by Ruth Ann Clayton, RD

We have all heard of the many factors that impact whether or not our heart is healthy including maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and eating a healthy diet.

 Yet there is a correlation between other food components and a healthy heart that goes deeper than just avoiding bad fats and red meat.  An introduction to a few might put you on the road to a healthier circulatory system so lets discuss healthy heart dietary choices you may not be aware of.  I call theses foods “preventive medicine for the heart”.

What can you place in your grocery cart that will promote a healthy heart?

You might start with a group of foods known as flavonoids. They are a specific type of water-soluble pigment existing in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as tea and red wine.

Flavonoids are protective antioxidants that keep destructive molecules from damaging your body’s cells. There is mounting evidence to support a positive correlation between flavonoid intake and the strength of blood vessel walls.  Flavonoids are also believed to slow LDL cholesterol oxidation and some make blood platelets less sticky.

Other good flavonoid sources are apples, grapes, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes, and grape seed extract. And this might make you happy, modest servings of dark chocolate also fall into this category.  Beware, not all chocolate products are equal in terms of flavonoid content. Darker chocolates are preferred.

Of course, fish is a must as a preventive medicine for the heart.  Omega 3’s are key fatty acids in certain fish known to promote heart health.  Twice a week aim for a meal of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and halibut.  If you are not eating fatty fish at least twice a week then you should supplement your diet with a good quality fish oil product.

Let’s not discount the benefit fiber can have not only to your digestion but also to your heart health. Fiber can be either soluble or insoluble in liquid.  Heart healthy soluble dietary fiber is found in psyllium, apples (pectin), barley, oats and oat bran, other fruits, vegetables and flax seeds. Flax has the additional benefit of providing a vegetarian source of the omega 3’s previously discussed.

Fiber’s benefit to your heart’s health is provided when soluble fibers form gels with water in the intestines and block cholesterol absorption, removing it as waste, thus lowering cholesterol counts.  The amount of cholesterol reduction will depend on how often and how much soluble fiber you eat.

Heart disease takes years to develop, but a daily plan of including heart healthy foods containing flavonoids, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber are a positive way to slow or stop this disease. You need to think everyday in terms of not only being careful of what you shouldnot eat, but in terms of these heart healthy items you should place in your grocery cart.

Ruth Ann Clayton is the Registered Dietitian at Nature’s Way.  Reach her at  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Ruth Ann Clayton, Registered Dietitian, is active in both the American Dietetics Association and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. Her nationally accredited Dietetic Internship and her years of experience in public health and hospital settings reflect her commitment to your health and well being.

As the co-owner of Nature’s Way, she uses her comprehensive background to research products, read labels, investigate manufacturers and provide information for her customers.