10 Heart-Healthy Nutrients You Haven’t Heard Of

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America, but it’s also one with the most modifiable risk factors. This means your diet, lifestyle, and other daily choices play a big role in protecting your cardiovascular health. Experts agree—certain foods and nutrients can absolutely reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Let’s find out which nutrients give you the most bang for your buck in terms of lowering blood pressure, supporting healthy cholesterol levels, and protecting your heart. 

Learn more about conditions we treat at CentreSpringMD: Cardiovascular Disease | Hypertension | Cholesterol Management 

EPA & DHA reduce the risk of heart attack

Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA & DHA have been on the heart health scene for years—and for good reason.

In 2021, one of the most comprehensive reviews, involving 40 randomized controlled trials with more than 135,000 participants analyzed the effects of DHA and EPA on cardiovascular outcomes. It found that people who supplemented with EPA & DHA experienced (1):

  • 35% reduced risk of a fatal heart attack
  • 13% reduced risk of non-fatal heart attack
  • 9% reduced risk for both congenital heart disease mortality and events

Benefits were achieved with as little as 840 mg of EPA and DHA daily.

Omega-3 fats like EPA & DHA are found in foods such as salmon, sardines, and oysters, but the vast majority of people don't consume the recommended 2 servings per week. Increasing your intake of EPA and DHA-rich food should be a priority due to the variety of beneficial nutrients found in fish, but adding an omega-3 supplement may be the most effective to promote cardiovascular health.

Shop high-quality omega-3 supplements here.

Grape seed extract supports healthy blood pressure, especially in men

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the top modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease—which means you can positively impact your risk. New research shows that grape seed extract is one way to do that.

Grape seed extract has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cardioprotective effects. A recent study published in the journal Nutrients found that supplementation with grape seed extract reduced blood pressure, especially in men, and also helped reduce the perception of stress (2).

Researchers found that grape seed extract significantly reduced pro-inflammatory molecules and increased production of nitric oxide, a natural compound that promotes healthy dilation of blood vessels.

Read: The Warning Signs of Chronic Inflammation You Shouldn’t Ignore

Quercetin protects hardworking heart muscle

People with diets high in phytonutrients like quercetin have lower risk for cardiovascular diseases. Evidence suggests that a big part of this protection is quercetin’s effects on mitochondria, which are the energy-producing parts of cells that surround the heart (3). Essentially, the more numerous and robust your mitochondria, the stronger the heart muscle.

Another review on quercetin in 2020 found that quercetin significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In participants who took quercetin for 8 weeks or more, there were also positive changes in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides (4). 

You can find quercetin in certain fruits & vegetables, like citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea, and red wine. Quercetin supplements are also available for an extra boost to your cardiovascular health.

Flavanols in cocoa and berries support healthy blood vessels

Flavanol intake in the diet has been shown by multiple studies to lower blood pressure. 

And if you needed another reason to love dark chocolate, cocoa flavanols in particular promote healthy blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues. Flavanols can also help maintain healthy cholesterol in the blood and improve the body’s ability to repair damaged vessels (5). 

Olive oil, leafy greens, grapes, dark cherries, blueberries, and blackberries are some of the foods highest in flavanols.

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CoQ10 promote energy production & offset statin side effects

Many cardiologists recommend CoQ10 to reduce muscle pain associated with taking statin medications. Statins are prescribed to treat high cholesterol for those with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, but they’re commonly associated with mild to severe muscle pain, cramps, and weakness. The depletion of CoQ10 is thought to be the main cause of muscle pain associated with statin use (6). Supplementation with CoQ10 may reduce this side effect.

Additionally, those suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF) have low levels of CoQ10 in both blood and heart tissue. One randomized, controlled trial showed a 43% relative reduction in major cardiac events (death, hospitalization, etc.) following supplementation with CoQ10 (7).

In addition to adding a CoQ10 supplement to boost your levels, you can also eat foods high in CoQ10, like:

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Organ meats, like liver and kidney
  • Cooked spinach or broccoli
  • Peanuts and soybeans
  • Fish, especially mackerel, tuna fish, salmon

Learn more: The Antioxidant You Need to Protect Your Heart & Fight Aging

Polyphenols increase ‘good’ cholesterol

These heart-healthy nutrients help fight free-radicals that cause damage to the inner walls of blood vessels. They also help blood vessels to relax and dilate resulting in lower blood pressure. Some polyphenols have also been shown to also increase “good” cholesterol while preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (8).  

Get more polyphenols in your diet from fruits, vegetables, herbs & spices like turmeric, dark chocolate, green tea, and wine. Berries are especially high in heart-healthy phytonutrients and fiber.

Related: The Only Detox That’s Safe & Effective—According to Functional Medicine Experts

Psyllium husk lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol

Psyllium husk is a popular fiber supplement often used to treat digestive complaints, but it’s also a powerful tool for healthy cholesterol. Psyllium husk helps lower LDL and total cholesterol levels by up to 20% .

This type of dietary fiber effectively ‘traps’ cholesterol in the gut, which has the effect of increasing cholesterol removal from circulation. The heart-healthy benefits of psyllium husk can be seen at an intake of about 10 grams per day.

Supplementation with psyllium husk over a period of 3 weeks also led to a reduction in ApoB—a protein found in many cholesterol particles, considered by some to be an even better predictor of heart disease than LDL or other markers (9).

Psyllium husk is available in wafers, bars, and capsules, and as a powder that’s mixed with liquid to form a thick gel.

Magnesium deficiency increases risk of cardiovascular disease

It is estimated that up to 80% of adults are magnesium deficient, yet it is arguably the most important mineral for your heart. Even subclinical magnesium deficiency increases the risk of numerous types of cardiovascular disease, and causes a considerable amount of suffering for patients—especially considering it’s such a preventable deficiency.

One study found that at least 320 mg of magnesium per day was necessary to prevent deficiency, while an optimal amount is likely even higher (10). 

To supplement with magnesium, look for one that has higher bioavailability—such as magnesium bisglycinate or a magnesium chelate. Nuts & seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate are rich in magnesium so add them to your diet for a healthy heart.

Related: The Benefits of Magnesium for Mood & Mental Health

L-carnitine makes energy for the heart

This amino acid helps the hard-working cells around the heart break down and use fats for energy, supporting mitochondria function and protecting the heart from oxidative stress and inflammation (11). 

L-carnitine has also been effective to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity—all of which are also associated with poor cardiovascular health.

You can find l-carnitine primarily in animal proteins, or in supplement form.

Nitric oxide regulates blood pressure

Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule that is naturally produced by the body and is crucial for regulating blood pressure. Lower levels are linked to hypertension and other types of cardiovascular dysfunction.

Beetroot is rich in dietary nitrate, which the body readily converts to NO.

One review concluded that since beetroot is so accessible and inexpensive and could greatly decrease the risk of cardiovascular events, that “beetroot juice supplementation should be promoted as a key component of a healthy lifestyle to control blood pressure in healthy and hypertensive individuals.” (12)

Nutrients for a healthy heart

Eating an overall heart-healthy diet is absolutely essential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, make sure you are getting enough of these key nutrients that play a role in supporting healthy circulation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall cardiovascular function.

Unsure of your current heart-health numbers, or want to be proactive about cholesterol and cardiovascular function? Reach out to a functional provider to discuss the best plan of action for your goals and lifestyle. An integrative approach to heart health includes:

  • CIMT testing to assess your cardiovascular age
  • Nutritional Evaluation that show micronutrient deficiencies that impact heart health
  • Functional Medicine evaluation including a full lipid panel
  • Evaluation of genetic & epigenetic markers

Contact a patient care coordinator to find out more about maintaining or improving your cardiovascular health now.


  1. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(20)30985-X/fulltext
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33671310/
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40131095
  4. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.121.025071
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-015-9794-9
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29027135/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25282031/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820045/
  9. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2021/07000/psyllium__the_gel_forming_nonfermented_isolated.5.aspx
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29241711/
  12. https://www.mdpi.com/2218-273X/8/4/134


heart health, Holistic Medicine

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