Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables | Vegetables for Heart Health

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cruciferous veggies

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  • According to new research, eating cruciferous veggies—such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts—on a regular basis can improve your heart health.
  • The nutrients in them can prevent calcium deposits from forming on the aortic valve in the heart, which can cause narrowing of the blood vessels and subsequent issues with blood flow.
  • Those who consumed at least 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables—which is only about one-quarter cup of steamed broccoli or half a cup of raw cabbage—were 46 percent less likely to have extensive build-up of calcium compared to those who had little to no consumption of these veggies.

    Plenty of research has tied regular exercise to better cardiovascular health, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and we also know that eating your vegetables is important, too.

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    But a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests some veggies—like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—may have an edge over others when it comes to protecting your ticker. Even if they’re your least favorite in the whole produce section, your heart will thank you for giving them another chance.

    Researchers looked at 684 older women who had been providing data on their health and habits since 1998, and had imaging done at the study’s start on the level of calcification of the walls of their aorta, the main artery that carries blood away from your heart to the rest of your body. (This happens when calcium deposits form on the aortic valve in the heart, which can cause narrowing of the blood vessels and subsequent issues with blood flow.)

    Participants also provided info on their food intake, including which types of vegetables they ate the most on a regular basis.

    They found that those with higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables—which also includes bok choy, cauliflower, and kale—had lower rates of aortic calcification, which means better heart health.

    The reason is likely related to the bioactive compound found most in these type of vegetables, which is vitamin K, lead author Lauren Blekkenhorst, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, told Bicycling.

    Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is still being researched, but shows promise in studies like these as a major factor in reducing calcification risk, she said. Another avenue of future research is determining whether the vitamin has similar effects for men and younger women, she added.

    Perhaps the best part of the study’s findings: You don’t have to consume a ton of these types of veggies to give your ticker a boost. Participants in this research who consumed at least 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables—which is only about one-quarter cup of steamed broccoli or half a cup of raw cabbage—were 46 percent less likely to have extensive build-up of calcium compared to those who had little to no consumption of these veggies.

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    In addition to vitamin K, nitrate might also play a role here. Many of the foods in the cruciferous category were also highlighted in another recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which focused on nitrate-rich, leafy greens—such as bok choy, kohlrabi, radish, lettuce, spinach, and arugula—as well as beetroot juice. In that study, researchers found regular consumption lowered blood pressure, since the nitrate leads to reduced constriction of blood vessels.

    The takeaway here, according to Blekkenhorst: Eat your vegetables, and not just a small selection of your usual favorites.

    “The public needs to be consuming a healthy, balanced diet consisting of whole foods with a wide range of vegetables,” she said. “In your five-to-six minimum servings per day, including at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables can make a difference for reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke.”

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