A healthy heart has a lot to do with a healthy diet, and summer is the perfect time to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables that not only taste delicious but also provide oodles of benefits for this important organ. Here are six fruits that might surprise you with their heart-healthy benefits, plus one remarkable veggie you may want to get to know a little better—for your heart’s sake!
- Blueberries (and Strawberries)
Nutrient-rich blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol that has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels and protect against artery damage. And their heart health benefits are even greater when paired with strawberries, according to a recent Harvard Medical School Study. The study found that eating more blueberries and strawberries was associated with a 34% lower risk of heart attack.
Loaded with fiber, potassium and beneficial vitamins, the papaya is a powerful ally when it comes to promoting healthy cardiovascular function. The good stuff in papayas supports healthy blood cholesterol levels and may help reduce the buildup of fat in your arteries which can ultimately lead to a heart attack. In addition, papayas contain a nutrient called choline that helps reduce chronic inflammation, which has been shown to contribute to heart disease and poor health.
The tomato is one of few foods that contain lycopene—an antioxidant belonging to the carotenoid family. According to the National Institutes of Health and other sources, lycopene supports the blood vessels surrounding the heart and has been associated with heart disease prevention and a lower risk of stroke. Tomatoes are also rich in beta-carotene, folate, potassium, flavonoids, vitamin C and vitamin E, which together promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the amount of lycopene as a single large tomato? It has to do with its red color, and experts say watermelon plays an important role in the fight against heart disease. Experts recommend storing it at room temperature before slicing to get the most antioxidant benefits.
When it comes to nutrients that are good for the heart, the banana has quite a few—including fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. In studies, bananas have been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels and improve cardiovascular health, as well as significantly lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke. Bananas are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which supports healthy cholesterol levels.
They may require a little extra work when it comes to cooking and preparation, but artichokes are well worth it for their heart health benefits. This unique veggie is chock full of potassium, which studies have shown helps maintain normal heart rhythm as well as promote healthy blood pressure. In addition, the natural plant nutrients in artichokes promote healthy cholesterol and help reduce the risk of stroke, studies have shown.
So as you wrap up your shopping list in anticipation of your next trip to the market, plan on adding at least two or three of these fruits and veggies to your weekly menu. Look for recipes and snacking ideas online, and enjoy a heart-healthy summer!