Australian researchers reports that consuming lots of vegetables may aid older women keep their blood vessels healthy.
The biggest value comes from cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Eating these vegetables was connected to less thickening of the carotid arteries, located in the neck.
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According to the researchers, one sign of an looming heart disease is thickening of the major blood vessels.
“These findings strengthen the importance of adequate vegetable intake to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis [“hardening of the arteries”], heart attacks and strokes,” said lead researcher Lauren Blekkenhorst, associate in the School of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia.
“Recommendations to include a couple of servings of cruciferous vegetables may enhance the health benefits of increasing vegetables in the diet,” Blekkenhorst stated.
She added that this study doesn’t prove a lack of vegetables caused carotid artery walls to thicken, only that there was a link between the two.
Veggies are good for you, Blekkenhorst said, because they’re high in fiber, so you feel full without eating many calories.
“They are also packed full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress,” Blekkenhorst said. Chronic inflammation plays a part in a number of age-related illnesses, including heart disease, she added.
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Blekkenhorst said the benefits of vegetables exist irrespective of the method of preparation and consumption. Though cooking reduces some nutrients, eating cooked vegetables aids digestion and absorption of these nutrients, she said.
The benefits found in the study were limited to vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli, Blekkenhorst said. Other veggies did not show the same protective link.
She said the value of cruciferous veggies stayed intact even after her a woman’s lifestyle, heart disease risk, and other vegetable and dietary factors are taken into consideration.
Blekkenhorst added that it’s essential to consume both raw and cooked vegetables throughout the day.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, not involved with the study says any way you prepare them, you’ll do your body good.
“Whether raw, roasted, steamed, sauteed or boiled, vegetables offer an amazing array of health benefits,” Heller saidd.
Vegetables help you combat infection and reduce your risk for mental decline, some cancers, heart disease and diabetes, she said.
“Inflammation plays a big role in the development of atherosclerosis, so it makes sense that eating foods that help lower inflammation may lead to more supple arteries,” Heller said.
The researchers say it isn’t clear whether men also gain these benefits from vegetables.
“We cannot be certain that the findings will be the same for older men, as the risk factors for vascular disease are different for men and women, Blekkenhorst said.
“But it can’t hurt for men to consume more cruciferous vegetables daily.”
Heller said it seems reasonable to think that men would derive the same health benefits from eating a variety of vegetables.
The researchers had nearly 1,000 women 70 and older fill out questionnaires about how often they eat veggies.
Responses ranged from never to three or more times a day. Types of veggies included onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, beans, leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and yellow, orange or red vegetables.
The researchers used sonograms to measure the thickness of each woman’s carotid arteries and the amount of plaque they contained.
The carotid artery walls of women who consumed the most vegetables were about 0.05 millimeter thinner than those who ate the least.
That difference might be substantial because a 0.1 millimeter decrease in carotid wall thickness was linked to a 10 percent to 18 percent lower risk of stroke and heart attack, Blekkenhorst said.