Are you Eating to Increase your Risk of Heart Disease or to Decrease it?

A study just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that if you eat more pro-inflammatory foods like red meat, processed meat, organ meats, refined carbs, and sweetened drinks, you are increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 46% and stroke by 28%.  On the other hand, if you eat more anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables, dark yellow vegetables, whole grains, fruits, tea, coffee, and red wine, you decrease your risk of CVD.

The study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was conducted over more than 30 years with 210,000 participants.  Foods that increased inflammatory biomarkers were considered pro-inflammatory, whereas anti-inflammatory foods reduced these biomarkers.  The study provides evidence that diet can reduce inflammation, which is linked with the development of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.

Foods that are high in antioxidants reduce inflammation.  These include:

  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, cabbage, watercress, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, and endive
  • Yellow vegetables like pumpkin, yellow peppers, squash, and carrots
  • Fruits, especially berries
  • Whole grains
  • Coffee, tea, dark chocolate
  • Red wine and red grapes
  • Nuts.  Another recent study showed that adding walnuts to your diet significantly reduces inflammation in your body

Eating mainly whole, plant-based foods automatically increases your level of antioxidants while decreasing your consumption  of pro-inflammatory foods.  Diets like the Mediterranean diet, which is plant-forward and focuses on the same list of antioxidant-rich foods, can be a delicious way to decrease your risk of heart disease.

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