Fruits and Vegetables – Heart Protective

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Hippocrates

Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes. In one clinical trial, published in the June 19, 2001, edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, subjects in the highest quintile of fruit and vegetable consumption had a 20% reduction in relative risk of coronary heart disease as compared with the quintile with the lowest intake. Most of this benefit was related to green leafy vegetables and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables.

Data from two major studies, the Nurses’ Health study with 71,910 enrolled women (1984) and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study with 37,725 enrolled men (1986) was published in the Nov. 3, 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. At baseline, all participants were free of major chronic disease. In both studies, fruit and vegetable intake was inversely associated with the development of major chronic diseases and cardiovascular disease. The reduction in cardiovascular disease was also noted in smokers.

Results of the Life Span Study, an ongoing study of 40,349 persons exposed and not exposed to radiation from Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings was published in the October 2003 issue of Stroke. Daily consumption of green or yellow vegetables and fruits ( irrespective of other factors in both groups ) was associated with a protective effect for total stroke, and cerebral infarction mortality in both men and women. Risk reduction for bleeding inside the brain, called intracerebral hemorrhage, was 32% in men and 30% in women

“For optimum health, scientists say, eat a rainbow of colors. Your plate should look like a box of Crayolas.” Janice M. Horowitz, TIME, January 12, 2002. Colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Blue/purple fruits and vegetables like blueberries, purple grapes, beetroot, eggplant and plums contain health-promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics. Green vegetables like green grapes, broccoli, green peppers, spinach, green cabbage, peas and green beans contain phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles. White, tan, and brown fruits and vegetables such as bananas, cauliflower, garlic, onions, mushrooms and potatoes contain varying amounts of phytochemicals including allicin and selenium. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, papaya, lemon, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, sweet corn and yellow squash contain antioxidants such as vitamin C as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cherries, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, radishes and beets contain health promoting lycopene and anthocyanins. Besides antioxidant activity, fruits and vegetables also help lower blood pressure and provide fiber. Soluble fiber in fruits and vegetables helps block the absorption of cholesterol from food.

“I drink 6 or seven glasses of water a day. I also drink vegetable juice. And I have at least 5 or 6 pieces of fresh fruit everyday and 10 raw vegetables.” Fitness Guru Jack LaLanne. The US Food Guide Pyramid recommends three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit per day. A vegetable serving is any one of the following: 1/2 cup chopped raw, non-leafy vegetables, 1 cup of leafy, raw vegetables, 1/2 cup cooked vegetables. 1/2 cup cooked beans, peas, or lentils, 1 small baked potato or 3/4 cup vegetable juice. A fruit serving is any one of the following: 1 medium raw fruit, 1/2 grapefruit, mango, or papaya, 3/4 cup juice, 1/2 cup berries or cut-up fruit, 1/2 cup canned, frozen, or cooked fruit or 1/4 cup dried fruit.

Eating fruits and vegetables are associated with other benefits too. Good intake has been shown guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss and afflicting millions of Americans over age sixty-five. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also have a cancer-preventive effect. Consumption has been associated with a reduced rate of cancers of the mouth and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon-rectum, larynx, lung, ovary , bladder, and kidney. It is estimated that one third of all cancer deaths in the United States could be avoided through appropriate dietary modification. Besides soluble fiber, fruits and vegetables also contain indigestible fiber. This sops up water like a sponge and expands when it passes through the digestive tract. This helps regulate bowel movements and can relieve or prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber also may help prevent diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Recent data suggests that fruits and vegetables can also fight the functional decline with aging and delay the onset of Alzhiemer’s disease.

” I did enough research to realize that the healthiest way to live (and lose weight) is to eat a whole-foods diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains; to avoid dairy, meat and sugar; and to cut back on processed foods ” Actress Marilu Henner. Vegetables and fruits are best eaten fresh, preferably grown organically in your own garden. The next best choice is frozen produce. Modern freezing methods preserve the healthy nutrients, so frozen fruit and vegetables can be better than fresh produce that has been left out at room temperature for a long time. Cooking is necessary for some vegetables, as it weakens the cell wall, increasing the bioavailability. Avoid overcooking, as it may destroy vitamins and minerals. Microwaving, steaming or stir-frying in just a little polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil, like olive or canola, is a healthier choice. The risk from pesticides can be reduced by washing the produce before consumption. This will also remove most of the micro-organisms that cause food poisoning.

“By eating fruits and vegetables from each color group, you will benefit from the unique array of phytochemicals, as well as essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that each color group has to offer.” Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, National Cancer Institute. Because each different fruit and vegetable group contains different phytochemicals, one color fruit group is not enough. You get the best health protection by eating regularly from each color group. Just add a different fruit and/or vegetable to all meals and snacks and you will be able to meet your daily requirements. Phytochemicals in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables appear to have additive and synergistic effects, leading to cardiovascular protection. This benefit unfortunately does not appear to work with pills or extracts.