Sweet, delicious, and good for you? Fruit may just be nature’s best invention. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating between one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half cups of fruit each day. Getting this daily serving of fruit is essential if you’re concerned about heart health.
The good news is that if you’ve been slacking in the fruit department for the better part of your life, it’s not too late to change your ways to keep your heart healthy. A 2020 observational study found that eating a diet high in fruits (and vegetables, of course) for just eight weeks improved blood markers that evaluate heart strain and damage.
If you can’t get yourself to eat your veggies each day but are down to snack on a bowl of fruit, take note—fruit alone could lower the risk of a heart attack.
Researchers in China studied over half a million adults for over seven years and found that those who ate at least one serving of fruit a day had a 40% lower risk of heart-related death than those to ate little to no fruit.
So, while any fruit is better than no fruit for heart health, a few shine above the rest. These are some of the best fruits for heart health, according to science and experts. Read on, and for more, don’t miss 5 Best Fruits To Reduce Inflammation, Says Dietitian.
Fresh berries may be the unofficial mascot of summertime, but they’re worth eating year-round. “Berries are excellent for heart health since they’re rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which help protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that may play a role in the development of heart disease,” says Elysia Cartlidge, MAN, RD.
While all berries have heart-healthy nutrients, blueberries have plenty of research proving their effectiveness in combating heart disease. Until 2019 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that eating just one cup of blueberries daily for six months was associated with a 15% lower risk of heart disease.
One of the key heart-protecting compounds in berries is anthocyanins– a group of antioxidants responsible for the dark reds, blues, and purples in blueberries and other berries.
With a savory flavor and texture like butter, it’s hard to believe that avocado is actually a fruit. But this creamy fruit is a hardworking heart ally. Avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can help lower bad cholesterol.
“One study that followed over 100,000 people for over 30 years found that those who consumed at least two servings of avocado a week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or rarely ate avocado,” explains Lindsey Janeiro, RDN regarding the 2022 Journal of the American Heart Association study.
Just one-half of an avocado has over six grams of fiber and 12.6 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
No picnic or heart-healthy diet is complete without a bowl of juicy watermelon to munch on.
“Watermelon naturally contains citrulline, an amino acid that may help support blood vessel dilation, ultimately supporting healthy blood pressure,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD. Citrulline is a precursor to nitric oxide, a chemical that helps dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
Another important nutrient that watermelon contains is lycopene, the antioxidant responsible for the beautiful red hue in a slice of watermelon. While many people associate lycopene with tomatoes, watermelon is a much better source of this potent antioxidant. Just one-and-a-half cups of watermelon has nine to 13 milligrams of lycopene, over 40% more than that found in tomatoes.
Lycopene may help reduce the damage of free radicals that could otherwise lead to heart disease. Finnish researchers studied over 1,000 middle-aged men and found that those with the highest levels of lycopene in their bodies had a 55% lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest levels of lycopene.
You may be tired of the aphorism “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but there’s truth in the old saying. Apples are an easy, portable, and accessible way to keep your heart healthy because they’re high in a soluble fiber called pectin, explains Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN.
“Pectin is known for blocking cholesterol absorption in your gut, and it also encourages your body to use cholesterol rather than store it,” adds Gabriel.
One study found that for every 25-gram increase in white fruit like apples and pears, there is a 9% lower risk of stroke. One medium apple is 180 grams and has four grams of fiber.
Kelsey Lorencz, RDN
Kelsey Lorencz is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, nutrition consultant, and sustainable food blogger. Read more