Heart Shaped Foods Good for Your Ticker

A Saint Louis University Dietitian Explains Her Love for Certain Fruits and Veggies

Article ID: 613109

Released: 30-Jan-2014 3:00 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Saint Louis University Medical Center

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwala

    Strawberry: Loaded with vitamins (particularly vitamin C) and fiber, a strawberry also contains high levels of the antioxidants known as polyphenols, which help prevent plaque from forming. The compounds in a strawberry increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower blood pressure, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwala

    Tomato: Rich in lycopene, an antioxidant in red and pink fruits and vegetables, a tomato neutralizes free radicals in the body. High levels of lycopene in the blood are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwala

    Red pepper: Pepper contains fiber, which lowers cholesterol and reduces homocysteine, which is associated with increased risk of heart problems. It’s also loaded with vitamins A and C, which sweep out free radicals that oxidize cholesterol, leading to heart disease. Get extra fire power by choosing a red pepper, which is rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family that is associated with heart health, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwala

    Cherry: Loaded with the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is believed to help protect blood vessels, a cherry also is high also high in potassium, which lowers blood pressure. One cup of cherries has about the same amount of potassium as a banana, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwala

    Acorn squash: Packed with fiber, acorn squash reduces your bad cholesterol, which can clog up your arteries, leading to a stroke or heart attack, and increases your good cholesterol. It also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that reduces your risk of stroke, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

  • Credit: Riya V. Anandwal

    Apple: Because an apple is an excellent source of soluble fiber, it lowers bad cholesterol and encourages the body to use rather than absorb it. Leave the peels on because they contain the polyphenols, which are antioxidants that act like shields in preventing free radicals from damaging cells, says Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

Newswise — ST. LOUIS -- The crumbs from the Christmas cookies are gone and black-eyed peas, eaten on New Year to bring luck, are a distant memory. Declared American Heart Month with Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle, February is here. What to eat to keep your heart healthy?

While some dietitians extol the virtues of red wine, dark chocolate and salmon for heart health, Katie Eliot, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, has a different plan.

Keep it simple. Look to heart shaped foods to protect your heart.

“Being red and heart shaped can be a tip off that some foods are good for your heart,” Eliot says. “Many heart shaped fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. These compounds act like shields, taking the hit from free radicals that otherwise damage the body and cause heart disease and cancer.”

For instance, strawberries and raspberries are loaded with vitamin C and an antioxidant known as polyphenol that prevents plaque from forming. Cherries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is thought to protect the blood vessels, and is high in potassium, which lowers blood pressure.

Tomatoes and red peppers are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is in many red fruits and vegetables and works magic by neutralizing free radicals. And acorn squash and apples contain loads of fiber, which reduces bad cholesterol that can clog up your arteries to cause heart attacks and stroke.

So, while the current recommendation is to eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day, Eliot adds a special suggestion for February.

“To help keep your ticker ticking, celebrate heart month and Valentine’s Day by making sure at least two of those five fruits and veggies are heart shaped or red,” Eliot says. “It’s a happy coincidence that many of these foods actually resemble the organ they help to protect.”

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences offers degrees in physical therapy, athletic training education, clinical laboratory science, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, health sciences, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy, and physician assistant education. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.


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