Eating More Berries May Ward Off a Common Heart Concern
A new study finds anthocyanins, the brightly colored pigments in berries that act as powerful antioxidants, can help prevent the inflammatory response that causes atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the inner walls of blood vessels, is an insidious killer, as it usually develops gradually over time. Many people with this condition are unaware of it until the plaque completely occludes blood flow, which leads to a life-threatening event of a heart attack or stroke. Any agent that can prevent or slow the progression of atherosclerosis can preserve health and prolong life.
Berries Decreased Inflammation and Improved Cholesterol
In the study, each member of a group of 146 participants was randomly assigned to consume either 320 milligrams (mg) of anthocyanins or a placebo daily for 24 weeks. The dosage of anthocyanins is the equivalent of what 1 cup of blueberries or black currants would contain.
At the conclusion of the experiment, the findings showed the anthocyanins decreased several platelet chemokines, which are substances that play a key role in the development of inflammation and atherosclerosis. This action correlated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers in participants with high cholesterol. In addition, the LDL, or bad, cholesterol declined; and the HDL, or good, cholesterol rose. In other words, the anthocyanins provided improvements in both inflammation and cholesterol, a dual action that the researchers say can be valuable in “preventing the early development of atherosclerosis.”
What Does Earlier Research Show About the Benefits of Berries for the Heart?
Studies show berries also boost the body’s production of nitric oxide, a substance that lowers blood pressure by enabling the arteries to relax. Moreover, a study published in Circulation found that women who ate more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries per week had a 34-percent reduced risk of a heart attack compared to those who ate less.
How to Include Berries in the Diet
Unquestionably, berries are beneficial for the heart as well as other aspects of health. Here are some suggestions on how to include them in the diet.
- Add them to salads. Tossing a handful in a salad may perk up the flavor so much that you may be able to do without a dressing. Alternatively, blueberries or raspberries mixed with olive oil and other ingredients make a delicious, nutritious salad dressing.
- Make a parfait by alternating layers of berries with layers of plain yogurt. Sweeten with a little raw honey if desired.
- Concoct a smoothie by putting berries, ice and yogurt or almond milk in a blender. You can experiment by adding ingredients such as a banana, raw honey and vanilla.
- Put them in overnight oats. If you aren’t familiar with this dish, it’s a no-cook method of making oatmeal. You mix uncooked oatmeal with plain yogurt and almond milk, and then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. It has a creamier texture than regular oatmeal and is quite tasty.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.