Malaysia government is actively promoting the importance of having healthy heart via advertisements on TVs and radios recently to create awareness among the public. Beside exercises, fruits and vegetables play an important role to help reducing heart disease.
In the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heart Study, it was found that people who consumed at least eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22% less risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who ate fewer than three portions a day. A portion of fruit weighed 80g is equivalent to a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot. The study published online in January this year in the European Heart Journal studied over 300,000 men and women without any history of heart attack or stroke from eight European countries. The results revealed that every one portion increment in fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 4% lower risk of fatal heart disease.
It has been postulated that various antioxidant micronutrients contained in fruits and vegetables reduce atherosclerosis – process of cholesterol plaque formation and buildup in the walls of the arteries – caused by oxidative damage. However, findings from large scale studies looking at effects of these antioxidant micronutrients on the heart have not supported this hypothesis. Proponents of antioxidants have argued that taking supplements such as those used in these studies are not the same as having the whole fruit or vegetable because there are many other components in fruits and vegetables that may confer protective effect on the heart.
Before we start having eight portions of fruits and vegetables, consider some of the following recommendations recommended by the American Heart Association:
- Have eight of more fruit and vegetable serving every day. An average adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day
- Take fruits and vegetables of different colours
- Add fruits and vegetables to the foods we love
- Enjoy fruit-based desserts
- Use healthy cooking method. Roasting, steaming baking and microwaving vegetables are ideal preparation methods
What fruits should we go for? Most fruits are good for our hearts but just avoid the sweet ones if you have diabetes as there is natural sugar in fruits. The ones that are generally good are the ones rich in antioxidants such as pomegranate, red grapefruit, blueberries, kiwi fruit, red and purple grapes.