Updated 14th April 2022

How fruits may contribute to heart health

Packed with vitamins and minerals, fruit can be good for your general health, and many fruits have high levels of nutrients like fiber and polyphenols that benefit your heart

Diets high in fruit have also been linked to a reduced risk of heart attack.

Below, we’ll look at fruits you can add to your diet to get some of these health benefits.

At ZOE, we run the world’s largest nutritional sciences study, with over 15,000 participants so far. Our research shows that everyone responds differently to food and that eating the right foods for your body could lower your risk of long-term conditions like heart disease. 

The makeup of your gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in your gut — is also linked to risk factors for heart disease.

With our at-home test, you can learn about your unique responses to food and which bacteria you currently have in your gut. The ZOE program then gives you personalized recommendations to help you eat the best foods for you. 

You can take a free quiz to find out more. 

Fruits with heart-healthy nutrients

Diets that incorporate lots of fruit and vegetables have been linked to better heart health and lower risk of heart disease

While there aren’t many high-quality studies that look directly at the connections between specific fruits and heart health, lots of fruits contain nutrients that scientists have linked to a healthier heart, as well as related factors like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. 

1. Fiber

Insoluble dietary fiber found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds helps to regulate your digestion, but the soluble fiber in most fruits has also been linked to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a decreased risk of heart disease

Some studies also connect pectin — a specific kind of fruit fiber found in apples and citrus fruit skins — to anti-inflammatory and prebiotic properties that are associated with a healthier heart and gut.

Fruits high in fiber: 

  • apples

  • pears

  • raspberries 

  • oranges

  • strawberries 

  • bananas

2. Vitamins

At ZOE, we know that for most people, it's possible to get enough nutrients from their regular diet, and fruits are one of the best sources of vitamins to include. If you’re taking vitamin tablets on the advice of a healthcare professional, check with them before you make any changes.

As well as vitamins like A and E — which are antioxidants that have long been studied as possible ways to improve overall health — some vitamins have specific heart-healthy properties.

Vitamins B6 and B12 help lower levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, which increases your risk of heart disease in high quantities. 

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Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, can also lower homocysteine levels. A large review found that folic acid supplements were linked to a 10% lower risk of stroke and a 4% overall lower risk of heart disease. However, there was no effect on the risk of developing coronary heart disease specifically. 

Although past evidence for the heart-healthy properties of vitamin C has been mixed, recent research suggests vitamin C may be helpful in treating certain existing heart problems

While much of the vitamin D in the body does not come from diet, past studies have also questioned whether vitamin D is as healthy for your heart as it is your bones and immune system. Recent studies suggest vitamin D deficiency could increase your risk of heart disease.

Fruits high in heart-healthy vitamins: 

  • avocados 

  • oranges

  • clementines 

  • lemons

  • strawberries

  • papayas 

  • guava

  • bananas 

  • mango

  • blackberries 

3. Minerals

Fruits are also a great natural source of minerals, several of which have been linked to a healthier heart. 

Magnesium helps regulate many systems and chemical reactions in your body, including blood pressure and the rhythm of your heart

Iron is crucial for carrying oxygen, so your body needs it to make and circulate healthy blood. Iron deficiency has been associated with heart failure — but equally, too much iron may cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries. 

A recent study of 10,000 adults linked diets high in potassium and low in sodium with lower heart disease risk. However, in some cases, too much potassium — referred to as hyperkalemia — may lead to irregular heartbeats

Fruits high in heart-healthy minerals: 

  • apricots

  • prunes

  • raisins 

  • bananas 

  • apples

  • avocados 

  • kiwi

  • nectarines 

  • cantaloupe 

  • dates

  • figs

4. Polyphenols

Polyphenols are compounds loved by your gut, and they are also good for your heart. With their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, polyphenols can help balance cholesterol as well as lower blood pressure and reinforce the lining of the heart.   

Blueberries and strawberries in particular, which are high in a type of polyphenol called anthocyanins, are helpful in regulating blood flow and reducing metabolic risk factors that could contribute to heart disease. 

Likewise, citrus fruits are a good source of flavonoids, another kind of polyphenol compound, which reduce inflammation and protect blood cells. 

One large-scale study has also connected apples, pears, grapes, and raisins to decreased risk of high blood pressure

Fruits high in heart-healthy polyphenols: 

  • apples

  • blueberries

  • blackcurrants

  • cherries

  • strawberries 

  • raspberries

  • peaches

  • oranges

  • grapefruit

  • apricots

  • nectaries 

  • grapes 

  • pears

  • raisins

5. Carotenoids

Carotenoids are another type of compound with antioxidant properties and are brightly-colored pigments found in plants that increase the effects of nutrients — like vitamin A — in your bloodstream.

Beta-carotene (a red-orange pigment) and lycopene (a red pigment) are especially common in fruits and have been studied for their heart health benefits.

Beta-carotene has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and stroke, while lycopene has been associated with reduced buildup of artery plaque and “bad” cholesterol oxidation, as well as improved blood pressure

You can only get carotenoids through your diet, so they’re another reason why ZOE always recommends eating a rainbow of plants

Fruits high in heart-healthy carotenoids:

  • tomatoes

  • grapefruits

  • papayas

  • guava 

  • cantelope

  • apricots

  • apples

  • peaches

  • tangerines

  • nectarines

  • watermelons

Everyone’s responses to foods are different

ZOE runs the largest nutrition science study in the world. The data we’ve collected show that everyone responds differently to food — and that includes fruit.

When you eat, your blood sugar and blood fat levels increase before dropping back down again. This is completely normal. However, some foods lead to high blood sugar “spikes” followed by “crashes.” 

In the short term, these crashes can lead to you feeling tired or low in energy. But if these spikes and crashes happen repeatedly and over a longer term, they can start to increase your risk of long-term conditions like heart disease, as well as your likelihood of gaining belly fat, which is a risk factor for heart disease and other serious conditions.  

How you respond to the fruits you eat is unique to you. Even if you eat the same type of fruit as another person, one of you might have a large blood sugar rise while the other might experience a moderate blood sugar response.

These examples of a moderate and a large blood sugar spike from ZOE's data show that individual responses to bananas, for example, vary widely across the population:

The composition of your gut microbiome is also involved in how your body processes food. 

ZOE scientists have identified 15 “good” and 15 “bad” gut bugs. Some of them are associated with your risk of heart disease or other factors related to it, like cholesterol levels and belly fat. 

ZOE’s at-home test analyzes the makeup of your unique gut microbiome and your blood sugar and blood fat responses to food. 

Based on our cutting-edge science, the ZOE program gives you personalized recommendations so you can eat the best foods for your body and your overall health. 

You can take our free quiz to find out more. 

Summary

The fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds found in certain fruits can contribute to both overall heart health and improvements in related factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, and belly fat. 

However, everyone responds differently to foods, and that includes fruit. Over time, these responses can influence your risk of heart disease and other related health conditions. 

The ZOE program gives you an insight into your body’s unique responses to food and helps you to understand which are the right foods for your body. 

Our free quiz could be the first step on that journey.

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