Five Foods for a Healthier Heart

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Five Foods for a Healthier Heart
Five Foods for a Healthier Heart
Five Foods for a Healthier Heart
Five Foods for a Healthier Heart

Oranges

Reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of heart failure THE EVIDENCE: Oranges contain a chemist’s worth of balms for the heart. Their soluble fibre, pectin, acts like a giant sponge, sopping up cholesterol in food and blocking its absorption—just as a class of drugs called bile-acid seques-trants do. And the potassium in oranges helps counterbalance salt, keeping blood pressure under control. But wait; there’s more. New research reveals something even more startling: citrus pectin helps neutralise galectin-3, a protein that causes scarring of heart tissue, which leads to congestive heart failure—a condition that doctors often find difficult to treat.

TRY to eat orange pulp and pith; both contain pectin. You’ll get more pectin in pulp-rich juice, but it’s better to eat your oranges whole.

Kale

Prevents atherosclerosis (arterial hardening)

THE EVIDENCE: Green is good. We all know that dark leafy greens are an essential part of a healthy diet, but it’s time to reach beyond the prebagged spinach. “Kale has everything you’d want in a superfood,” says Dr Joel Fuhrman, who helps patients reverse their cardiovascular disease with diet and exercise. Kale boasts a bumper crop of heart-healthy antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, folate, potassium and vitamin E. It’s also rich in lutein, an antioxidant that promotes eye health. Kale even contains glucoraphanin, an unusual compound that activates a special protective protein called Nrf2. “This protein creates a sort of teflon coating in your arteries that stops plaque from sticking,” says Fuhrman. TRY to look for fresh kale in the produce section of your supermarket. “Choose smaller bunches, as their leaves are more tender than those of larger bunches,” advises Prevention food editor Judy Davie. “Kale is tougher and more fibrous than spinach, so it takes longer to cook. Trim the stalks and then boil, steam or stir-fry the leaves. You can also cook it in stock.”.

Garlic

Lowers blood pressure and reduces plaque.

THE EVIDENCE: Research suggests that garlic acts much like ACE inhibitors, drugs that fight high blood pressure. This clever bulb suppresses angiotensin, an enzyme that constricts blood vessels. This effect is modest compared with that of medications, but garlic still seems to have a significant impact on the build-up of plaque. In three randomised trials, people who took garlic extract slowed plaque progression by more than 50% compared with those who didn’t take the supplement.

Red Wine

Boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduces unwanted clotting.

THE EVIDENCE: Any alcohol nudges up HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol that fights plaque. “But it’s not about resveratrol [the phytochemical in the skin of red and purple grapes that benefits the heart]—you’d need to drink 16 bottles a day!” says John Folts, PhD, professor emeritus of cardiovascular medicine and nutrition. The effect is instead due to polyphenols, compounds that help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting. But this news isn’t a green light to polish off an entire bottle. “Many studies show that drinking one to two serves of red wine a day is fine,” says Colquhoun. “But as soon as you have more than three or four glasses, you lose the wine’s heart-healthy beneKalefits.” For women, drinking any amount of alcohol also ups the risk of breast cancer, so this is one case in which more isn’t better. TRY a Guinness. Stout delivers many of the same polyphenols.

Sardines

Lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol.

THE EVIDENCE: The omega-3 fats in fish are crucial for heart health, and sardines’ levels are among the highest. These healthy fats raise protective HDL cholesterol, lower harmful triglycerides, and reduce both inflammation and the risk of potentially fatal heart arrhythmias. It’s inflammation that ultimately destabilises plaque, causing it to rupture and produce a heart-attack-inducing clot. Although you can find omega-3s in plant sources, such as flaxseed, the longchain omega-3s in fish are far more powerful. Last year, a large Danish study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 38% reduction in ischaemic heart disease among women who ate the most of these little fish.

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