Although superfoods have been around for a long time, it’s only recently that researchers have documented their benefits for those with high cholesterol or heart disease. Elisabetta Politi, RD, CDE, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina, says, “Nutrition is an evolving science, and it’s really good to keep our minds open.”

Certain superfoods are great for keeping your heart healthy while others are not. Some can help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and slow the formation of plaque — to prevent heart disease. But some, taken in large doses, can actually aggravate a heart condition or interact with heart medication.

Find out which superfoods are good for your heart and which to view with caution.

Chia Seeds Are Sprouting With Nutrients

Chia seeds contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids of any plant-based food. That’s good news for your heart, because omega-3 fatty acids help people with high cholesterol by lowering triglycerides in the blood, and also lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). This superfood is also loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, protein, and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, and soluble fiber.

Stephen Kopecky, MD, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that soluble fiber in moderation has a lot of benefits and may help lower cholesterol. “Too much of a good thing can make you constipated if you’re not drinking enough water,” he cautions.

Although chia seeds have been shown to impact cardiovascular risk by lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol, it’s important to note that most of the research conducted with chia seeds thus far has been on animals.

Green Tea Packs an Antioxidant Punch

Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols and catechins, which can prevent cell damage and protect you from heart disease. A study presented at an AHA conference in early 2016 found that researchers have found tea drinkers have fewer major heart events like heart attack and stroke, compared with people who don’t drink tea. And a review of studies published in August 2007 in the Journal of the American College of Nutritionfound that the most abundant catechin in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), improves heart health and also metabolism.

“Green tea, more than any other tea, is good for the heart,” says Politi. To get the most benefit from this superfood, it’s best to drink tea from tea leaves that do not have any other ingredients added to them.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read it Before You Eat It and the Nutrition Intuition column on Everyday Health, cautions that if your doctor has told you to limit caffeine due to a heart condition, you should look for caffeine-free green tea to reduce your intake of the stimulant.


Quinoa Is a Nutrition Powerhouse

The Incas first discovered quinoa roughly 4,000 years ago in what is now South America. Quinoa is a good superfood to try because it’s a gluten-free whole grain, is rich in minerals, and has high protein value, with 8 grams (g) per cup cooked. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids found in meat, including lysine, an amino acid essential for tissue growth and repair. Because whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, the AHA recommends getting three servings each day. Try adding quinoa to muffins, pancakes, salads, soups, and risotto to increase the whole grains in your diet.


Nuts Cut Risk of Heart Disease

The healthy fats found in nuts put them high on the list of foods that are good for your heart. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are among the superfoods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to potentially prevent dangerous heart rhythms and reduce the risk of developing blood clots. According to the Mayo Clinic, adding nuts to your diet can lower your blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol — to help prevent heart disease.

To get the best of their health benefits, Politi cautions not to go nuts with nuts. “By eating a lot of nuts you can gain weight in the abdomen area, increasing your risk of obesity and heart disease,” she says. Try eating 1 ounce of nuts per day in place of a sugary snack.

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