Reducing your intake of foods that are high in sodium, harmful fats, and added sugars can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, what you add to your diet is just as important as what you remove.
Meals filled with wholesome vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, fresh herbs, spices, and whole grains can improve blood pressure while also lowering cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. In this segment of Dignity Health YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, we dive into learning about how these foods protect us while preparing a delicious meal that’s packed with color, flavor, and heart-healthy nutrients.
Research consistently shows that meals that are filled with colorful plants provide the nutrients your body needs to fight and heal from cardiovascular disease. There are thousands of nutrients in plants that have the potential to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, moderate blood sugar, maintain healthy blood pressure and protect blood vessels from disease. Just a few of these important nutrients include:
- Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium
- Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Soluble fiber plays an important role in lowering cholesterol, and some of the best sources are:
- Green peas and beans
- Pears, apples, strawberries, oranges and avocados
- Winter squashes and sweet potatoes
- Chia and flax seeds
- Brussels sprouts and broccoli
Fiber also feeds the microbiome, the collection of bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Scientists are learning more about the role the microbiome plays in health and disease, but they already know that plentiful and diverse gut bacteria are linked with lower body inflammation and reduced risk of chronic disease.
Decades ago, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, demonstrated how foods that are low in sodium but rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium could significantly lower blood pressure. This study continued for many years, and consistently proved that food-based sources of these nutrients, not supplements, are key.
Folate, Vitamins E and C, omega 3 fatty acids, and phytochemicals all have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. While protecting the inner lining of blood vessels from damage, these nutrients also prevent blood cholesterol from being dangerous and disease-promoting.
It is likely that these nutrients work together to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, so be sure to enjoy meals that contain a good variety of flavorful plants. All of our videos and recipes are designed to help! You’ll find our extensive collection at yrmcheathconnect.org. Be sure to follow me on Facebook too, at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where I post photos and videos of the plant-forward meals I make at home, plus links to my favorite food and gardening destinations on the web.