans
  • Sardines

They aren't fashionable super foods like acai berries or green tea but they are super foods none the less.


Oatmeal is a great way to boost your fiber content first thing in the morning.  The more oat bran it contains the higher the fiber content will be.  Oatmeal also has a low glycemic index, which helps you to feel fuller for longer and it evens out your blood sugar levels.

There are a few different types of oatmeal that you can buy and they are all made from oats which are seeds just like wheat. You can get steel cut oats, this is where the oat kernel has been cut into small chunks. When cooked this type of oat will be much more like rice than traditional oatmeal which is made from rolled oats. Rolled oats and quick cooking oats are processed oats in as much as they have been pressed or rolled flat to make them quicker to cook but other than that nothing is added or taken away. The thinner the oat is rolled the quicker it cooks. Instant oatmeal is however very definitely a processed food. It is oatmeal that's been rolled, cooked with various other ingredients such as sugar and or salt and then dehydrated. This isn't what I consider to be a super food!

Tip #1- Making Oatmeal can be quite time consuming. Why not make a batch large enough for three or four days and keep it in the refrigerator and reheat it in the microwave.

Tip #2 - Try adding dried fruit such as raisins, fresh fruit such as apples or raspberries, honey or cinnamon to ring the changes.



Sardines are a terrific source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as niacin and calcium. Fresh sardines are very simple to prepare and they should normally be grilled or barbequed. If you have never prepared fresh sardines before I recommend that you watch the video to see just how easy this task is. If you can't get fresh sardines you can also used tinned ones and these are great in sandwiches and salads.

Tip #3 - If you can't get sardines you could try mackerel instead. Mackerel is also high in omega-3 fatty acids and it is also a great source of selenium an antioxidant mineral believed to help protect us from both heart disease and cancer.

Tip #4 - If you can't stand fish you could eat walnuts instead as these nuts are also high in omega-3s.


Nutritional Value of Kidney Beans - USDA Nutrient database

Values per 100g (3.5 oz)

  • Energy 1,393 kJ (333 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates 60g
  • Sugars 2g
  • Dietary fiber 15g
  • Fat 1g
  • Protein 24 g
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.8 mg (16% RDA)
  • Folate (Vit. B9) 394 μg (99% RDA)
  • Calcium 143 mg (14% RDA)
  • Iron 8 mg (64% RDA)
  • Magnesium 140 mg (38% RDA)
  • Zinc 3 mg (30% RDA)

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are an affordable source of protein that is high in fiber, low in fat, and has no cholesterol. Check out the table to the side giving more nutritional information on this great super food.

Tip #5 - Canned kidney beans can be high in sodium and they are more expensive than the dried varieties.

Tip #6 - Raw kidney beans contain a toxin phytohaemagglutinin which has to be destroyed by cooking the beans in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. The FDA also recommend that the dried beans are soaked for a minimum of 5 hours and that the soaking water is discarded.

Tip #7 - Do not eat kidney beans or any other beans if you have gout unless recommended to do so by your medical advisor. Beans are high in purines, which are metabolized to uric acid. which may in turn promote the development or exacerbation of gout.

Tip #8 - Uric acid is also an important antioxidant in humans and it may help with the prevention and treatment of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease.



Whole-grain barley is rich in soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, which is good for combating constipation and can also reduce cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels. It’s also a good protein source and has a good supply of iron and minerals as well as being low in fat.

Types of barley include hulled, hulless and pearled barley. When barley is hulled, the tough inedible outer layer is removed. Even though the hull has been removed it is still considered to be a whole grain as the bran layer has not been removed It comes in kernels, flakes, grits and flour.

Hulless barley, also known as naked barley, still has the tough outer hull loosely attached.

Pearled barley is hulled and then polished by a scouring process which removes the bran layer and because of this is no longer considered to be a whole grain. Pearled barley comes in regular, medium or fine .

Tip #9 - Barley expands when cooked. 1 cup of dry barley makes 3-4 cups of cooked barley.

Tip #10 - After soaking your barley overnight, you can use the soaking water in stocks and soups and as it is full of starch it will add a subtle sweetness.

Tip #11 - Don't add salt until after your barley is cooked as adding salt could stop the barley absorbing water.


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    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Our diets are so very important to our health. I wanted to show in this hub that not all superfoods are expensive.


    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Thanks Prasetio. I tried to put together some different super foods that are good for our hearts.


    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This is SUPER FOOD for healthy heart. I liked your recipes and I love your presentation. Beautiful, my friend. I'll bookmark this one. Thanks for share with us. Vote up. Take care!


    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Hi Audrey

      I wanted to highlight some different healthy foods in this hub. Sardines are one of those foods that I have to feel like eating so I don't eat them as often as I should!


    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Fantastic and nutritious hub! You would be proud of me - I love and eat all of the above except for sardines. Now, I have a can in storage because not too long ago I decided to eat these little fishies for nutrition. But, I still haven't go up the courage. Thanks for these great tips! :)

    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Hi Pamela

      I'm pleased I was able to provide you with some useful information.


    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Hi KKG

      Thanks for popping by and reading and commenting on my hub.


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      amber, I did not know that information about cooking kidney beans but I don't use them too often. This hub is full of good tips. Thanks.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Good choices of food for the healthy heart. I enjoyed reading your descriptions and tips. Voted up and useful.


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