Have you ever seen an old bicycle or one of those metal patio chairs that has been lovingly reconditioned to look new? The key to this process is scrubbing off the old accumulated rust and applying a couple of coats of rust-resistant paint. The new coating resists oxidative damage from the elements and keeps the object looking shiny and new for years.
Think of an aging heart as an aging, well-used bicycle. There’s potentially a lot of good years of life left in it, but it needs some care and protection. Regular activity and healthy foods can extend the life of this heart, and the key to this protection is the application of “rust-resistant paint” – well, the organic equivalent, which is antioxidant nutrients.
Antioxidants are found mainly in plant foods in the form of polyphenols. The science is complex, but a simple way to protect your heart is by eating foods with antioxidants as part of a high blood pressure diet. This includes eating a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
When it comes to heart health, certain foods contain anti-coagulants and antioxidants that act as protective factors and anti-inflammatory agents. Here are some of the biggest nutritional superstars:
Blueberries – The blue in blueberries comes from the anthocyanin pigment. Anthocyanins are called phytochemicals (phyto is the Greek word for plant) or nutraceuticals because they act as antioxidants protecting the body’s cells against undesirable oxidative changes.
Green tea – Research studies show that green tea is a potent antioxidant that may reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood clotting damage to arteries. One cup of green tea has more antioxidants than a serving of strawberries.
Fresh oregano – The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks fresh oregano the highest per gram of any herb, fruit, or vegetable in antioxidants – four times as much as blueberries!
Fresh garlic – This lowers blood pressure, may help lower total cholesterol, acts as a blood thinner, and functions as an antioxidant.
What is your favorite heart-healthy dish incorporating these nutritional superfoods?