Certain proteins, such as fish, poultry, nuts and legumes, and dairy, may benefit heart health. Some evidence suggests they can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regularly consuming appropriate amounts of certain proteins can help with heart health. However, excessive amounts of certain proteins, such as processed or red meat, may negatively affect the heart.

In addition to eating certain protein sources as part of a balanced eating plan, other lifestyle factors to promote a healthy heart can include exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and managing stress.

Read on to learn more about which proteins are most beneficial for heart health and how they can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system.

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Fish is a good food source of protein for heart health. A 100-gram (g) portion of white fish, such as cod and haddock, contains around 19.1 g of protein. Other types of fish such as salmon may contain a bit more at around 20.4 g of protein per 100 g.

Fatty fish such as salmon are also high in omega-3s. These fatty acids may provide several cardiovascular benefits, including reducing the risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of cooked fatty fish a week.

Read on to learn more about omega-3.

Nuts and legumes are plant-based sources of protein. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and peanuts contain healthy fats and minerals.

A 2016 article suggests that these nuts can help lower cholesterol. Moreover, research from 2023 on nuts and heart health suggests that they can help prevent heart disease.

Legumes refer to food sources that come from the Fabaceae family. They can include items such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Legumes tend to be low in fat, high in fiber, and high in protein. For example, 100 g of pinto beans contains 23.7 g of protein.

Research from 2023 suggests that an intake of 400 g of legumes a week can provide cardiovascular benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease.

Skinless poultry, such as chicken and turkey, are lean meats that are high in protein. Evidence notes that 100 g of chicken can provide 31 g of protein; similarly, turkey contains 30.1 g of protein per 100 g.

Substituting red or processed meat with poultry may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. However, when cooking poultry, people should opt for methods such as grilling, baking, or boiling to avoid adding excessive fats.

Dairy products are a good source of protein and essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

Some research says that whole fat dairy may be more beneficial for cardiovascular health than low fat dairy. There is also evidence to say that those with higher intakes of dairy fat have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those with low intakes.

Evidence notes that 100 g of Greek yogurt can provide 8 g of protein, while 100 g of cottage cheese can provide around 11.6 g of protein.

Consuming high proportions of ultra-processed foods may put a person at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. This includes reconstituted meat products, such as chicken nuggets and turkey slices, which some people may view as quick protein fixes.

Red meat, such as steak and beef, can be high in protein. However, there is research to suggest that higher consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

As such, it is advisable for a person to limit their consumption of ultra-processed meats and red meat.

Determining the appropriate amount of protein for heart health depends on various factors, including age, sex, activity level, and overall health.

Generally, it is advisable for 10–35% of a person’s daily energy intake comes from protein sources. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein for most adults is roughly 0.8 g of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. So, a person weighing 75 kg, or 165 pounds, should consume roughly 60 g of protein per day.

To calculate a person’s specific protein needs, consider consulting a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized recommendations based on individual circumstances.

Read on to learn more about protein requirements.

While protein is essential for overall health, including heart health, consuming excessively high amounts of protein may have adverse effects on the body.

Some evidence notes that elite athletes can consume more than 3 g of protein per kg of body weight and have positive effects on their body consumption. However, for an average person, it is not advisable to aim for more than 2 g of protein per kg of body weight.

Some research suggests that long-term high protein intake may lead to chronic kidney disease. A 2023 mouse study suggests that high protein dietary plans may also aggravate kidney dysfunction in those with pre-existing kidney issues.

Choosing the right protein sources can play a pivotal role in promoting heart health. Fatty fish like salmon, nuts, legumes, lean poultry, and low fat dairy are excellent choices that can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system.

These foods are rich in nutrients and may help lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation, improving cholesterol levels, and supporting overall heart health.

Conversely, it is advisable to limit or avoid processed food and excessive red meat consumption, as they can increase the risk of heart disease.