Superfoods and Cardiovascular Disease

  • 1st Revision: Isobel Lester
  • 2nd Revision: Noor Al- Tameemi
  • 3rd Revision: Lucy Walker

It is well known that food is instrumental for optimal health and is a significant protective factor against a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Amongst the sea of infinite wellness and diet trends, you may have come across the so-called ‘superfoods’. Do not be fooled; the term is simply marketing jargon for ‘nutrient-packed food’.

They contain high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help maintain optimal health. While many foods provide a lot of the same benefits, some are worth mentioning for their exceptional nutritional profile.

What are superfoods?

Superfoods are foods that comprise very high nutritional density. In other words, they are packed with large amounts of nutrients while containing  low calorie counts. When incorporated into a healthy, well-balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, superfoods contribute to better cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation and the risk of coronary heart disease.

Top 5 superfoods


According to various studies, blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants among all frequently-consumed fruits and vegetables. These little blue beads are low-calorie, high-fibre, and packed with powerful antioxidants, mainly anthocyanin pigments, which give them their heart health benefits and characteristic color.1

Antioxidants are natural molecules that help fight harmful free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are produced naturally from our energy production processes. They have been associated with various chronic diseases, including heart disease and stroke.2


Garlic, along with other allium vegetables such as chives, onions, and the like, have been shown to provide cardiovascular health benefits. Garlic contains vitamins C and B6, which are involved in regulating blood metabolism. It also contains allicin, a type of antioxidant responsible for reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol level.3

Tip! Consuming fresh garlic provides a greater intake of allicin levels than ready-chopped garlic and odourless garlic products. Yes, they may be pungent but they’re be worth it!


Avocados are a phenomenal source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Unlike saturated fats commonly found in butter and dairy products which increase levels of LDL cholesterol, unsaturated fats accumulate high levels of HDL cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease. Avocados are also full-packed with potassium, a nutrient paramount to optimal cardiovascular health.

Fact! Avocados contain higher levels of potassium than bananas. High potassium intake is correlated with reduced blood pressure and a subsequent decrease in heart attack and stroke risk.6


You may have heard that fiber is incredible for improving heart health. In fact, a study concluded that consuming whole grain oats can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks by up to 25%.4 Whole grain oats and oat bran contain high levels of a fiber known as beta-glucan.

This powerful molecule has the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels when consumed regularly with a low saturated fat diet, thus reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Whole oats additionally contain phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens, plant chemicals that function as antioxidants to lessen the harmful impacts of chronic inflammation.5 Just when you thought that was it, oats are also high in vitamin E, magnesium and potassium; molecules known for their heart-protecting benefits.

Tip! We suggest avoiding instant, single-serving flavoured oatmeal which contains high levels of sugar and sodium. Instead, opt for regular oats and flavour your oatmeal with honey, fruit and cocoa powder.


Eating fish at least twice per week has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Compared to other fish, salmon is particularly beneficial as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fact! Omega-3s are healthy fats that may reduce the risk of heart rhythm disorders, reduce blood clotting and lower blood pressure. They may also decrease triglycerides by up to 50% and curb inflammation.7

However,  there is a catch. While fatty fish is packed with benefits, excessively consuming fish may be harmful due to contaminants, such as mercury and dioxins. Opt for low-mercury choices, including salmon, catfish and shrimp, and avoid high-mercury fish such as swordfish and king mackerel. Fish oil supplements can be taken daily as they are purified from environmental contaminants, however, always ask your doctor first!

Incorporating superfoods into your diet

It is important to note that while these foods comprise high levels of nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties, no one individual food is an accurate dietary measure of total chronic disease risk. Instead, it is the quality of your overall dietary pattern over time that influences cardiovascular health. Superfoods simply provide supplementary benefits to a healthy balanced diet. We therefore suggest focusing on eating a ‘super diet’ rather than concentrating on individual foods. 


  1. Olas, B. (2018). “Berry Phenolic Antioxidants – Implications for Human Health?”. Front Pharmacol. 9: pp. 78.
  2. Leopold, J.A. (2016). “Antioxidants and Coronary Artery Disease: From Pathophysiology to Preventive Therapy”. Coron Artery Dis. 26(2): pp. 176-183.
  3. Rahman, K. and Lowe, G.M. (2006). “Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review”. The Journal of Nutrition. 136(3): pp. 736-740.
  4. Helnæs, A., Kyrø, C., Andersen, I., Lacoppidan, S., Overvad, K., Christensen, J., Tjønneland, A., Olsen, A. (2016). “Intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of myocardial infarction: the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Cohort”. Am J Clin Nutri. 103(4): pp. 999-1007.
  5. Bernstein, A.M., Titgemeier, B., Kirkpatrick, K., Golubic, M., Roizen, M.F. (2013). “Major cereal grain fibers and psyllium in relation to cardiovascular health”. Nutrients. 5(5): pp. 1471-87.
  6. Dreher, M. L., and Davenport, A. J. (2013). “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects”. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 53(7): pp. 738–750.
  7. Peter, S., Chopra, S., and Jacob, J. J. (2013). “A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! - A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system”. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 17(3): pp. 422–429.
  8. Bradley, M. A., Barst, B. D., and Basu, N. (2017). “A Review of Mercury Bioavailability in Humans and Fish”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 14(2): pp. 169.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Vicky Stogiannidou

University of Bath, BSc Biology
Vicky Stogiannidou has graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc Biology where she studied topics related to neuroscience, biochemistry and immunity. Vicky has developed a strong interest in health-related fields, one of these being nutrition. Vicky deeply believes that diet is instrumental for optimal health and is the culprit underlying many chronic diseases today. Beyond the keto diet, she has been researching heavy metals, which are found in many food sources and act as toxic catalysts for numerous diseases.

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