A guest post by nutrition expert & author Allison Tannis
About one-third of Canadians die from heart disease – a number that has been shrinking thanks to advancements in medical intervention and prevention efforts, including education on heart-healthy nutrition. Mounting evidence proves nutrients, including antioxidants, essential fatty acids and even probiotics, have a profound effect on heart health. Here’s a handful of natural ways to eat your heart healthy.
All of the hype around green vegetables is true! They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes, offering a plethora of health benefits. For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that eating eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, especially of the green leafy variety, resulted in a more than 20 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to eating less than three. In a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that antioxidants in green leafy vegetables reduce heart disease risk by protecting heart rate flexibility. All of this to say that eating more green leafy vegetables is great for your heart.
How do you get more greens into your diet? Dinner is a great place to start - try adding in a darker leafy green (kale, spinach) to your salad, or enjoy broccoli or collards as a side vegetable. Dislike the taste of green vegetables? You can still get greens into your diet by using a whole food green powder in a smoothie.
VegeGreens® is a comprehensive combination of over 60 land, sea and cruciferous vegetables, as well as super green foods, EFAs, pre- and probiotics, enzymes and herbal co-factors. With 9 distinctive blends of green foods and plant extracts, VegeGreens® supplies an extraordinary spectrum of nutrients ranging from the rare trace minerals found in sea vegetables to the health-enhancing compounds exclusive to cruciferous vegetables. Each small scoop provides the nutrient equivalent of 6 to 8 servings of fresh vegetables.
Colourful berries are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients that support health. For example, the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study looked at the dietary intake of 2641 Finnish men, aged 42-60 years, for 12 years to see if food affected the risk of death. They found that the men who ate the highest amounts of berries, fruits and vegetables were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Why are berries so healthy for you? They are a good source of nutrients known to support cardiovascular health: polyphenols (especially anthocyanins) and fiber. In clinical trials, berries rich in anthocyanins (strawberries, chokeberries, blueberries, cranberries) have been shown to significantly improve many factors thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular death (plaque formation, LDL oxidation, dyslipidemia, glucose metabolism, plasma antioxidant capacity). In fact, according to a paper published in Nutrition Review in 2010, “data supports the recommendation of berries as an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet.”
How do you get more berries into your diet? They require virtually no preparation – rinse and then toss them on your cereal, salad or dessert. If fresh berries are not available, try frozen. Or, try a berry-based whole food supplement powder – it’s a delicious and convenient way to get a highly diverse array of antioxidants.
PhytoBerry® is a highly concentrated berry whole food supplement that is loaded with natural antioxidants. Featuring over 40 high ORAC value fruit concentrates, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids and herbal extracts, PhytoBerry® is specifically designed to offer whole body antioxidant protection. A single serving has the equivalent nutrient content of 6 to 8 servings of fresh fruit!
Population studies were the first to note that eating a diet rich in fish oil was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Fish contain two particularly heart healthy fats called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are called essential fatty acids as they cannot be created in our bodies, so we have to get them from food.
Progressive’s OmegEssential® products are high quality, pure fish oils that will help to satisfy your EPA and DHA needs. Choose from our great-tasting liquid or easy-to-swallow softgels.
Every now and then, new scientific discovery revolutionizes the way we think about things. An example is the discovery of the link between microbes in our digestive tract called probiotics with our health – including your heart. Studies have discovered that some forms of helpful microbes, called probiotics, beneficially influence inflammation and cholesterol – two factors associated with cardiovascular health. As such, ensuring your digestive tract contains helpful probiotics may be another way to promote heart health.
How do you get probiotics into your diet? Fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, but even higher amounts are available through supplements. Progressive’s HCP® Probiotics feature 6 human strains that offer a full spectrum of healthy benefits to the human body. It is available in two strengths: HCP®30 (30 billion active cells) and HCP®70 (70 billion active cells) to meet your unique needs.
Food for Thought
If you want long-term heart health, then it’s time to replace deep-fried chicken wings and reclining chairs with chickpeas and a stationary bike. A low-cholesterol diet that replaces animal-based foods for beans, nuts, seeds and fish is important for a healthy heart. Add in nutrients like green vegetables, berries, fish oil and probiotics and you’ve got a menu for a healthy heart the natural way.