We don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems like unhealthy temptations lurk around every corner! Whether it’s a whipped cream smothered coffee drink or a savory fried dinner option, making healthy lifestyle choices can be a challenge! At the same time, we are also bombarded by new health and lifestyle fads at every turn. From cleanses and superfoods to antioxidant drinks and workout programs, we are promised quicker, easier and more intense solutions.

At this point, the science is clear; eating well and getting regular exercise is the best foundation for a healthy life. While many of these food and exercise programs are excellent ways to pursue a healthy lifestyle, when it comes down to it, it just doesn’t need to be that complicated. Today, we’re focusing on the healthy eating side of things.

Aside from helping you maintain a healthy body weight, making good food choices has a positive ripple effect. Nutrient-dense foods can help prevent and repair damage to cells, which is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. They can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, improve brain health and lower cholesterol, not to mention boost your immune system.

So, what are these foods? Well, to help you navigate making healthy choices, we’ve put together a list of some heart healthy foods to incorporate into your diet.

7 Heart-Healthy Kitchen Essentials:

1. Fish: High in protein and rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fish is a healthy staple to any meal plan. Consider salmon, tilapia, tuna and trout to be your new best friends. Try a low sodium marinade rub and then grill or bake these tasty options.

2. Beans and legumes: For vegetarians, these provide essential protein to your diet, though they are a great addition for anyone. The fiber in beans and legumes can help reduce the risk of heart attack by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels.

3. Vegetables: Yes, this is a broad category, but your menu should include a broad selection from it! Vitamin-packed and high in fiber, consider this your green light to start exploring recipes that include asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, leafy greens (spinach and kale), bell peppers and more.

4. Fruit: Remember what we said about vegetables? While fruits can be higher in sugar, they should play a big role in your everyday diet, as well. Avocado, papaya and all kinds of berries (blue, black, raspberries, etc.) are on the menu.

5. Nuts: Walnuts and almonds are the most nutrient-packed options, with vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids that lower cholesterol. Remember, this isn’t an “all you can eat buffet” list, so moderation is still key.

6. Whole grains: We’re talking oatmeal and oat bran, not “multigrain” chips and processed snacks. Labels can be misleading, so look for foods high in fiber, low in sodium and fat, and don’t forget to keep an eye on serving size.

7. Dairy: Organic low-fat milk, and the non-dairy option that is just as healthy — almond milk — are an important way to get your daily serving of potassium, calcium, protein and other key vitamins, while also lowering cholesterol. Note: make sure your almond milk has no additives, and your dairy milk has fewer than 130 calories per serving.

Remember, before starting any new health program, make sure to check with your doctor or come by your local urgent care for a physical.

How do you incorporate these heart-healthy foods into your diet? Do you have any favorite recipes to share?