March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Eat Right.” Following on the heels of February’s American Heart Month, what better time to talk about eating right for your heart. When you think of heart healthy eating chicken breast, salmon, oatmeal and olive oil are probably foods that come to mind. But recent research reveals that other, unexpected foods can boost heart health, too. Let’s take a look at three of them.
A University of Connecticut study found eating raisins and walking reduced the risk of heart disease by lowering blood levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. The study participants who ate raisins also consumed 100 fewer calories a day than a group that walked but didn’t eat raisins. Why? The raisin eaters had higher leptin levels, a hormone that decreases hunger. Also, the soluble fiber in raisins helps you feel full longer and lowers blood cholesterol. Raisins are also one of the highest sources of antioxidants, which protect against oxidation in the body that can lead to heart disease. For ideas to add more raisins to your meals go to http://www.loveyourraisins.com/recipes.
Eating foods rich in choline and betaine may help reduce the risk of inflammation that can increase risk of heart disease. Choline and betaine are nutrients found in eggs as well as beef, salmon, broccoli and cauliflower. Worried about the cholesterol in eggs? Don’t be. A review of studies from the past 30 years published in the journal, Nutrition Bulletin, concluded that eating eggs daily does not significantly raise blood cholesterol. And a recent study with 9500 people showed that eating one or more eggs a day does not increase risk of heart disease or stroke in healthy adults. For healthy egg recipes, check out http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes.html.
Not only does beef contain choline and betaine like eggs, it also boasts plenty of vitamins B6 and B12 that lower blood levels of homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are linked to heart disease. And according to several studies, eating lean beef, as part of a balanced low fat diet, is just as effective as chicken and fish in lowering total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. That’s because 54% of the fat in beef is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which lower blood cholesterol and another third is stearic acid, a saturated fat that doesn’t raise cholesterol. You can find heart healthy beef recipes at http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipes.aspx.
Neva Cochran is a registered dietitian in Dallas. She and her husband, Don, have had a second home in Mason County since 1996 and enjoy reading the Mason County News that is delivered weekly to their home in Dallas.