Which fruit is best for the heart? Cardiologists share 5 favorites

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An apple a day might keep the cardiologist away. But many other fruits can benefit heart health in a variety of ways, too.

The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of fruit per day, noting all fruits contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may help prevent heart disease.

Cardiologists say the evidence is compelling.

“We know that people who consume more fruits and vegetables — or eat more plant-based or entirely plant-based — have much better cardiovascular outcomes, meaning that they have fewer heart attacks and strokes,” Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, tells TODAY.com.

“People just really need to load up, and every single meal should be containing fruits and vegetables.”

All the risk factors for atherosclerosis — the plaque build-up that hardens and narrows arteries — are improved when a person’s diet is full of fruits and vegetables, adds Dr. Sean Heffron, a cardiologist in the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Health in New York.

“It’s beneficial from a blood pressure standpoint, but also a weight maintenance standpoint and cholesterol standpoint,” Heffron says.

How does fruit affect the heart?

Bite into a fruit and you get fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin C, according to the American Heart Association.

Fiber can help bind up cholesterol in the gut so it doesn’t go back into circulation, Heffron says, thus helping reduce total and LDL cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol), studies have found. Pectin, which many fruits also contain, does a similar thing to cholesterol, Freeman adds.

Foods rich in potassium help manage high blood pressure, the AHA notes. Research suggests folate reduces the risk of stroke.

The vibrant color of fruits signals they’re loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, which circulate in the body and correct all the damage people accumulate just by living and breathing oxygen, Freeman notes.

“I always recommend going after the brightest fruits you can find,” he says.

Then, there are the phytochemicals — compounds plants produce for their protection — that seem to be beneficial for human health, Heffron says.

“There’s a huge list of them, but the nice thing is they come conveniently packaged in a fruit,” Freeman adds.

Which fruit is best for the heart?

All fruit is good for you, the American Heart Association emphasizes.

The cardiologists say you should focus on eating fruit you like and what’s in season for peak taste. It’s best to get a variety of fruit.

That said, they do have some favorites.

“I tend to like the fruits that are harvested in the North, which are pears, apples and berries, because they have less sugar than the fruits that are harvested in the South,” says Dr. Marc Eisenberg, a clinical cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Here are more of their heart-healthy favorites:


Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are associated with a reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to heart disease, Freeman says.

“I do try to get some kind of berry in most days,” he notes.

“They have a lot of antioxidants,” adds Eisenberg, co-author of “Am I Dying?!: A Complete Guide to Your Symptoms — and What to Do Next.”

“Any type of berries is good… blueberries are great.”

Blueberries are among fruits that have shown “potent cardiovascular protective action,” a study published in the journal Nutrients found. They have properties to prevent inflammation and plaque build-up in arteries, the authors wrote. Blueberries can also lower blood pressure.


This is one of Eisenberg’s favorite fruits.

Apples are a major source of fiber, and contain vitamin C and polyphenols, a type of phytochemical with a cholesterol-lowering effect, the Nutrients study notes.

Eating apples is associated with a reduction in heart disease occurrence, the authors wrote.

“The nice thing about apples is that they’re shelf stable — they can go in your purse, backpack, lunch box, pocket, and they can be fine for days,” Freeman notes.

“So a really convenient way to get extra fruits is to make that your snack.”


It’s rich in potassium and magnesium, and stands out as a source of antioxidants such as lycopene, which is linked to lower stroke risk, according to the American Heart Association. While tomatoes are famous for lycopene, watermelon’s levels are about 40% higher, it adds.

“(Watermelon is) what I enjoy and what I also bring up to patients in the summer, because it's delicious and quite filling,” Heffron says.

“When calories and weight are concerned, watermelon is a good choice.”


Phytochemicals in grapes — including resveratrol and anthocyanin — appear to protect the heart by reducing cholesterol and triglycerides, and resisting inflammation, the Nutrients study found.

They're mostly concentrated in the skin of the fruit, TODAY.com previously reported.

Daily grape intake can "significantly" reduce systolic blood pressure, the first number of a blood pressure reading, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found.

Grapes and raisins contain potassium to manage blood pressure, the American Heart Association notes.

Eisenberg recommended eating both green and red grapes.


When patients ask Heffron what fruits they should eat for heart health, they’re confused when he says avocados and olives.

“But those are fruits and their juice is very healthy — the olive oil and avocado oil,” he says.

There’s an abundance of research linking avocados with heart health, says registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, nutrition editor for TODAY. It has good fat and is a good butter substitute.

She cites a review of studies that found eating avocados twice a day as part of a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet can help lower total and LDL cholesterol. A separate study found higher avocado intake was associated with lower risk of heart disease.

"It is possible to eat too much avocado," Rizzo notes. "Sticking to ⅓ of the fruit daily will keep calories in check and ensure that avocados don’t contribute to weight gain."

This article was originally published on TODAY.com