Eating the right foods for a heart healthy

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While food has the power to cook up heart disease in the body, eating the right foods can counter the damage and keep your heart beating strong for the long haul.

The sound so familiar – a strong heart pumping blood through the body, delivering nutrients and oxygen to the organs. So why do so many people make choices that diminish the pumping capacity of their heart?

Vicki Shanta Retelny, registered dietician nutritionist: “Over a million people die annually of heart disease, both men and women.”
Feeding yourself the right foods can alter the course.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “People feel that they have to make these huge drastic changes, but you know what, if you make small incremental changes every day and evolve your eating, it really will add up to big results.  And you’ll see changes in your blood sugar and your blood cholesterol and your blood pressure, and it’s exciting to see that you can affect your own health.”

Big body changes with small food choices — not eliminating big treats, just adding healthy ones.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “A serving of 1.5 ounces of nuts, such as pistachios, can actually be beneficial for your heart when you’re eating a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Plus the protein is going to fill you up faster and longer, and they contain fiber which actually is filling as well. Whole grains, like brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole-grain breads are beneficial as well. They contain both insoluble and soluble fiber. But once again that fiber is important for filling you up on fewer calories so it is a great weight management tool as well.”

Then there’s fruit. Certain ones actually lower blood pressure.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “Apples, bananas, these all help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy range. Potassium helps lower blood pressure. So foods that are higher in potassium, like your greens, your colorful vegetables. I’m loving grapefruit right now. These ruby red Texas grapefruits are great.”

Sugar from fruit is ok, but watch foods with added sugar.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “So if sugar is listed as one of the first five ingredients on a food label, try to go with something else that’s lower in sugar.”
Choose fish, but make sure it’s low in mercury.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “That is another way to bring cholesterol into a good range, and a healthy range.  And to keep your heart healthy is to get fattier fishes like salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel.”

Better to eat naturally – the foods on the outer edges of the grocery store. And you don’t have to eat them cold. Try cooking with kale.

Vicki Shanta Retelny: “I like to throw kale into soups and chili. It just kind of gives more of a robust flavor. It actually thins the blood but actually that clotting mechanism is controlled by vitamin K. So it actually keeps your blood flowing through your blood vessels more smoothly.”

Smoothies are a great way to combine fruits and vegetables, especially for children, since starting a heart healthy diet early is critical for lifelong habits that will help you live a long life.

If you’d like to learn more healthy eating tips from Vicki Shanta Retelny, check out

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