Published on February 17, 2017

Choose foods that support your heart' health

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, take time to care for your heart. The foods you choose to fuel your body can support your heart' health or slowly destroy it.

Eating a healthy diet at all stages of life is integral to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease and other conditions. The American Heart Association says evidence-based research points to eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains with some low-fat or fat-free dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and non-tropical (not coconut or palm kernel oil) vegetable oils.

As a licensed and registered dietitian with Essentia Health, I advocate for heart-healthy choices for my patients. Here are foods that benefit your heart, along with three of my favorite recipes.

Salmon: Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are great reasons to eat salmon. It' one of very few foods that offer vitamin D. Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-clogging effect so they help keep your blood flowing. Salmon also helps keep triglycerides low and HDL, the good cholesterol, high. This salmon patty recipe is a regular at my house and makes it easy to get the recommended two servings of fish in a week.

Almonds: All nuts offer healthy monounsaturated fats with very little saturated fat, which is the bad fat.  Almonds also contribute to low triglycerides and good HDL cholesterol. They're also very high in magnesium, a nutrient that is important for your heart to beat in a regular rhythm. Choose unsalted or lightly salted nuts. My favorite almond is the cocoa-covered variety. 

Berries: Berries are my favorite fruit. Their rich, dark colors signal that they're loaded with polyphenols, the antioxidants that help to get rid of damage-causing free radicals in our bodies. Choose fresh or frozen berries depending upon the season.

Whole grains: Whole grains are a great source of magnesium, selenium and zinc. These nutrients are important to control your heart rate, blood pressure and strengthen the heart muscle. I'm a "chipaholic" so my favorite whole grain food is Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips. Ten of these chips have 18 grams of whole grains. Another favorite is brown rice, which offers 48 grams of whole grain in one cup and is another great source of magnesium. Try quinoa, an ancient whole grain that I use in a lasagna recipe.

Beans and legumes: A low-fat source of protein, beans and legumes also are loaded with soluble fiber that helps manage cholesterol.  To get the four recommended servings each week, I rely on soups. My favorite dried beans are black beans, which I freely add to soups and salads.

Vegetables: Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. A recent study showed broccoli contains a compound called indole-3-carbinol that provides extra cardiac protection. My favorite quick and easy recipe is roasted broccoli and cauliflower. With this flavorful recipe, I can easily get the two to three cups of vegetables I need each day.

Dark chocolate: If there is enough cocoa -- at least 60 percent -- in a piece of chocolate, it provides some great phytonutrients that help ward off the bad stuff in that chocolate. My favorite treat is a 72 percent dark chocolate square. I like the small squares to keep the portion size in line for me.


These salmon patties are a great source of the healthy fats we need. Each patty has at least 800 milligram of omega 3 fatty acids and 17 grams of whole grains.

Salmon Patties
1 pound fresh or frozen salmon fillets or 141/2-ounce can of salmon
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup roasted red pepper hummus (4 ounces)
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
Pepper and Mrs. Dash, to taste
1/2 cup crushed whole-grain cereal, such as Nature' Path Flax Plus
1 tablespoon olive oil

Poach the salmon for about 10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from water and allow fish to cool. (To poach, place fish fillets in large fry pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering until fish flakes with a fork.) If using canned salmon, drain through strainer and place in bowl.

In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, hummus, bell pepper, egg and seasonings. Add salmon and mix thoroughly. Form into patties and then coat each patty with crushed cereal. Warm olive oil in fry pan and cook patties until golden brown.

Nutrition facts
Yield: 5 patties
Serving size: 1 patty
Calories: 315
Total fat: 16 grams
Saturated fat: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 95 milligrams
Sodium: 180 milligrams for fresh/frozen salmon and 530 milligrams for canned salmon
Potassium: 600 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 19 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 25 grams

This lasagna recipe provides 21 grams of whole grain from the quinoa

Quinoa Lasagna
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon (2 cloves) garlic, minced
1 cup (about 4 ounces) mushrooms, sliced
2 8-ounce cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 medium fresh tomato, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces reduced-sodium cottage cheese (350 milligrams sodium or less per serving)
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 to 5 teaspoons chopped fresh basil or 1/2 to 11/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced or shaved
2 cups fresh baby spinach, packed
11/2 cups reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese.

Rinse quinoa well using fine mesh strainer. Add to 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well and rinse. Spread quinoa evenly in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Sautee for 5-6 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add tomato sauce, chopped tomato and sugar. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine cottage cheese, egg and egg white in a small bowl. Mix well. Stir in Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano.

Pour and spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over quinoa. Add all of the zucchini as the next layer and then top with all of the cottage cheese mixture. Top with 1 more cup of tomato sauce followed by all of the spinach. Finish with remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Nutrition facts:
Yield: 8 servings
Calories: 240
Total fat: 9 grams
Saturated fat: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 40 milligrams
Sodium: 320 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 26 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Protein: 16 grams

Roasted Cauliflower
5 cups bite-size cauliflower (and/or broccoli) florets, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place cauliflower in large bowl with oil and pepper; toss
to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Roast until tender-crisp and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 1 cup 
Calories: 100
Total fat: 5.5 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 2 milligrams
Sodium: 90 milligrams
Potassium: 450 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 2 grams

To coordinate interviews, photos, and/or video, contact the media relations team.

Like most websites, we use cookies and other technologies to keep our website reliable, secure, and to better understand how our site is used. By using our site, you agree to our use of these tools. Learn more.