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Healthy Heart

Eat Smart

Your Guide to a Heart-Healthy Grocery List

A Johns Hopkins nutrition expert shows how easy it can be to fill your cart with foods that lower blood pressure and good fats for your heart.

What the Experts Do
Skip Organics?

In your quest to eat healthy foods, it becomes clear that organic foods can cost prohibitively more than non-organics. But what’s most important is that you consume lots of fruits and vegetables, period, says Johns Hopkins expert Kerry Stewart, Ed.D.. “Nutritionally, there’s no evidence that organic foods make that much difference,” he says. Stewart says he doesn’t go out of his way to buy organics. 

To eat for better heart health, you need a fridge and pantry stocked with heart-healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, and fish or chicken are obvious places to begin, but from there the supermarket aisles get a little more confusing. 

Johns Hopkins nutritionist Joshua Nachman, M.S., C.N.S.  put together a grocery list that will make you feel confident about your choices for heart-healthy foods.

“The key is to think about what you can eat,” says Nachman. “That mind-set will set you up for success.” 

Here are his top suggestions for turning your weekly grocery run into an adventure in heart-healthy foods.

Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

You’ve likely heard that added salt can get in the way of any effort to lower blood pressure. But what’s not discussed much are foods that lower blood pressure naturally, says Nachman. You’ll want to look for foods filled with heart-protective antioxidants, vitamins, and the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium. Try:

  • Quinoa (use this versatile grain as you would rice)
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • White beans
  • Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut (the healthiest options are the refrigerated ones, not the canned varieties) and kimchi (a Korean condiment typically made with seasoned cabbage and radishes)
  • Raw cacao seeds (you can eat them alone, or try adding them to smoothies, yogurt or tea)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Halibut

Tip: You can still enjoy the savory flavor of salt, says Nachman—just “look for sea salt with iodine in it and color to it. That means it has nutrients.”

Good Fats

Fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, but some good fats play a crucial role in supporting a heart-healthy lifestyle. These unsaturated fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the two main types—reduce the amount of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood, which in turn can help lower the risk of heart disease. Nachman says the following “good fats” should be considered kitchen staples.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil (if possible, buy unfiltered, extra virgin, cold pressed, unrefined olive oil, which Nachman says is the highest quality)
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, trout and tuna

Tip: If you have a habit of succumbing to impulse purchases (like that bag of tortilla chips cleverly placed near the tomatoes and avocados in the produce section), Nachman suggests shopping with an actual list—and sticking to it.

Find more tips on eating heart smart here.

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