Many of us know eating more fruits and vege-tables may help ward off some
types of cancers, that more fiber-rich foods help to keep us full and
that protein is the foundation of strong muscles and bones.
Food also plays a big role in healthy hearts. Here are five foods that
can help you better manage your cardio-vascular health and ward off heart disease.
These plant-based foods offer a great way to get fiber and a host of nutrients
like B vitamins, iron, cop-per and magnesium without the fat content of
“The benefits may be related to decreasing bad cholesterol in the
body, lower blood pressure related to improving elasticity of the blood
vessels, and antioxidants from the dark or red coats of beans,”
said New York-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Jonathan Valdez.
“Beans also contain folate, which are responsible for lowering blood
levels of homocysteine, which are respon-sible for heart attacks.”
There’s about 50 percent of a daily serving of folate in one cup
of cooked kidney beans and about 90 percent in one cup of cooked lentils.
Whether you’re eating tomatoes in a roasted gazpacho, pico de gallo
or in a chopped salad, their heart-health benefit is clear.
“Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a nutrient that gives the tomato
its red color and one that has very pow-erful antioxidant effects,”
said Dr. Larry Santora, a cardiologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange,
Calif. “Studies show it prevents the oxi-dation of LDL cholesterol,
lowers LDL and also inhibits clotting. Additional research has shown benefits
in lower blood pressure and reduced stroke risk as well as improvement
in post heart attack risk and heart failure. Those with lowest levels
of lycopene in their blood have a three-fold greater risk of a heart attack
While eating raw tomatoes is good, lycopene is best absorbed if cooked
with healthy oils, like olive oil.
Garlic has benefits beyond flavor-ing some of your favorite dishes.
“As little as a clove per day has been shown to lower blood pressure
and even reverse early stages of heart disease,” Santora said. “It
can also raise the good HDL cholesterol, and lower homocysteine, a marker
for vascular disease.”
Valdez said the compound allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s
odor and its heart-healthy properties, is not available in whole cloves
and only become activated when smashed, chopped and then eaten raw.
If you’re averse to incorporating fresh garlic into your diet, Santora
recommended 600mg of dry-age garlic extract twice per day as an effective
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts
You either love them or hate them, but there’s no denying the heart-healthy
properties of these cruci-ferous vegetables. That’s because a substance
known as sulforaphane is naturally found in all vegetables in this group,
but is especially con-centrated in broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
“Sulforaphane may be able to actu-ally prevent inflammation in certain
high-risk arterial areas where plaque tends to form,” Santora said.
“The anti-inflammatory properties help mitigate the damage that
might oth-erwise occur during a heart attack. Their fiber-related nutrients
bind fat in the intestine to prevent its ab-sorption into the blood stream.
Eat them raw or only quickly steamed to preserve heart-healthy benefits.”
Fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines provide high levels of ome-ga-3
fatty acids that the body cannot make on its own.
“Omega 3s have anti-inflammatory effects and lower trigylcerides,”
San-tora said. “Fatty fish consumption has been shown to lower cardiac
Not a big fish eater? You may want to become one because benefits are
greater when fish are consumed rather than taken through fish oil supplements,
here to read the October issue of Heart Monitor.