There are a lot of complex factors that can impact heart health—like genetics and smoking habits—but diet is particularly important. In general, eating lots of fruits and veggies, lean meat and fish, and fibrous whole grains (while being mindful of added sugars and trans fats) is great for supporting heart health. Yet there are a few foods that can be savored every day as a way to protect the heart, and as long as you serve it in different ways, you will never get bored.
Here’s the number one heart-healthy food that Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, an attending cardiologist in New York City and author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life, eats every day to support her ticker—and of course, to add some deliciousness to her plate.
A cardiologist’s favorite food for heart health: avocados
“I eat half an avocado daily,” Dr. Steinbaum says. “It has monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are essential to a heart-healthy diet,” she says. These types of fats are great for heart health in particular because research has associated them with reduced inflammation and lower LDL cholesterol levels (aka the “bad” kind of cholesterol).
Here’s the full rundown of avocado’s many health benefits beyond heart health:
Other reasons why avocados are so great for heart health: They’re high in fiber (which can also help reduce cholesterol levels) and they have been associated with a decrease in metabolic syndrome, Dr. Steinbaum says. (Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.)
“[Avocado] also has vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to decrease the blood pressure and decrease inflammation,” she adds, such as magnesium and potassium. Enjoying avocado after a workout or when recovering from injury, for example, could be helpful since your body needs those electrolytes and joint-healing nutrients to rebuild and refuel itself.
Beyond heart health, avocados in moderation (aka that half fruit per day that Dr. Steinbaum enjoys) come with lots of other health benefits. They’re rich in the antioxidant glutathione (which supports liver function) and can support good sleep and eye health. Really, what’s not to love?
How to enjoy it to reap the benefits
There are tons of different ways to eat avocado, but Dr. Steinbaum loves it first thing in the a.m. “It is great in the morning on multi-grain toast with tomato, as one of my favorite breakfast choices,” Dr. Steinbaum says. You can customize for any avocado toast recipe—add on lox and capers, slices of cheeses, and more.
She also likes to put her avocados in salad—cubed or sliced or set as a half on top—since you can mix it in with the greens and ingredients to provide a creamy element to your bowl. “I also put it in my green smoothie along with fruits and vegetables for a mid-afternoon snack,” she adds, since it adds filling fats to make the snack truly filling.
Honestly, it’s not like we needed any more excuses to enjoy avocado. But now that it has a cardiologist’s approval…well, let’s just say it’s definitely being added to my Instacart order tonight.
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