Media reports constantly bombard us with claims of extraordinary health benefits of the next superfood. Even as a Naturopathic Doctor, it can be quite overwhelming to keep up with the latest food trend, let alone staying on top of research supporting such claims. This holds especially true in the world of cardiovascular disease where misleading media reports often provide hype on certain foods that may not necessarily be backed by sound research studies. However, in July 2018, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology came out with a useful guide summarizing the evidence (or lack thereof) on the benefits and harms of foods on cardiovascular health.1 Let us explore some top foods showing evidence of benefit to cardiovascular health.
From popular ‘meatless Mondays’ to concerns of the environmental impact with high meat intake, it may come as no surprise that there actually is a lot of research evidence on the benefits of higher legume consumption and cardiovascular health. Legumes include pulses, beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and soybeans. Benefits of legume intake to cardiovascular health include a decrease in poor cardiovascular outcomes (mortality, congestive heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke)2, improved glycemic control3, and lower blood pressure4. Need another way to add legumes into your diet? Try this yummy Black Bean Brownie recipe.
For all coffee-lovers, this is sure to be good news – many large studies show that habitual coffee intake (3 to 4 cups a day) decreased the rates of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular mortality.5,6 Of course, coffee drinks loaded with sugar decreases these health benefits quickly. Looking for great tasting coffee you can make at home? We love Kicking Horse coffee – 100% Fair Trade and organic, and made in Invermere, BC.
If you are not a coffee drinker, teas may be more up your alley. Teas have also been associated with a decrease in ischemic heart disease and major cardiovascular events.7 Many of the benefits from teas likely stem from its high antioxidant content. As with coffee, the research on teas include those without added sugar, flavourings, milks or creams. We like sticking to 100% organic teas, like Traditional Medicinals, to avoid herbicides and pesticides often sprayed on conventional tea leaves.
You either love them or hate them, but mushrooms are gaining ground with a growing number of studies on their health benefits. Although there are no current high-quality studies on direct cardiovascular outcomes, mushrooms have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular co-morbiditiessuch as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.8 ,9How are mushrooms able to do that? They are anti-inflammatory, have a high antioxidant content and can be a source of Vitamin D10– all great reasons to add more mushrooms to your diet. Give this mushroom stew recipe a try!
Omega 3 fatty acids
As one of the most well-studied nutrients on cardiovascular health to date, high omega 3 fatty acid intake (from fatty fish) are associated with lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease and decreased the incidence of heart attacks.11A large area of discussion with our patients often centre around whether eating more fish is enough for these health benefits. Although higher fish intake is recommended, one must be cautious about contaminants like mercury and industrial chemicals (PCBs, pesticides, etc.) that may be present in some fish. Knowing your fish sources and potentially adding in a clean supplement are good ways to introduce omega 3 fatty acids to benefit health.
As Naturopathic Doctors, our goal is to provide clinically relevant, well-researched dietary recommendations for health benefits. It is especially important to ensure the patient understands how such recommendations can benefit their health when we are constantly exposed to fads, trends and unsubstantiated health claims. Your Naturopathic Doctor can be a great resource to help identify what foods are important for you and ways to incorporate them into your life for current and future health benefits.
~ Dr. Patti
1 – Freeman, AM et al. A Clinician’s Guide for Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;72(5): 553-68.
2 – Grosso G., Marventano S., Yang J., et al. (2017) A comprehensive meta-analysis on evidence of Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: are individual components equal? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr57:3218–3232.
3 – U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (2013) Dried Beans (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC)
4 – Jayalath V.H., de Souza R.J., Sievenpiper J.L., et al. (2014) Effect of dietary pulses on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials. Am J Hypertens 27:56–64.
5 – Greenberg J.A., Dunbar C.C., Schnoll R., Kokolis R., Kokolis S., Kassotis J.(2007) Caffeinated beverage intake and the risk of heart disease mortality in the elderly: a prospective analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 85:392–398.
6 – Ding M., Bhupathiraju S.N., Satija A., van Dam R.M., Hu F.B.(2014) Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation 129:643–659.
7 – Li X., Yu C., Guo Y., et al. (2017) Tea consumption and risk of ischaemic heart disease. Heart 103:783–789.
8 – Poddar K.H., Ames M., Hsin-Jen C., Feeney M.J., Wang Y., Cheskin L.J.(2013) Positive effect of mushrooms substituted for meat on body weight, body composition, and health parameters. A 1-year randomized clinical trial. Appetite 71:379–387.
9 – Calvo M.S., Mehrotra A.,Beelman R.B., et al.(2016) A retrospective study in adults with metabolic syndrome: Diabetic risk factor response to daily consumption of agaricus bisporus (white button mushrooms). Plant Foods Hum Nutr 71:245–251.
10 – Guillamon E., Garcia-Lafuente A., Lozano M., et al.(2010) Edible mushrooms: role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Fitoterapia 81:715–723
11 – Chowdhury R., Warnakula S., Kunutsor S., et al. (2014) Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med 160:398–406.