Today I’m sharing the best foods for heart health and their implications when you’re healing the gut.
Are you getting it yet? Rarely is there ever a post found on agutsygirl.com that does not in some way, shape, or form tie back to gut health.
Moving on. February is Heart Health month.
In 2018, Harvard asked, “Healthy gut, healthy heart?” They then explored how the trillions of bacteria in the intestinal tract play a role in cardiovascular health.
Growing evidence suggests that dietary habits that are helpful for preventing heart disease (such as avoiding red meat, limiting salt, and eating lots of fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains) also have favorable effects on the gut microbiome.
What is a Heart Healthy Food?
You’ll find various definitions, but for the sake of consistency, I’m going to use the “Heart-Check Food Certification Nutrition Requirements” from the American Heart Association.
Now, please do not misunderstand this. I’m not saying that I always agree with the American Heart Association. Their “stamp of approval” doesn’t really matter to me.
That said, these “rules” are generally regarded as heart healthy qualifying.
The rules are long, so if you want the full gamut, click HERE to view.
I’m only reciting the “Standard Certification (FDA-regulated products).”
Standard Certification (FDA-regulated products)
- Total Fat: Less than 6.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 1 g or less and 15% or less calories from saturated fat
- Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
- Cholesterol: 20 mg or less
- Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category: up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*. See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
- Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)
All categories of other products are broken down individually. For example, nuts have no limit on fat, 4 g or less of saturated fat (except for Macadamia Nuts, which have no limit), etc.
Some other things that make foods heart-healthy worthy include things like (not an exhaustive list):
- High in specific vitamins (ex. Vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting)
- Good amounts of fiber to reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Rich in antioxidants to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which can lower risk of heart disease.
- High in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been extensively studied for their heart-health benefits.
With that, I wanted to put together a list of the best foods for heart health. I’ll help you decide which ones might be best for you.
Notes on my list:
- I’m not including anything that contains gluten. For example, whole wheat is a whole grain and considered “heart healthy.” I’ve chosen to make the entire list gluten-free because I do believe it’s best for 98% of you.
- All items are only one ingredient, whole ingredient, items. This is because I think there is too much of a rabbit hole to go down when you start including the American Heart Association on boxes of things (i.e. Cheerios).
- I have also included a Gutsy Key for you. What this will help you do is determine which items are not only heart healthy and gluten free, but also (dairy free, Paleo, egg free, low-FODMAP, AIP). AIP was included on this list because if an item is denoted as AIP that also means it’s nut and nightshade free, which many of you have expressed interest in knowing.
Best Foods for Heart Health
Click HERE to save the best foods for heart health for later.
- DF = dairy free
- P = Paleo
- EF = egg free
- LF = low-FODMAP
- AIP = Autoimmune Protocol (no nuts or nightshades)
Leafy green vegetables
- Spinach – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Kale – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Collard greens – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Bok choy – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Broccoli – DF, P, EF (depends, refer to Reasonable SIBO), LF, AIP
- Asparagus – DF, P, EF, AIP
- Swiss chard – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Brown rice – DF, EF, LF
- Gluten-free oats – DF, EF, LF
- Buckwheat – DF, EF, LF (groats, not necessarily the kernels)
- Quinoa – DF, EF, LF
- Strawberries – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Blueberries – DF, P, EF, AIP
- Blackberries – DF, P, EF, AIP
- Raspberries – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
DF, P, EF, AIP
- Salmon – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Mackerel – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Sardines – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Tuna – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Herring – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Trout – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
DF, P, EF, LF, AIP (be sure to get a high-quality one, though)
DF, P, EF, LF
- Pinto beans – DF, EF, LF (whole, canned and drained)
- Garbanzo beans – DF, EF
- Kidney beans – DF, EF
- Black beans – DF, EF
- Lentils – DF, EF, LF (whole, canned and drained)
High-quality and at least 70% cocoa content – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP (debatable)
DF, P, EF
- Chia seeds – DF, P (debatable), EF, LF
- Flaxseeds – DF, P (debatable), EF, LF
- Hempseeds – DF, P (debatable), EF, LF
DF, P, EF, AIP
DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
DF, EF, LF
DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
Red, yellow, and orange veggies
- Carrots – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Sweet potatoes – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
- Red peppers – DF, P, EF, LF
- Tomatoes – DF, P, EF, LF
- Acorn squash – DF, P, EF, LF, AIP
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
- Mediterranean Diet for Gut Health
- Wild Salmon, Roasted Beets and Apples
- How to Stock a Healthy Pantry
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You will heal. I will help.