The Heart-Healthy Grocery Store Guide

Health Professional
iStock
  • A heart-healthy diet can improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Learn about foods that are considered safe for heart health.
  • Use this guide as you walk through your market or grocery store to help you pick out the best heart-healthy foods for you and your family.
  • Learn more about the top nutrients that promote healthy heart function.

Heart disease is often thought of as a lifestyle disease because many of the risk factors associated with heart disease can be controlled through your diet and lifestyle choices. In fact, the foods you regularly consume can strongly determine your risk for developing heart disease.

There are nutrients that if consumed adequately reduce your risk for heart disease. If you've already been diagnosed with a heart-related condition, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you can still make changes to your diet that will help you live happier and healthier too. However, it is one thing to know what nutrients you need to add to your diet and another to go to the grocery store and make sure you buy the right foods to meet your goals.

To overcome this hurdle, let’s take you around the grocery store so you know how to shop for the foods containing the top heart health nutrients so you can load up your grocery cart wisely.

Shopping by grocery store section

Produce:

Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories to help with weight control and blood pressure. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The American Heart Association recommends at least 4.5 servings a day.

  • Berries: blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries
  • Green Vegetables: Spinach and broccoli
  • Colored vegetables with red, orange, and yellow: Sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots
  • Other fruits: Oranges, papaya, tomatoes, and grapes

Deli/Seafood:

Seafood, especially fatty fish are very beneficial for heart health, especially for people who are at risk for cardiovascular disease. Try to include at least two 3.5-ounce servings a week. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure.

  • Good fatty fish: salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, mackerel
  • Limit processed meats processed meat (bacon, sausage or processed deli meats)

Bakery:

This section should be navigated carefully. Added sugars, which should be avoided, are very high in cookies, candy, cakes, pies, and most desserts. Limit the amount of these sweets. Opt for whole grain bread (see Dry Goods below).

Meat:

  • Chicken (skinless) and fish contain lower amounts of saturated fats.
  • Ground turkey
  • Beef, pork, lamb contain more cholesterol and saturated fats. You may include red meat in your diet, but limit the amount. One portion is about 3 oz.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat (round, loin, sirloin) and lean ground beef (no more than 15 percent fat).

Dairy:

Children should have around two servings and adults should have around four (one serving is about 1 cup of milk).

  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese)
  • Avoid coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil due to high amount of saturated fats

Dry Goods:

Whole grains, which contain the entire grain, are a great source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps lower the risk of heart disease, and can improve your blood cholesterol levels. Recommended to eat at least three 1-ounce servings a day, which could be:

  • Whole grain bread (1 slice is 1 serving)
  • Popcorn, unsalted (2 cups)
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa (about ½ cup)
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole oats (about ½ cup)

Canned Goods:

Canned foods can contain a high amount of sodium, especially soups and vegetables. Try to limit the amount of these, or opt for low sodium choices. Beans are a great way to add protein and fiber to help improve your blood cholesterol.

  • Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans
  • Include low-sodium soups with beans, vegetables, and a lean protein (chicken)
  • Try to opt for fresh produce when possible and limit amount of canned items

Frozen Food:

Avoid packaged meals, which can contain a high amount of sodium.

  • Frozen vegetables: broccoli, green beans, peas, squash, and carrots
  • Frozen fruits: berries, mangos, pineapple, papaya, and peaches

Shopping by heart health nutrient

While you may be aware eating certain foods increase your risk for heart disease there are also certain foods that reduce your risk. These foods reduce your risk due to the specific nutrients they contain. There are some key nutrients that play a significant role in reducing heart disease risk. These nutrients include:

Folic Acid

Folic acid helps maintain healthy homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels increase vascular disease and stroke risk.

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Rice and wheat germ
  • Beef liver
  • Beans: lima, mung, navy

Potassium

Adequate potassium intake is directly connected to lower blood pressure levels, while potassium deficiency is connected to irregular heart rates.

  • Vegetables: potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, tomato sauce (no added salt)
  • Fruits: dried apricots, frozen blackberries, cherries

Magnesium

Needed to maintain a normal heartbeat, magnesium has also been shown to lower blood pressure.

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Squash, broccoli, spinach
  • Seafood

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels contribute to high blood pressure and increase heart attack risk. Sunlight is a primary source for vitamin D, but there are foods that will also boost vitamin D intake.

  • Beans: kidney, pinto, black, navy, garbanzo
  • Air popped popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Berries: raspberries, blackberries

Fiber

A high fiber diet lowers heart disease risk by reducing total and LDL cholesterol levels.

  • Fortified cow’s milk
  • Salmon, mackerel, tuna
  • Dole Portobello Mushrooms
  • Sardines

Omega-3’s

Omega-3 fatty acids boost heart health by reducing inflammation, triglycerides, and blood clot formation.

  • Seafood: salmon, tuna, oysters, sea bass, herring
  • Chia seeds and flaxseed

Lycopene

Lycopene lowers blood pressure and C-reactive protein levels.

  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit

Niacin

Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is connected to reduced LDL and triglyceride levels. Supplemental doses lead to vasodilation to lower blood pressure.

  • Peanuts
  • Mushrooms, Crimini and portabello
  • Turkey
  • Grass-fed beef

Polyphenols

Polyphenols increase nitric oxide levels which promotes vasodilation leading to lower blood pressure levels.

  • Linseed
  • Lentils
  • Garlic, asparagus, carrots
  • Pears, prunes

Monounsaturated Fats

Including monounsaturated fats in your diet leads to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while also boosting HDL cholesterol levels.

  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter