There are many different foods that protect against heart disease and others that have the opposite effect. Foods that protect against heart disease range from nuts and seeds to vegetables, specific vitamins or organically grown produce.
Foods that have the opposite effect have been well documented. Foods that contain trans fatty acids, highly processed or high amounts of white flour all contribute to poor nutritional habits and increased risks of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Although scientists have pinpointed several different foods that protect against heart disease the real protection comes from some of the different natural chemicals in the foods.
For instance, flavenoids are a chemical that scientists believe protect against heart disease. These chemicals are found in tomatoes, red wine, and dark chocolate. In a new study researchers found that organically grown tomatoes have a higher level of flavenoids that protect against cardiovascular disease. Published in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry the researchers said that the level of flavenoids in an organically grown tomato is almost twice as high as those conventionally grown. (1)
The lead author of the study was surprised by the increase in the amount of flavenoids found in the tomatoes over time. The levels continued to increase with each planting that used organic methods for pest control and fertilization.
Another chemical that has been found in foods that protect against heart disease is folic acid. In a recent study released in the British Medical Journal researchers found through evaluation of randomized and cohort studies that folic acid reduces the levels of homocysteine concentrations in the blood. Homocysteine is responsible for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease resulting in both heart disease and stroke. (2)
The study showed that folic acid decreased the levels of homocysteine and thus reduced the risk of heart disease. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, oranges, strawberries, avocados, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, chick peas and lentils.
Another food that protects against heart disease are raw nuts and seeds. Several clinical studies have found that nuts have a beneficial effect on lipid levels in the blood. The study found that eating nuts daily decreased the total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad type of cholesterol) while raising the HDL or good cholesterol.
Studies have also shown that the nuts will also increase the overall lifespan of those who consume them. In several large prospective studies (The Iowa Women Health Study, Nurses Health Study and The CARE Study) the researchers have found an inverse relationship between those who eat nuts and those who have a high risk of atherosclerotic heart disease. This means that those who eat a healthy diet of nuts have a decreased risk of the disease.
Another known food that protects against heart disease are fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids. In a statement released in Circulation 2002 scientists revealed that omega 3 fatty acids appear to affect cardiac function, cardiac mechanics and arterial endothelial cardiac function. This means they protect the heart against arrhythmias and clogged arteries. Major food sources of linolenic acid and omega 3 fatty acids are flaxseed and fish. Farm raised catfish tend to have the least amount while salmon and trout appear to have the most omega 3 acids.
Including foods that protect against heart disease and stroke into your diet is a good start to protecting your heart and your future. This is an easy solution that requires little lifestyle changes and even less energy. The benefits to your long-term health and doctor bills will be amazing. Try it and see!
(1) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop management Practices on the Content of Falvonoids in Tomatoes
(2) British Medical Journal: The Effect of Folic Acid Based Homocysteine Lowering on Cardiovascular events in People with Kidney Disease
MayoClnic: Heart-Healthy Diet: 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
HelpGuide: Heart Healthy Diet Tips
Better Health Channel: Heart Disease and Food
FitDay: 7 Foods that Help Prevent Heart Disease
Lund University: Fiber Protects Against Cardiovascular Disease Especially in Women
Mercola: Protect Yourself from Heart Disease with Simple Lifestyle Changes
The American Journal Clinical Nutrition: Whole Grains and Protection Against Coronary Heart Disease