Sep
22
2018

The Best Foods For Your Heart

In the following I will describe 16 foods, which are the best foods for your heart. I will also comment as to why I believe they are best. This review is based on this article in “Medical News Today”.

But I have added many other comments to it.

Heart disease is still the number 1 killer. We need to change what we eat.

Vegetables

The regular intake of green leaf vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) has an association with the  preservation of cognitive function. In the Nurses’ Health Study starting in 1984 women were asked about their usual intake of a specified portion of food items, including 15 fruits and 28 vegetables. At a later date, between 1995 and 2001, researchers decided to ask the oldest participants (70 years and older) to participate in a cognitive function study. Two years later researchers repeated these tests.The main finding of the study is that women with the highest intake of green, leafy vegetables had the least decline in their cognitive function. The vegetable lovers, who consumed five serving of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower had less decline in their cognitive function. On the other hand the highest decline showed up in the group that averaged only 2 servings per week.

Asparagus

Asparagus is a source of fiber, folate, multiple vitamins and chromium. Chromium enhances the function of insulin to transport sugar into cells. Asparagus contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and carcinogens. It is said to help prevent lung cancers, larynx cancer, and bone, breast and colon cancers.

Berries

Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are full of bioflavonoids. These are antioxidants, which prevent cardiovascular disease.

It is the anthocyanines, which prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Berries also have bioflavonoids and reduce lipid formation in the blood. Berries contain fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Broccoli

This fiber rich vegetable helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Broccoli and kale likely have preventative effects against colon cancer.

Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils

Legumes or pulses are a great way to consume plant-derived protein. People who are on vegan diets should be eating them for a protein source. They also contain lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. We know that they lower cholesterol, which prevents heart disease. Other healthy nutrients they contain are bioflavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Dark chocolate

This is a food rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate is chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content. Please note: “milk chocolate” is nothing better than candy and devoid of any health benefits. Dark chocolate increases the protective HDL cholesterol and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is said to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Don’t exceed eating 1 to 2 oz. per day, as chocolate has some sugar in it and the fat content would be detrimental with higher consumption.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids in the form of α-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA reduces LDL cholesterol and it dissolves plaque in the arteries. ALA also reduces blood pressure to a certain degree. All of this helps reduce cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). Note that flaxseeds must be ground to powder to release the nutrients from its tough shell. Both chia and flaxseeds can be used as an egg replacement in vegan cooking.

Fish high in omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly present in fish. It has plaque-reducing properties and also reduces the risk for abnormal heart beats. Overall this means less cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends a 3.5 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice per week.

Coffee

A Brazilian study from 2018 showed that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day would stop coronary artery calcification. Many other studies have shown reduced mortality from heart attacks and strokes with increased coffee intake.

Green tea

Green tea is known to reduce blood pressure slightly and to reduce cholesterol. Both effects are beneficial for the cardiovascular system (prevents heart attacks and strokes). Green tea also prevents many cancers. Whatever we know about coffee consumption seems to also be true for green tea consumption.

Nuts

Nuts contain healthy fatty acids (omega-3). But they also contain fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Use them in desserts, in salads and as a quick food on the go. They are definitely healthier than protein bars.

Liver

Liver is one of the nutrient rich foods. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12 and biotin.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. This is important for prevention of heart disease.

Red wine (may be)

The bioflavonoids of red grapes have been the subject of much research. There is a dose-response curve showing a protective effect with regard to heart attacks and strokes with the consumption of  1 to 3 glasses of red wine per day. But unfortunately there is also a dose-response curve with respect to alcohol consumption and cancer causation. Personally, I take resveratrol from the health food store, 500 mg daily and consume white wine or red wine very rarely.

Tomatoes

There are a number of beneficial phytochemicals in tomatoes. Carotenoids like lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthine and beta-carotenes are helping to prevent prostate cancer and colon cancer. Potassium and folate are cardioprotective.

Spinach

Eating spinach regularly will provide you with magnesium, iron and bioflavonoids. Magnesium is good for a regular heart rhythm. The other nutrients are good for skin, bone and hair health.

Discussion

I have reviewed why these 16 foods are the best foods for your heart. We have seen that many foods that are rich in antioxidants are also cancer preventative. People who eat a Mediterranean diet will get these 16 foods, because their meals are balanced with nutrients. But if you eat a hamburger or a pizza you will not get balanced nutrients. The more one-sided your food intake, the more dangerous your lifestyle becomes. This is the problem with the Standard American diet (“SAD”). You need all of the components of the 16 foods described here. Junk food won’t do, as it consists only of empty calories.

The Best Foods For Your Heart

The Best Foods For Your Heart

Conclusion

It is useful to review healthy foods as was done above. Now it is a matter of including them in your daily food intake. If this is overwhelming you, start with baby steps. One or two healthy foods here or there are a good start. Increase this until you cover all the 16 foods mentioned. The more balanced your food intake is, the more antioxidant vitamins you will get. And the more heart disease and cancer prevention you will experience.

Apart from good, balanced nutrition we also need regular exercise for heart disease and cancer prevention. Go to a gym, go for a walk, climb some stairs. Get away from the computer and television. Together with best foods for your heart this will keep you healthier for longer.

Apr
15
2017

What Foods Lower Insulin Resistance?

When people get diabetes or prediabetes, what foods lower insulin resistance? You may have heard that eating too many carbs and gaining weight can cause high insulin values. This causes the body’s insulin receptors to become sluggish, a condition called insulin resistance. Continuing to eat too many refined carbs leads to a critical point. You can suddenly run out of enough insulin and would develop type 2 diabetes at this time.

So, what foods lower insulin resistance?

Low glycemic food

Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes occur because people do not pay attention to the glycemic load of the food they choose. Many people eat bread, pasta and starchy vegetables like potatoes. They also eat excessive sugary sweets, such as cupcakes, ice cream, or chocolate bars. All the pancreas can do is keeping blood sugar stable by overproducing insulin. But you can assist your pancreas to not overwork itself.

Leave the high glycemic index foods alone. Instead eat low glycemic foods like non-starchy vegetables (peppers, broccoli), lean meats, fish and nuts. Add high-fiber foods like beans and some whole grains. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. Have a dessert with berries that are rich in antioxidants. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and black berries are all low glycemic foods, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They are “nature’s candy”.

Research on insulin resistance

In a study from Singapore differences of insulin sensitivity were found between lean Asian Indians and Chinese and Malays, living in Singapore. The Asian Indians had less insulin sensitivity, which means they had higher insulin resistance. This occurs because of a genetic variant of insulin sensitivity.

Another lengthy publication investigated the connection between metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. In addition it examined the connection of heart attacks and strokes to wrong diets. The researchers pointed out that the percentage of diabetes and cardiovascular disease will reduce significantly on a sensible diet. How is this achievable? By adopting a healthy diet that also leads to weight loss.

Diets in the US and in the Western world have major shortfalls, due to the fact that people consume not enough vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Instead we see a higher intake of red and processed meat. In addition there was higher intake of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Refined grains and flour products are another unhealthy food source. In the US and other westernized countries we see an overconsumption of sodium and saturated fat.The key to a healthy diet was adopting a Mediterranean diet. A study exists where a group of patients with metabolic syndrome consumed mostly whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and olive oil. The control group simply followed a “prudent” diet.

What foods lower insulin resistance? The Mediterranean diet does!

Two years later the group on the Mediterranean diet showed the following results: they had a higher intake of monounsaturated fat (olive oil) and polyunsaturated fat (fish oil) and fiber. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio had decreased. The high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a general measure for inflammation, had decreased. Other inflammatory kinins like interleukins had also decreased. The insulin sensitivity endothelial function score showed improvement. The important part overall was that the Mediterranean diet prevented the metabolic syndrome compared to the “prudent” control diet.

In 2018 a study from Spain was looking for positive effects when supplementing with olive oil or nuts. A Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil or extra nuts reduced the risk of heart attacks in a high-risk group compared to controls. The study included 7447 persons and these were the results after 4.8 years: the Mediterranean diet group that used more olive oil had 28% fewer cardiovascular events compared to the control group. The Mediterranean diet group with nuts had 31% less events. Heart attacks, strokes or death from cardiovascular disease were these “events”!

What foods are unhealthy?

In order to be able to avoid unhealthy foods it is important to identify what harms us. Foods to avoid are listed in this link. Sweetened beverages, fountain drinks, sodas and fruit juices contain loads of sugar. They will cause an insulin response and on the long-term insulin resistance. Avoid starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, pumpkin, corn, and yams. Also avoid processed snacks and boxed foods. Starchy foods break down into sugar, which also stimulates insulin release. Your no-food list continues with excessive sugary sweets, such as cupcakes, ice cream and chocolate bars. White bread, rice, pasta, and flour are also starchy, and the body breaks down starch into sugar and stimulates insulin production.

Some saturated fats are acceptable, but hydrogenated fat must be avoided altogether.

Epigenetic factors regarding insulin resistance

A recent publication on March 14, 2017 investigated the effect of exercise on insulin sensitivity in a mouse model where the mother mouse was obese.

Pregnant, obese mice were insulin resistant and the offspring came down with diabetes. But when the pregnant mice exercised, the insulin sensitivity came back to normal. In addition the offspring were not diabetic. This effect was not due to genetic factors. Instead the authors believe it was due to epigenetic factors, in this case treating insulin resistance with exercise. When the pregnant mother turns insulin sensitive, the offspring is programmed to regulate their blood sugar metabolism normally.

An April 2017 study from Korea investigated the effects of healthy nutrition on patients with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. They noted that avoiding unhealthy foods could normalize markers of disease.

The authors discuss how nutritional factors can contribute to inheritance of epigenetic markers in the next generation. They also showed how dietary bioactive compounds could modify epigenetic factors. Taking dietary components that regulate epigenetic factors contribute significantly to health. The authors concluded that a healthy diet could prevent pathological processes that otherwise would cause metabolic disease.

What Foods Lower Insulin Resistance?

What Foods Lower Insulin Resistance?

Conclusion

It is interesting to note that insulin resistance can be reversed into insulin sensitivity by eating healthy foods. Research papers are now describing how a healthy diet of the mother can affect her offspring positively. These effects are due to epigenetic factors, as genetic factors have not changed.

We are already hearing that diseases like heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and others can largely be prevented by a proper diet. The key is to avoid high glycemic foods and eat low glycemic foods instead. It is not complicated. Eat non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, peppers, broccoli), lean meats, fish and nuts. Add high-fiber foods like beans and some whole grains. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. The end result is that insulin resistance disappears and metabolic processes return to normal. This was what Hippocrates had in mind when he stated “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”