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Classification of heart-healthy nutrients

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Heart healthy diet PHOTO CREDIT: Food Network

Before I write on the nutrients in the 25 heart-healthy foods, I intend to first of all classify these nutrients.

The heart is such an important organ in the body that no effort should be spared in understanding what nutrients are required to keep the heart functioning optimally, always.

The heart is one organ in the body that needs to be nourished with a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains.

There are specific vitamins and minerals in these food sources that are particularly necessary for the good health of the heart.

For the good health of the heart, we should constantly eat certain diets with these specific nutrients to keep the heart in a perfect working condition.

There are at least nine categories of nutrients that keep the heart healthy if consumed in the proper way.

These nutrients are sourced from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and fish. The different categories are as follows:

Water

The body should be well hydrated to prevent cholesterol build up in the arteries.

As I have often recommended, Lasena alkaline /mineral water is the water of choice.

Make sure you drink sufficient water daily and by sufficient water daily, I am talking of 8 to 10 glasses daily for an otherwise healthy individual.

Antioxidants
Antioxidants are elements that are capable of releasing electrons to free radicals in other to stabilize them and prevent them from destroying the heart or any other organ, cell or tissue in the body.

Examples of antioxidants that support the health of the heart are vitamins C and E and minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Also, there are plant chemicals like polyphenols.

Phytosterols
These are plant sterols that are similar to cholesterol. They act like cholesterol but do not have the same effect as it. They reduce blood cholesterol.

Polyphenols
These are plant chemicals that lower Low Density Lipo-protein (LDL)/ ‘bad’ cholesterol, lower the blood pressure and as antioxidants protect blood vessels from free radical damage.

Examples of polyphenols are the flavonoid polyphenols like catechins, flavonones, isoflavones, anthrocyanins, resveratrol etc.

Phytoestrogens
Found in flaxseed, phytoestrogens have a weak oestrogen-like action. They lower the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides. They prevent blood clots and also lower the blood pressure.

Carotenoids
Alpha and beta carotenoids, lycopene and lutein. They are antioxidants that protect the heart.

Omega 3 fatty acid
There are two major sources of omega 3 fatty acids. One is from fresh, cold water fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and mackerel.

Flaxseed and walnut are the main plant sources of omega 3 fatty acid. They protect against heart disease by preventing plaque buildup on the walls of arteries.

Other properties of omega 3 are; increasing High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)/ ‘good’ cholesterol and reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. They also reduce blood clot formation and lower the blood pressure.

Vitamins
Apart from the antioxidant vitamins, the B complex vitamins prevent artherosclerotic plaque formation and increase blood level of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.

Minerals
Minerals that play a positive role in the health of the heart are potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Fibre
Found predominantly in vegetables and fruits, fibre helps to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood and liver. They are of two types: soluble and insoluble fibre.

The insoluble fibre is not absorbable and so functions exclusively in the intestines where they bind to bile salts and cholesterol and excrete them out of the body.

The nutrients in 25 heart-healthy foods
Here now is the list of the 25 heart healthy foods and the nutrients they contain according to the 10 categories of nutrients listed above.

Furthermore, these foods will be presented in the following groupings: vegetables, fruits, grains/nuts, beans, fish and others.

1. Vegetables
Spinach, thick, dark green leaves that contains lutein, (a carotenoid), B-complex vitamins and folate.

Also, there are minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium and like any other vegetables there is fibre.

Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, it contains beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and folate. Minerals found in broccoli are potassium and calcium, with fibre.

Carrot contains alpha-carotene and fibre.

Sweet potato, beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and E with fibre.

Asparagus, beta-carotene, lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate and fibre.

Red pepper, beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins, folate, potassium and fibre.

Tomatoes, beta and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, potassium and fibre.


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