Heart and Brain Friendly Foods

Phytochemicals are biologically or “bioactive” substances in plants that have positive effects on health. They are also called phytonutrients. More than 2,000 types of phytochemicals that can act as hormones, participate in gene function, while others provide pigments that provide flavor and color.

You can’t go wrong with increasing your intake of plants from the Brassica family – broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and Brussel’s sprouts. There are many studies that have found them to provide valuable nutrients and even help to prevent cancer and heart disease. What makes them so powerful?  They are high in dietary fiber, polyphenols (phytochemicals) and provide over 40 phenolic compounds labeled “cruciferous” meaning their leaves grow in a cross-pattern. Cruciferous means “cross”.

The red color of many cruciferous vegetables is significant. Anthocyanins are pigments that cause the red and purple coloring of many kales, cabbage, and other colorful vegetables. How do they lower blood cholesterol? One study found that healthy volunteers a fed a beverage of primarily broccoli and cabbage two times a day for three weeks showed a significant decrease in the so-called ‘bad” cholesterol, LDL. Follow up studies produced the same results.

What Foods Lower Blood Pressure? One important group is those who contain polyphenols – such as berries. They are a large family of phytochemicals particularly in cardiovascular health. Their benefits come from their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood vessel dilating properties, and immune system functions. All fruits and vegetables contain polyphenols, but certain ones like berries, cocoa, tea, pomegranate, olives, and grapes contain especially high amounts.

The Best Cholesterol-Lowering Food: Cruciferous Vegetables.

Harvard researchers found that anthocyanins were the primary flavonoid associated with polyphenols’ benefits to blood pressure control. Just one serving of blueberries per week significantly reduced the risk of high blood pressure by 10% in those over age 60 compared with people in the same age group consuming no blueberries. Anthocyanins are present in other common fruits and berries such cranberries, blackberries, and strawberries.

Cruciferous vegetables

Source; Harvard Medical School, Best Foods for Women’s Health.

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