Cardiologist holding heart-shaped item

Ask any cardiologist how you can support your heart through what you eat and they’re bound to tell you to minimize foods high in saturated fat. Scientific research has repeatedly shown that a diet high in saturated fat significantly increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular disease—which is the number one cause of death in the U.S.

That means foods like hamburgers, bacon, cured meats and butter should all be kept to a minimum. But there’s one fatty food that cardiologists say is great for heart health. Keep reading to find out what it is.

Related: Want to Improve Your Heart Healthy Quickly? Here’s How, According to Doctors

The High-Protein, High-Fat Food Cardiologists Love

PSA: Not all fat is bad for your heart. Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats (known as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) support health by increasing HDL cholesterol (that’s the “good” kind) and lowering LDL cholesterol (AKA the “bad” kind). With this in mind, Dr. Giovanni Campanile, MD, an integrative and clinical cardiologist and co-author of The Sicilian Diet Plan, says he recommends eating fish regularly for heart health.

“Fish is a great source of not only protein but also omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Dr. Campanile explains.

Dr. Bradley Serwer, MD, a cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer at VitalSolution, also recommends eating fish regularly for heart health, saying, “One of the best sources of protein is fish, specifically salmon. Salmon contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Other fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, trout, mackerel and herring.”

Related: ‘I’m a Cardiologist and This Popular (and Delicious!) Ingredient Can Make a Big Difference for Heart Health’

In addition to being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, Dr. Serwer says salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel and herring also contain vitamin D, another nutrient that is good for the heart. “[Vitamin D] can lower triglyceride levels, reduce vascular inflammation and have also been shown to reduce the risk of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms,” he explains.

Dr. Campanile shares that fish also contains vitamin B12, niacin and selenium—three more nutrients that support heart health. Vitamin B12 helps reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy. Niacin and selenium are both antioxidants, which help cardiovascular health by protecting against chronic inflammation.

The way you cook your fish matters, if you want to reap as many of its heart-healthy benefits as possible. “Some of the best ways to prepare salmon is to bake, broil or grill the fish. Adding lemon, garlic and low-sodium seasonings adds to the flavor. I recommend avoiding frying as it adds excessive calories and saturated fats,” Dr. Serwer says.

Related: This Is the #1 Sign That Someone Has a Healthy Heart, According to Cardiologists

Other Foods High in Protein and Healthy Fats That Are Good for Heart Health

Fish isn’t the only good source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Both cardiologists say that nuts, seeds, legumes and beans are as well. “These foods not only are good sources of protein, but can actually lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease too,” Dr. Campanile says.

If you are a vegan, Dr. Serwer says you need to be extra mindful to get enough protein and healthy fats through other foods since fish is not part of your diet. “Nuts—especially walnuts—contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory properties, which can improve heart health by reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol,” he says.

In addition to these heart-healthy protein sources, a diet that supports cardiovascular health also includes fruit, vegetables and whole grains. “Whole grains are another great source of protein and they also contain polyphenols, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fiber,” Dr. Campanile explains. He adds that whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes, promote improved digestion, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer.

Dr. Campanile says that a good way to incorporate whole grains into your diet is to consume whole-grain pasta, whole-grain bread, brown or black rice, quinoa, spelt, whole barley, millet, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, whole-grain rye, whole wheat and whole oats. “All these options will significantly boost your nutrition and reduce the risk of heart and other diseases,” he continues.

Opting for protein sources high in unsaturated fats instead of ones high in saturated fats is a habit that will go a long way in supporting your cardiovascular health. Since these foods contain many other important nutrients, your whole body will benefit—even more of a reason to increase your intake!

Next up, find out what the best workout for heart health is for people over 50, according to cardiologists.