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Food Combinations for a Healthy heart

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Food Combinations for a Healthy heart

Viscous fibre from oats and barley, plant sterols from fruits and vegetables, soy protein, and nuts such as almonds and walnuts: these four types of foods have been shown to improve heart health by increasing high-density lipoprotein.

Viscous fibre from oats and barley, plant sterols from fruits and vegetables, soy protein, and nuts such as almonds and walnuts: these four types of foods have been shown to improve heart health by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good) cholesterol and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol levels.

It was scientists in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto who first looked at combining high-soluble fibre foods such as oats, barley, beans, fruits, and vegetables with LDL-cholesterol lowering foods such as almonds, soy foods, and plant sterols. Three different study groups consuming this dietary portfolio fared as well as those taking statin drugs, with this food combination reducing participants’ LDL levels by up to 30 percent. Now called the Portfolio Diet, the American Heart Association and the US National Cholesterol Education Program seriously consider it the approach to heart health.

The Portfolio Diet focuses on almonds, but walnuts are an equally healthy addition to the list of heart healthy foods. Almonds and walnuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats and some essential fats such as omega-3, as well as plant sterols. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when people consumed 20 percent of their calories from walnuts in particular, their LDL was lowered by more than 16 percent after just four weeks.

Researchers are also looking at new indicators such as homocysteine levels, C-reactive proteins, and fibrinogen. Cinnamon, for example, was used in a 2003 study on blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Sixty adults consuming 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon daily showed reduced glucose levels after 40 days. As an interesting side effect, their LDL cholesterol also reduced by 7 to 27 percent. Use cinnamon liberally on oatmeal or cooked whole grain cereals, in muffins, or in this month’s featured cinnamon chai tea.

The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocado have also been shown to lower LDL levels and to help maintain good levels of HDL cholesterol. Research at Laval University reported in 2004 found that adding a little fat of the monounsaturated variety to a low-fat diet slowed HDL loss from 10 to 3 percent.

Each recipe this month has been specifically designed to incorporate these cholesterol-lowering foods to improve heart health. These recipes feature yams, avocados, walnuts, grains, beans, and vegetables with olive oil, deliciously combined into easy breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. You’ll love their simplicity.

Prepare these dishes regularly and you’ll also love the results at your next medical check-up. Remember exercise is equally important, so turn up the music and dance as you cook.

Recipes

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