The best veggies to help keep your heart strong
Vegetables are good for general health – and some are especially good for the heart.
Packed with vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants, vegetables pack a powerful nutritious punch.
And when it comes to a healthy heart, some vegetables are especially beneficial, according to Edith Cowan University.
Why vegetables are important for heart health
Researchers studied the diets of more than 1000 women and found those with the highest nitrate intake from vegetables had up to a 40 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Nitrate is a natural element found in vegetables, and when broken down during digestion it seems to have positive effects on heart health and blood pressure.
“There are many good reasons to eat more vegetables,” says Tanith Lamaro, senior dietitian at the Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.
“They’re an important source of dietary fibre that is good for our gut health, in particular soluble fibre, which is good for cholesterol levels.
“Vegetables also provide a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support our immune system and help reduce inflammation.
“Most vegetables are also low in energy – helpful when you want to feel full but want to keep kilojoules low to manage your weight.”
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So which vegetables are best for heart health?
Green leafy vegetables
Spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli and broccolini have the highest amounts of nitrate.
A single daily serve – about a handful – provides enough daily nitrate intake.
“Green leafy vegetables are also a rich source of folate that helps reduce homocysteine levels in the blood,” says dietitian, Melanie McGrice.
“Higher levels of homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Lentils, legumes, potato and bok choy
Potassium is an important mineral in the body that may also help protect against stroke and kidney stones.
“For people with high blood pressure, a good intake of potassium from eating five-plus serves of vegetables each day is recommended,” says Tanith.
“Higher potassium vegetables include leafy greens like spinach and bok choy, potatoes, lentils and legumes.”
Pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots
Orange and yellow vegetables are rich in beta-carotene that can help reduce the build-up of cholesterol in arteries, says Melanie.
Eggplant and beetroot
Purple vegetables contain a strong antioxidant called anthocyanin.
It is the natural pigment that gives some vegetables their purple colour.
It is believed anthocyanin can lower inflammation and so help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Other purple vegetables include purple cauliflower and purple asparagus.
Spinach and soy beans
Magnesium is important for healthy heart rhythm, muscle contraction and nerve signalling, says Tanith. Spinach and soy beans are good ways to boost your magnesium intake.
Technically, tomatoes are a fruit but they contain an antioxidant called lycopene that has been linked to a lower risk of stroke.
Finnish researchers found men who included plenty of this antioxidant in their diet more than halved their risk of stroke.
“Tomatoes are a common ingredient in the Mediterranean diet – a pattern of eating that has shown heart health benefits,” says Tanith.
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Written by Sarah Marinos.