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5 Surprising Foods To Help Your Heart, Backed By Research

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by The Good Doctor, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. The Good Doctor

    The Good Doctor Golden Member

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    Despite advances in health care, heart disease has long been the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC—only recently facing competition from COVID-19 for the top spot, per recent data reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    A whopping 30.3 million American adults—12.1% of the adult population—are diagnosed with heart disease, according to the CDC. Furthermore, 6.7% of all outpatient visits involve coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease, or a history of myocardial infarction, with 7.2% of emergency department visits related to these complaints.

    But there are preventive measures you can take to help keep heart disease at bay, including a heart-healthy diet, along with exercise and other lifestyle changes, such as not smoking.

    The following are five foods proven to help with heart disease, according to the latest research.

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    Strawberries

    These fruits are high in phytochemicals, which may provide cardiovascular benefits, according to the results of a small randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Nutrition.

    In this crossover trial, participants were assigned to either a control or experimental group who drank beverages made of freeze-dried strawberry powder twice daily for 4 weeks followed by a 4-week washout period. The primary outcome was a change in fasting LDL cholesterol. Secondary outcomes included metabolic markers, inflammation, blood pressure, and flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which is a noninvasive assessment of vascular endothelial function taken by ultrasound.
    Although LDL cholesterol levels and various other measures did not improve in those drinking the strawberry juice, systolic blood pressure attenuated and FMD increased/improved shortly after consumption. Of note, phenolic metabolites measured in the blood increased after strawberry intake.

    The authors concluded, “Strawberries may improve vascular health, independent of other metabolic changes. The effect may be related to changes in microbial-derived phenolic metabolites after strawberry consumption influencing endothelial function. Data support inclusion of strawberries in a heart-healthy diet in adults with moderate hypercholesterolemia.”

    Purslane

    You may be unfamiliar with the climate-resilient succulent, Portulaca oleracea L, commonly called purslane. It is largely considered a weed that grows in many parts of the world, in a wide range of environments. But according to experts, it’s a powerhouse when it comes to nutritional, medicinal, and health benefits. It contains 93% water, 3% carbohydrates, 2% proteins, and all the essential minerals, vitamins, and proteins you need. It can be sauteed and consumed on its own or added as an ingredient to other dishes.

    According to the authors of a review published in Environmental Management, “It contains dietary minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, etc. Potassium is the most abundant electrolyte present in purslane. It contains the highest content of vitamin among green leafy vegetables.”

    Of particular note, purslane contains four different types of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to benefit cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids support the heart and blood vessels by reducing triglycerides in the blood, reducing risk of arrhythmias, slowing the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and helping to control blood pressure.

    Legumes

    Worldwide, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes make up 33% of dietary plant proteins, and their health benefits are well documented. Legumes are packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, as well as being a rich source of natural antioxidants. The dietary quality of certain legumes is linked to high-quality proteins and peptides, as well as their balance of amino acids.

    “The health implications of legume-derived antioxidative peptides in reducing the risks of cancer and cardiovascular diseases are linked with their potent action against oxidation and inflammation,” according to the authors of a review published in Antioxidants.

    “Legume proteins form a significant portion of the diet of people from most regions of the world, and their contribution in terms of health-promoting benefits cannot be ignored,” the authors concluded.

    Table olives

    Table olives are a fermented product derived from the fruit of the olive tree. Cultivar, ripening stage, and processing methods all contribute to the nutritional benefits of this food. Table olives are rich in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), primarily oleic acid; fiber; vitamin E; and various phytochemicals including hydroxytyrosol (HT).

    According to the authors of a review published in the Journal of Nutritional Science, “The possible health benefits associated with their consumption are thought to be primarily related to effects of MUFA on cardiovascular health, the antioxidant (AO) capacity of vitamin E and its role in protecting the body from oxidative damage and the anti-inflammatory and AO activities of HT.”

    The majority of data has been derived from cell culture studies and animal studies, the authors noted, adding that further research in well-designed human studies is needed.

    That said, the authors concluded, “the consumption of table olives in moderate amount should be encouraged in the context of a healthy dietary pattern, as a snack or appetizer.”

    Okra

    Okra may have first originated in Ethiopia, where it was cultivated by Egyptians in the 12th century, before making its way through the Middle East and North Africa. It is a dynamic and palatable vegetable, which can be prepared alone or used as a thickening agent in soups and sauces. It can also be used as a sweetening agent in frozen foods, added to baked goods, and pickled. Okra is a rich source of polyphenols, amino acids, proteins, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, all of which yield numerous health benefits.

    According to the authors of a review article published in Molecules, “The phytochemicals of okra have been studied for their potential therapeutic activities on various chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular, and digestive diseases, as well as the antifatigue effect, liver detoxification, antibacterial, and chemo-preventive activities. Moreover, okra mucilage has been widely used in medicinal applications such as a plasma replacement or blood volume expanders.”

    With respect to cardiovascular disease, phytochemicals of benefit include oligomeric catechin and linoleic acid, according to the authors.

    Bottom line

    Research shows that eating these, and other heart-healthy foods, can be a boon to your cardiovascular health. On the other hand, it’s important to be aware of the foods that are bad for your heart, and there are many.

    Finally, the most current guidelines from the American Heart Association and the recently updated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans paint a clear, evidence-based picture of the types of food that support heart health.

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