We often don’t think about the importance of heart health until a problem arises and, according to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide – that’s an estimated 17.5 million people a year.

However, simply changing your diet can help stop or even reverse your 
risk of heart disease. That’s a good reason to show your heart a little extra love this season! These ten foods are my most recommended foods to eat for a heart healthy diet:

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to decrease triglycerides and lowers your risk for atherosclerosis and arrhythmia – two of the top heart diseases.

Pomegranate seeds help to lower blood pressure due to their antioxidants and bioactive polyphenols. Hypertension (elevated blood pressure levels) is known to cause heart attacks, heart disease, and atherosclerosis.

Avocados are packed with the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. Several studies have shown that this fat helps to reduce total cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides (by up to 20%), while increasing HDL (the good) cholesterol by up to 11% and decreasing LDL (the bad) cholesterol by up to 22%.

Red wine has long been said to reduce your risk of heart disease, if consumed in moderation of course. The antioxidant, polyphenol, may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart, and resveratrol helps prevent damage to them, which may reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent blood clots.

Blueberries contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant that benefits the heart by preventing the buildup of plaque in arteries and helps to lower blood pressure. One study found women who ate more than three servings a day had a 32 percent lower risk of a heart attack.

Nuts and seeds may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels with their unsaturated fats and fiber content. They’re also a great source of vitamin E which is thought to help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries.

Green tea was given five times a day to over 40,000 adults and resulted in a 26% decrease in risk of death from heart attack or stroke. It’s believed this is due to its ability to lower cholesterol.

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70% or higher) can be very beneficial to your heart health. Besides being a great source of soluble fiber, its flavanols can help to reduce blood pressure by relaxing the arteries.

Chia seeds boast a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon — helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reverse inflammation making them incredibly beneficial in protecting your heart.

Beets contain phytonutrients – betanin, isobetanin, and vulgaxanthin, which help to reduce inflammation which can be the precursor to many heart diseases, such as atherosclerosis.

Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats, while reducing your overall sodium, added sugars, and trans fats, are important steps in protecting your heart.

A great first step is to begin by including these ten heart-loving foods in your diet!

Originally published at medium.com