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It’s no secret that fruits are healthy and nutritious. But did you know they can also improve your heart health and increase your lifespan? Many studies, such as this 2019 study published in the journal Current medicinal chemistry, revealed that a diet rich in fruits, among other foods, has strong cardiovascular protective effects. Translation? Eating fruit is good for your heart and helps prevent heart disease – the No. 1 killer in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
To find out which heart-healthy fruits you should include more of in your diet, we spoke with Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior cardiac dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and author of Recipe for Survival, who shares five of his best picks. Keep reading to learn how these fruits can improve your heart health and help you live longer.
Related: The 5 Best Vegetables to Help Boost Your Heart Health
Blackberries are a delicious fruit packed with essential nutrients for heart health. One of these nutrients is anthocyanins, a group of dark red, blue and purple pigments in plants. Anthocyanins are rich in powerful antioxidants that support cardiovascular health. Additionally, a 2021 study published in Biomolecules found that anthocyanins were an “inexpensive, accessible, and effective approach” to help prevent atherosclerosis (buildup of arterial plaque) and reduce the risk of aging and cardiovascular disease.
A cup of blackberries provides more than a third of your daily vitamin C intake and 5% of your daily potassium intake, according to the USDA, two essential nutrients for cardiovascular health.
“Blackberries are high in fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonols, and water, which makes them incredibly healthy for your heart and gastrointestinal tract due to their antioxidant and fiber content,” says Ellis- Hunnes. “Plus, they’re low in calories, satiating, and anti-inflammatory.”
These tiny but mighty berries are packed with nutrients, including heart-healthy properties. According to a 2019 review published in Gerontology journals.
According to another study published in Nutrients in 2021. According to the USDA, one cup of blueberries provides 4 grams (11–14% of your DV) of dietary fiber.
“Like blackberries, blueberries are rich in polyphenols, flavanols, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that are anti-inflammatory and beneficial for heart health and the gastrointestinal tract,” says Ellis Hunnes.
These beloved berries are fun to snack on (you might as well think of them as nature’s candy) and fantastic for cardiovascular well-being. For example, eating berries (like raspberries) has been linked to several cardiometabolic health benefits, including lower LDL cholesterol, improved blood pressure, healthy weight management, and reduced inflammation.
A cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of fiber, according to the USDA. As detailed above, fiber is a vital nutrient for your health and cardiovascular function.
“Another berry similar to blackberries, raspberries have slightly different levels and types of phytonutrients, as evidenced by their different colors,” says Ellis Hunnes. “Raspberries are great for heart and gastrointestinal health because they’re anti-inflammatory and high in fiber. Plus, they’re low in calories and high in water.”
Papaya (affectionately called “papaya”) contains many heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and the antioxidants vitamins A and C. According to the USDA, one cup of papaya chunks provides nearly 100% of your DV for the vitamin C and 8% of your DV. for vitamin A.
According to a review published in Frontiers in Physiology in 2021.
What’s more, potassium-rich foods may improve heart health by dilating your blood vessels, allowing more efficient blood flow, according to a 2020 study published in Food Science and Nutrition.
“Papaya is high in potassium, which can be good for blood pressure,” says Ellis Hunnes. “In addition, papaya contains digestive enzymes that can aid digestion and keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy, reducing inflammation and keeping you healthy.”
5. Red grapes
The high polyphenol content of red grapes makes it another fantastic fruit for protecting heart health. Polyphenols found in grapes have been shown to benefit human health in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by reducing oxidative stress, lowering blood pressure and decreasing inflammation, according to a comprehensive review published in Molecules in 2021.
“Rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, flavanols, fiber and resveratrol, red grapes can help reduce inflammation. They’re also high in water, which helps with satiety,” says Ellis Hunnes.
Other tips to support your heart health
If you’re looking for more ways to improve your heart health, consider following Life’s Essential 8 Checklist developed by the American Heart Association. Additionally, the following steps are essential for supporting cardiovascular health to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular health issues.
Eat better: Include plenty of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds.
Be more active: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
Stop smoking : It should go without saying, but smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Get healthy sleep: Most adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night for optimal brain function and a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Manage weight: A healthy body mass index is crucial for good heart health, as being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Control cholesterol: High LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease. Healthy lifestyle habits (for example, regular exercise and a nutritious diet) will help lower LDL cholesterol.
Manage blood sugar: Regularly raising your blood sugar with unhealthy foods can damage your heart and other organs over time and increase your risk of cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes.
Manage blood pressure: Keeping your blood pressure under control will improve heart function and help you stay healthy longer.
Combining a balanced, nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables with other healthy lifestyle habits (for example, regular exercise, quality sleep, and not smoking) is your best bet for improving cardiovascular health and adding years to your life. Include more of these heart-healthy fruits in your diet for excellent heart health.
Related: The surprising thing that can help your heart health, according to science