CAT | Studies
A healthy heart has a lot to do with a healthy diet, and summer is the perfect time to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables that not only taste delicious but also provide oodles of benefits for this important organ. Here are six fruits that might surprise you with their heart-healthy benefits, plus one remarkable veggie you may want to get to know a little better—for your heart’s sake!
- Blueberries (and Strawberries)
Nutrient-rich blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol that has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels and protect against artery damage. And their heart health benefits are even greater when paired with strawberries, according to a recent Harvard Medical School Study. The study found that eating more blueberries and strawberries was associated with a 34% lower risk of heart attack.
Loaded with fiber, potassium and beneficial vitamins, the papaya is a powerful ally when it comes to promoting healthy cardiovascular function. The good stuff in papayas supports healthy blood cholesterol levels and may help reduce the buildup of fat in your arteries which can ultimately lead to a heart attack. In addition, papayas contain a nutrient called choline that helps reduce chronic inflammation, which has been shown to contribute to heart disease and poor health.
The tomato is one of few foods that contain lycopene—an antioxidant belonging to the carotenoid family. According to the National Institutes of Health and other sources, lycopene supports the blood vessels surrounding the heart and has been associated with heart disease prevention and a lower risk of stroke. Tomatoes are also rich in beta-carotene, folate, potassium, flavonoids, vitamin C and vitamin E, which together promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the amount of lycopene as a single large tomato? It has to do with its red color, and experts say watermelon plays an important role in the fight against heart disease. Experts recommend storing it at room temperature before slicing to get the most antioxidant benefits.
When it comes to nutrients that are good for the heart, the banana has quite a few—including fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. In studies, bananas have been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels and improve cardiovascular health, as well as significantly lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke. Bananas are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which supports healthy cholesterol levels.
They may require a little extra work when it comes to cooking and preparation, but artichokes are well worth it for their heart health benefits. This unique veggie is chock full of potassium, which studies have shown helps maintain normal heart rhythm as well as promote healthy blood pressure. In addition, the natural plant nutrients in artichokes promote healthy cholesterol and help reduce the risk of stroke, studies have shown.
So as you wrap up your shopping list in anticipation of your next trip to the market, plan on adding at least two or three of these fruits and veggies to your weekly menu. Look for recipes and snacking ideas online, and enjoy a heart-healthy summer!
Choosing organically grown foods is not just a trend. More and more studies are finding that organic food is better for our health than foods grown using conventional farming methods (which typically include the heavy use of chemical-laden pesticides, herbicides and insecticides). If you haven’t yet made the switch, here are three good reasons to go organic.
- Boost Your Antioxidant Intake by up to 40%
Researchers from Newcastle University in the UK recently looked at more than 340 peer-reviewed studies on organic food and published their findings in the July issue of the British Journal of Nutrition. They determined that organic crops and crop-based foods were significantly higher (up to 69%) in key antioxidants such as phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavanones and flavonols, and that choosing organic over conventionally grown foods could mean a 20–40% increase in antioxidant intake levels.i
- Drastically Reduce Pesticide Levels
The same analysis out of Newcastle University determined that conventional crops were significantly lower in residual pesticide levels and had lower levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal known to pose severe risks to human health.ii Cadmium levels were on average about 48% lower in organic crops, according to the study abstract. In line with these findings, a study conducted earlier this year at RMIT University in Australia found that going organic for just one week could reduce pesticide levels in the body by nearly 90%!
- Avoid Probiotic-killing Glyphosate
You may recall from a recent blog how researchers discovered that a chemical called glyphosate—widely used as an herbicide on conventionally grown crops—was shown to destroy the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the human gut that help protect us from illness and disease. Already linked to a broad range of disorders from birth defects to cell damage, scientists now believe glyphosate can cause a gut imbalance that can ultimately interfere with our healthy immune response—as well as impact healthy mood and behavior.
Worried about the expense of organic foods? There are ways around that—such as choosing in-season produce as well as locally farmed fruits and vegetables. This often cuts out travel and distribution costs and results in lower-priced organic selections.