Heart-Healthy Foods (cont.)
16. Sweet potato
17. Red bell peppers
21. Acorn squash
24. Dark chocolate
Your Guide to Nutrients in Heart-Healthy Foods
Phytoestrogensare substances in plants (like flaxseed) that have a weak estrogen-like action in the body. Studies suggest that flaxseed lowers the risk of blood clots, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmias. It may also help lower total and LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, and even blood pressure.
Phytosterols are plant sterols that chemically resemble cholesterol -- and seem to reduce blood cholesterol. All nuts and seeds, including wheat germ, have phytosterols.
Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids.
Polyphenols are another set of antioxidants that protect blood vessels, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol. Flavonoid polyphenols include catechins, flavonones, flavonols, isoflavones, reservatrol, and anthocyanins. Non-flavonoid polyphenols include ellagic acid (found in all types of berries).
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon) and alpha-linolenic fatty acids (found in plant foods like walnuts) help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.
B-complex vitamins -- like Vitamin B-12 (folate) and vitamin B-6 -- protect against blood clots and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Niacin (vitamin B-3) helps increase HDL "good" cholesterol.
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
Published on July 12, 2007
SOURCES: Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, dietitian, Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic. Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; owner, Cherry Creek Nutrition, Denver. USDA National Nutrient Database. Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute: "35 Power Foods" and "The Power of Fish: Omega-3 Fatty Acids." USDA: "Frequently Asked Questions About Phytonutrients." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Feature: "5 Surprisingly Healthy Foods," "'Survivor' Foods: 10 Foods to Take to a Desert Island." WebMD Features: "Wining and Dining the Heart," "Proper Nutrition and Heart Health," "7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing," "Sneak 'Superfoods' Into Your Diet." WebMD Medical News: "Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Feature: "Easy Add-Ins to Boost Nutrition."
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