After Part 2 on Beans and Legumes, let’s continue with some of the best vegetables for a heart-healthy diet.
Artichokes contain a nice amount of silymarin, an ingredient known to cleanse the liver. Also, the standardized extract has been tested as a treatment for high cholesterol and triglycerides. In laboratory, the flavonoids extracted from artichokes, especially luteolin have prevented the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, a confirmed risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Do you remember the fiber we talked about earlier? One large artichoke contains up to 9 g of fiber for a measly 60 calories. The best of both worlds: high fiber and low calories. It also contains about 72 mg of the marvelous magnesium, 425 mg of potassium, a little bit of folate and the eye-friendly lutein and zeaxanthin.
Asparagus is another supremely healthy vegetable. It contains significant amounts of folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene.
This green super-veggie gives you vitamins C and E, calcium, folate, fiber and beta-carotene. Along with spinach, broccoli is a rare natural source of CoQ10. Broccoli is healthiest if eaten raw or lightly steamed.
What makes this vegetable worth eating is its surprisingly large amount of fructooligosaccharides and inulin. What are those? They are happy foods for your intestinal flora.
In my opinion and that of many nutritionists, our immune system health starts in our gut. If you keep your good bacteria happy and well fed, they will help you digest your food and fend off the bad bacteria and viruses.
So, ideally, your acidophilus and bifidus (friendly bacteria) would love to eat fructooligosaccharides and inulin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are called prebiotics – health food – for your probiotics – good bacteria. And inulin is a form of soluble fiber that was found to lower blood glucose, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides as well as inhibit the growth of an assortment of cancers in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Inulin can also be found in asparagus and dandelion.
Garlic, as well as shallots, chives, leeks and onions, is part of the allium family. Allicin, one of garlic compounds released when a garlic clove is crushed or chopped, has a known anti-platelet effect. That is, it prevents platelets in our blood from sticking together (coagulating) and is known as a blood thinner.
Garlic in more than 1,200 studies has proven to be LDL-lowering, anti-hypersensitive (anti-high blood pressure), antioxidant (counter the negative effects of free radicals), antimicrobial (kills microbes) and anti-parasitic (kills the bugs).
German researchers found that subjects taking nearly one gram of garlic per day (900 mg) had up to an 82% reduction in the plaque volume in their arteries, compared to controls who took a placebo powder instead.
Garlic is believed to work by making blood less sticky, preventing the clinging of plaque to arterial walls. These results substantiate that garlic may have more than a preventive effect and even possibly, in the researchers’ words, a curative role in arteriosclerosis therapy (plaque regression).
In other words, garlic can help reduce plaque. Not bad for one little bulb! Garlic is healthiest when fresh or freshly crushed, as well as in fermented form and garlic oil.
Leeks are card-carrying members of the allium family like onions, garlic, green onions and shallots. Increased consumption of this family of vegetables is linked to lower cases of prostate and colon cancers. But more to the point for us, they also lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and can lower blood pressure.
The most famous medicinal mushrooms are Maitake, Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms. They are mostly know for their anti-cancer properties but in Japanese studies, consumption of shiitake mushrooms has been shown to lower blood cholesterol by as much as 45 percent due to an active compound called eritadenine. Closer to home, the Crimini mushrooms and even the Champignons de Paris (white button mushrooms) are replete with nutrients.
Hot Peppers: Cayenne, Chili, Jalapeno, Poblano
You may be surprised but one study showed that capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, may help lower LDL cholesterol. This may need further research but it’s good news for Texans, who love to dip their tortilla chips in fiery salsa.
Peas are a good source of fiber (5.5 g in fresh, 8 g in dried split peas per ½ cup serving). They contain a good amount of vitamin A, vitamin K and 5 g of plant-based protein per serving. You can use them fresh, flash frozen or dried in an assortment of yummy dishes provided here.
Popeye’s favorite vegetable is a delicious, nutritious fighting machine when it comes to heart health. Included among the many heart-healthy compounds in spinach are: potassium, folate, calcium, betaine, antioxidant carotenoid lutein and nitrate. Spinach is also one of only two plant sources of co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which is vital for heart and muscle health.
Sweet potatoes are delicious (especially when mashed) and are a great source of beta-carotene, fiber and vitamins A, C and E.
Obviously, all vegetables are good for you. We should all eat a variety of them. They all contain soluble and non-soluble fiber able to help lower your bad cholesterol levels and increase your good cholesterol levels. They are all loaded with antioxidants that will prevent cholesterol oxidation and prevent plaque creation and deposit in your arteries. I cannot possibly list all known vegetables here; I chose to write about the vegetables known to lower your cholesterol. But that should not stop you from eating a wide assortment of beautiful fresh, colorful vegetables in season.
Continue reading about heart-healthy fruits…