The Best Nutrients and Vitamins for Preventing Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Thankfully, making healthy lifestyle choices and getting the right nutrients can have a huge impact on heart health. In particular, certain vitamins have been shown to help prevent atherosclerosis – the buildup of plaque in the arteries – which is the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

In this article, we’ll explore the top vitamins for preventing heart disease and how they work. We’ll also look at which foods are richest in these important vitamins, along with tips to help you meet the recommended daily intakes.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is one of the most important vitamins for heart health. Studies show it can help:

  • Reduce arterial stiffness
  • Slow progression of vascular calcification
  • Lower incidence of diabetes and coronary artery disease
  • Decrease cardiovascular mortality

How Vitamin K Protects Your Heart

Vitamin K helps regulate where calcium ends up in your body. It promotes strong bones while also keeping calcium from depositing in artery walls where it can cause atherosclerotic plaque buildup.

Specifically, vitamin K is used to activate matrix GLA protein (MGP), which inhibits arterial calcification. Research shows that people who consume higher levels of vitamin K have a 21% lower risk of being hospitalized for atherosclerosis compared to those with low intakes.

Top Food Sources of Vitamin K

There are two main forms of vitamin K:

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): Found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone): Found in fermented foods like cheese and natto, as well as meats and eggs.

To optimize vitamin K intake, include regular servings of leafy greens along with some fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. Those on blood thinners like warfarin should be mindful of vitamin K intake, as it can interfere with medication effectiveness.

Vitamin D

Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is extremely important for regulating calcium levels in the body. It helps direct calcium into bones where it’s needed, rather than allowing it to accumulate in blood vessel walls.

Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and arterial calcification. It also has beneficial anti-inflammatory effects that support overall heart health.

Where to Get Vitamin D

Some food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Fortified cereals

However, the main source of vitamin D for most people comes from sun exposure. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D naturally.

To boost vitamin D levels, aim for short periods of direct sun exposure without sunscreen. Eating leafy greens and then getting some sunlight may further support vitamin D synthesis and heart health.


Potassium is an essential mineral that is vital for heart health. It helps regulate fluid balance in the body and allows muscles and nerves to function properly.

Research shows that getting adequate potassium can reduce atherosclerosis by preventing calcium buildup in arteries. Potassium helps counteract the effects of sodium, which can raise blood pressure and contribute to plaque formation.

Potassium also relaxes blood vessels and improves endothelial function. This increases blood flow and allows the heart to pump more efficiently.

Top Sources of Potassium

Some of the best food sources of potassium include:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Potatoes with skin
  • Leafy greens like spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans, lentils, and nuts

For maximum potassium benefits, include some raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies, as cooking can decrease potassium content. Those with kidney disease or on certain medications like diuretics may need to limit potassium intake.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins – including B6, B12, and folate – are crucial for breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid linked to increased heart disease risk.

They also help repair blood vessels, slow artery damage, and support red blood cell formation. Good sources include:

  • Meat, poultry, fish and eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Leafy greens
  • Fortified grains

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal foods, so vegetarians/vegans should consider supplements or fortified foods.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that prevents LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming atherosclerotic plaque. It also helps improve endothelial function and blood vessel health.

It’s found abundantly in foods like:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Vegetable oils
  • Mangoes

As long as you eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole plant foods, deficiency is unlikely.


Magnesium helps relax blood vessels and regulate blood pressure, both of which support heart health. It’s also involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body.

Studies show that for every 50mg increase in magnesium intake, there’s a 22% reduction in coronary artery calcification.

Foods highest in magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Soybeans
  • Cashews
  • Black beans
  • Avocado
  • Salmon

Magnesium deficiency is common, so make a point to include these magnesium-rich foods regularly.

Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Heart Health

  • Eat a diet centered around whole, minimally processed plant foods like fruits, veggies, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. These provide antioxidants and the full range of heart-healthy vitamins and minerals.
  • Limit saturated and trans fats by cutting back on processed/fried foods, fatty meats, and high-fat dairy. Replace them with healthier fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish.

Stay active with regular moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. This keeps your heart strong and body weight in check.

  • Don’t smoke cigarettes and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking significantly increases heart disease risk.

Manage stress levels with relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Chronic stress takes a toll on cardiovascular health.

Get lab tests for vitamin D, B12, magnesium, and potassium levels to identify any deficiencies early and customize your supplementation routine.

Take medications as prescribed if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other risk factors. Follow up regularly with your doctor.

The Bottom Line: Include Heart-Healthy Foods

Focusing on getting enough vitamins D, K, B6, B12, folate, magnesium, potassium, and E from food sources and sunlight can go a long way in preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Be sure to include heart-healthy foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and other produce into your daily diet. Stay active, manage stress, avoid smoking, and work with your doctor to control other risk factors.

Making smart lifestyle choices along with sufficient intake of these key vitamins provides powerful protection for your heart.

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