20+ Heart-Healthy Foods for Your Summer Recipes

20+ Heart-Healthy Foods for Your Summer Recipes

Eating fresh. Staying active. Sticking to a heart-healthy routine can feel easier in the summer — which is why it’s the perfect time to take stock of your grocery list and ensure that you’re choosing ingredients that maximize your cardiovascular health. Here, a cardiologist and dietitian from NewYork-Presbyterian help us understand how we can keep our hearts in great condition—with more than 20 examples of heart-healthy ingredients you can use in recipes now, during the summer, and year-round.

Meet The Experts

Dr. Altaf Pirmohamed is the Director of Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Pirmohamed, who sees patients in his outpatient practice as well as in the hospital, recognizes that the cornerstone of long-term cardiovascular health begins with preventive care and works closely with each patient to individualize their care plan.

Emily Buchholtz, RD, CDN, CSO, is a Registered Dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Emily is an advocate and proponent of nutrition (and exercise) as being integral to caring for patients through the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

​​The Golden Rules for Heart-Healthy Eating 

For Dr. Pirmohamed, the musts start with a plant-based diet: “Focus on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for heart health,” he says. 

For those who want meat in their diet, Dr. Pirmohamed recommends the Mediterranean Diet that’s rich in lean proteins such as salmon and chicken breast, with a focus on other sources of protein such as nuts. The diet also gets good grades for including food that is low in fat and not processed. “If you choose to include animal products, opt for lean sources of protein such as skinless chicken breast, fish—especially fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, and trout—and lean cuts of meat,” Dr. Pirmohamed advises. “Limit saturated and trans fats found in processed and fried foods.”

To learn more heart-health tips from Dr. Pirmohamed and other NewYork-Presbyterian physicians, check out this NewYork-Presbyterian Health Matters article

And remember that eating healthy doesn’t mean giving up your favorite recipes. “You can adopt heart-healthy guidelines to fit traditional dishes and ingredients, making substitutions where possible to reduce saturated fats and sodium,” says Buchholtz.

A Heart-Healthy Shopping List

Meats: Choose lean meats such as skinless chicken breast or turkey, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, and trout).

Fruits and vegetables: Opt for a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as these vibrant hues are directly related to healthy heart antioxidants, fibers, and vitamins.

Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are rich in antioxidants, which have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. They also contain fiber and vitamin C.

Apples are a good source of fiber. Consuming apples has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).

Avocados provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and antioxidants.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red color. Lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

Leafy Greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also excellent sources of dietary nitrates, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure.

Bell peppers, especially the brightly colored ones like red, yellow, and orange, are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and fiber. They can help lower inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Garlic has been linked to various cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels.

Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and antioxidants. They have a lower glycemic index compared to white potatoes and can be a healthier option for blood sugar management.

Beetroot is rich in nitrates, which can help improve blood pressure and enhance blood vessel function. It also contains antioxidants and fiber.

Asparagus is a good source of vitamins and fiber. It has anti-inflammatory properties and may help improve heart health markers.

Grains and starches: Opt for whole grains like oats, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta. Popcorn can also be a heart-healthy snack option when prepared without excess butter or salt.

Herbs: Herbs are great for overall health and can add wonderful flavor to food and beverages without adding sugar or saturated fat. Some of the best summer herbs are basil, mint, and rosemary. Basil is rich in antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation. Mint is rich in vitamins A and C and contains soothing properties and digestive benefits. Rosemary is rich in antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation.

Beverages: Water should be your first choice, but unsweetened herbal teas, low-fat milk, or small amounts of 100% fruit juice can be consumed in moderation.

Foods to Avoid

Keeping your heart top of mind also includes cutting out certain ingredients that will work against all your good choices from the “musts” list above. Dr. Pirmohamed recommends avoiding:

Processed foods are often contain high levels of sodium, unhealthy fats, and added sugars.

Red meats are usually high in fat. High consumption of fatty red meats can increase cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Choose lean cuts of meat and limit portion sizes.

White breads and white rice are rapidly digested carbohydrates that can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Choose whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice instead.

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are high in sugar, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, which can contribute to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.

In addition to these specific ingredients, Dr. Pirmohamed cautions against overeating. “Excessive calorie intake can lead to weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular problems,” he explains. “Practice portion control and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.”

A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Once you’re on the right track with a heart-healthy diet, what else can you do to support your cardiovascular health? Here’s what Dr. Pirmohamed recommends:

Do regular physical activity: Move, move, and move some more. Try to make your 10,000 steps a day. If you can jog or play sports, even better. Incorporate strength training exercises to improve muscle strength and flexibility.

Don’t smoke or use tobacco products: Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your heart health. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as well.

Manage stress levels: Chronic stress can contribute to the development of heart disease. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as engaging in relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, meditation, yoga), pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or seeking professional help, if needed.

Limit alcohol consumption: Although one glass of wine a day has been proven to lower stress and blood pressure, excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and other health issues.

Get good quality sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Listen to what your body needs. Poor sleep quality and duration have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Get regular check-ups: Manage your cardiac risk factors, like your blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar levels, with regular primary care doctor visits. If you don’t keep tabs on these factors, you could develop chronic diseases that can impact your daily life.

Finally, remember that you can always reach out to a cardiologist for additional insight into your cardiovascular health, says Dr. Pirmohamed. They can look at your personal and family medical history to help you better understand your risks and what you can do to improve or maintain your heart health. 

A registered dietitian can also help you tailor your dietary choices based on your individual needs, preferences, and any existing medical conditions, Buchholtz adds. 

A Heart-Healthy Summer Recipe

“Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA,” says Buchholtz, who provided this easy recipe. “These fatty acids have been shown to lower triglyceride levels and reduce inflammation. Salmon is also a good source of protein.”

Mint Chimichurri Salmon

Salmon Ingredients

Salmon fillet
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt 
Black pepper

Mint Chimichurri Ingredients

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh mint 
¼ cup fresh oregano
½ cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
⅓ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt


Mint Chimichurri
Add all the ingredients for the chimichurri into a blender or food processor. Blend until you reach your desired consistency.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Place the salmon skin-side down on the baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and coat the top with about 2 tablespoons of the mint chimichurri. Bake for 12-15 minutes. 

Remove salmon from oven and serve warm with the remaining chimichurri drizzled over.

For additional health and wellness insights from the team at NewYork-Presbyterian, bookmark healthmatters.nyp.org. Shop for heart-healthy ingredients and more at Tin Building and Fulton Stall Market at the Seaport.