Fighting Heart Disease and Hypertension with a Plant-Based Diet

By Marni Wasserman

When it comes to heart health, a plant-based diet is really the only way to go. Because animal-based foods are loaded with fat and cholesterol that build up in arteries, causing high blood pressure and worse, you need to avoid them completely if you’re at risk for or have heart disease. Luckily, plenty of plant-based foods can provide your heart with maximum nutrition. These foods are all from whole sources.

A diet rich in these foods not only helps your heart but also promotes an overall state of optimal health and well-being.

Heart-Friendly Proteins, Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
Food Vitamins and minerals Ways to enjoy
Black or kidney beans B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty
acids, calcium, and soluble fiber
Stir some beans into your next soup or salad.
Tofu and tempeh Niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium Thinly slice firm tofu or tempeh and marinate for several hours
before baking, grilling, or stir-frying.
Brown rice and quinoa B-complex vitamins, fiber, niacin, and magnesium Cook up a pot and make pilafs or soups, or top it with a
colorful vegetable stir-fry.
Oats Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin,
calcium, and soluble fiber
Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries for a heart-healthy
breakfast. Oatmeal and raisin cookies also make a
“hearty” treat.
Almonds Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber,
heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and
phytosterols
Mix a few raw organic almonds into coconut milk yogurt, trail
mix, or fruit salads.
Flaxseed (ground) Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytoestrogens Hide ground flaxseed in all sorts of foods — coconut
yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
Pumpkin seeds Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin
A, calcium, and B-complex vitamins
Eat them raw in trail mixes, salads, and granola, or toast them
lightly for an extra boost of flavor.
Walnuts Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fiber,
heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and
phytosterols
Walnuts add heart power with a flavorful crunch to salads,
pastas, cookies, muffins, and pancakes.

The following table provides a list of heart-healthy vegetables.

Heart-Friendly Vegetables
Food Vitamins and minerals Ways to enjoy
Acorn squash Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex and C
vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber
Serve with sautéed spinach, pine nuts, or raisins.
Asparagus Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex vitamins,
folate, and fiber
Grill or steam slightly, then dress with lemon.
Beets Calcium; iron; magnesium; phosphorous; and vitamins A,
B-complex, and C
Shred some raw into salad or steam and cut into slices (or
hearts).
Broccoli Beta-carotene (a carotenoid), vitamins C and E, potassium,
folate, calcium, and fiber
Chop fresh broccoli and add it to store-bought soup or dip into
hummus.
Carrots Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid) and fiber Cut into snack-sized pieces to munch on. Use in recipes such as
stir-fries, salads, and soups, or sneak shredded carrots into
spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
Red bell peppers Beta-carotene and lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate,
potassium, and fiber
Grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads,
and sandwiches.
Spinach Lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium,
calcium, and fiber
Choose spinach over lettuce for nutrient-packed salads and
sandwiches. Tastes great when steamed and added to cooked
dishes.
Sweet potato or butternut squash Beta-carotene; vitamins A, C, and E; and fiber Steam in steamer basket, bake, roast in oven, or boil in a pot
of soup.
Tomatoes Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, and lutein (carotenoids);
vitamin C; potassium; folate; and fiber
Try fresh tomatoes on sandwiches, salads, pastas, and
pizzas.

The following table provides a list of heart-healthy fruits.

Heart-Friendly Fruits
Food Vitamins and minerals Ways to enjoy
Blueberries and blackberries Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), anthocyanin (a
flavonoid), ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate,
calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber
Cranberries, strawberries, and raspberries are potent, too, and
do well in trail mixes, muffins, and salads.
Cantaloupe Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex
and C vitamins, folate, potassium, and fiber
A fragrant, ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or
potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy.
Oranges Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein, flavones,
vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber
Make your own orange juice with freshly squeezed organic
oranges. Use the zest in marinades, chutneys, and salad dressing.
You can even use it in baking.
Papaya Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein (carotenoids);
vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; and potassium
Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice,
salt, and black pepper.
Dark chocolate Resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) A square of dark cocoa is great for blood pressure, but choose
varieties that have 70 percent or higher cocoa content.