When you were younger, you may not have given much thought to your heart health or the foods you were consuming. But the heart, along with the multitude of changes our bodies experience as we age, goes through its own changes. Adults over the age of 65 are far more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or develop heart disease, and about 82 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are in that same age group.

Doctors agree that there are ways to prevent or delay heart problems. Exercise is one way, but a proper diet is also key to heart health. So, let’s look at some suggestions for a heart-healthy shopping list.

Add These Foods to Your Heart-Healthy Shopping List


Seeing multiple colors on your plate indicates concentrations of specific nutrients. Fruits and vegetables that have a dark green, deep orange or yellow color are particularly nutritious. Berries – including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries contain vitamins and antioxidants vital to our well-being. Spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are also great choices for your shopping list.

You might enjoy an occasional glass of grapefruit juice and praise its high vitamin C content, but be aware that grapefruit juice and some medications do not mix well. The interaction can affect the way the medicine works and produce dangerous side effects, especially if you have high blood pressure or an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. If you suffer from these, consult with your physician before enjoying your next glass.


Consuming nuts may lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which play a major role in the buildup of plaque deposits in arteries. Nuts are also rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids — another advantage for our hearts. Walnuts and pecans are high in antioxidants, which Medical News Today lists among other antioxidant foods that stabilize harmful by-products of the body’s energy-making machinery. These by-products, known as free radicals, can damage DNA, make LDL (also known as “bad”) cholesterol even worse, and wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.


The dietary fiber in whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve cholesterol levels. Cereals like Grape Nuts, which do not contain extra sugar and provide fiber as well as a variety of nutrients, are a good heart-healthy shopping list staple. Foods rich in fiber also help control hunger because they are more filling.


Tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, cod, trout, mahi mahi and whitefish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides (fat in your blood) and slow the buildup of plaque in your arteries.


These foods also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are high in fiber and nutrients, low in fat, and cholesterol-free.


The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan was developed through research by National Institutes of Health. DASH is recognized not only for its ability to lower blood pressure but for helping prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The DASH diet provides daily and weekly nutritional goals aimed at lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.

What to Replace for a Heart-Healthy Shopping List

Now that you have identified some heart-healthy items to add to your shopping list, what should you limit or eliminate entirely? Here is a list of foods that sound healthy, but aren’t necessarily the best for you:

  • Breads labeled “wheat” or “multi-grain,” which are made from refined bleached flour and not actually whole grain (read the food label for specific ingredients)
  • Some pasta sauces that are loaded with sugar and high in fructose corn syrup, sodium, and fillers
  • Prepared tuna, chicken, and shrimp salads are often filled with hidden fats and calories due to their high mayonnaise and oil content

Also, watch out for foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. This includes some margarines, vegetable shortening, baked goods, ready-to-use dough and coffee creamers. Deep-fried foods are also a source of hydrogenated fats, as well as highly processed foods which contain high levels of salt, fat and hydrogenated oils. Bacon is highly processed and has high levels of sodium and preservatives. One slice of bacon accounts for 8 to 10 percent of the recommended daily sodium intake. Likewise, limit or eliminate processed meat, like lunch meats and sausages.

Dried fruit often contains high amounts of sugar. Fruit snacks have little fruit but plenty of high- fructose corn syrup and cane sugar. Instant ramen is loaded with sodium, which boosts blood pressure. Also, check out the nutrition information on frozen dinners, many of which hide large quantities of sodium.

Alcohol is another item to avoid. Although many studies have been conducted, it is still difficult to determine if moderate consumption of red wine lowers the risk for heart disease. The health benefit could be down to the chance that red wine drinkers might be more likely to eat a heart-healthy diet. However, frequent or excessive drinking is linked to poor health outcomes, including heart conditions.

Nutrition Labels and Healthy Strategies

When you’re writing out your heart-healthy shopping list, learn what to look for on nutrition labels. The Food and Drug Administration provides information on how to read these labels to help you discover foods that are good for you.

Deciding to maintain a healthy diet can sometimes be a struggle if we are focused on eliminating our favorite foods instead of getting more creative with how we prepare their healthy alternatives. Strategies to easily incorporate a delicious heart-healthy diet into your everyday life include:

  • Sautéed vegetables in sesame or olive oil
  • Seasoning food with spices instead of salt
  • Sprinkling fruit with spices like nutmeg, clove or cinnamon instead of sugar
  • Replacing candy with berries—blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
  • Eating raw vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or carrots instead of potato chips
  • Trying a veggie or turkey burger instead of a fast-food burger
  • Swapping heavy cream-based soups for broth-based soups

Making a Change

Instead of changing overnight, you may find the transition to a healthier diet works better if you slowly phase in some of the above foods as your body’s system adjusts to new tastes and habits. It helps to not think of your new food choices as a temporary diet but as a permanent lifestyle—a commitment enabling you to live long and well.

Note: Seniors should consult with their physician or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to their diet.

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