Surprising Foods for the Heart

Published June 26th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Registered dietitian, Liz Weiss explains in a report published by, Friday, how the foods you may have once considered forbidden are now regarded as important weapons in the fight against heart disease. 



A growing number of studies show that a handful of walnuts a day can reduce cholesterol levels and lower heart disease risk in men and women.  

According to, the most recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (April 4, 2000) found when walnuts were added to an already healthy Mediterranean diet, cholesterol levels dropped even further than expected. Surprised? Don’t be. While walnuts do contain fat (a big reason people avoid them) they are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a “good” polyunsaturated fat which protects the heart.  

Another study from Harvard found women who ate walnuts — and other plant foods rich in omega-3’s — had 50 percent fewer fatal heart attacks than those who did not eat these foods. 

While seafood, especially salmon, contains a hefty supply of omega-3’s most Americans don’t eat a lot of fish. So getting your omega-3’s from a handful of walnuts a day can easily boost your intake. 

Eat walnuts as a snack with raisins and dried fruit, sprinkle them on salads or toss them into your favorite pasta dish 


The Dash Diet 


Here’s some other surprising food news. People often associate calcium-rich dairy products with the prevention of osteoporosis. But for the 50 million Americans with high blood pressure, they too may benefit from milk, yogurt and cheese. A government study called, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension affectionately known as DASH — found two to three servings of low-fat dairy a day plus eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables lowered blood pressure even as much as some medications in people with mild hypertension.  

Experts believe calcium, potassium and magnesium — found in these foods may play a role in maintaining blood pressure. Most adults don’t drink two to three glasses of milk every day so consider an afternoon snack of low-fat yogurt, yogurt topped with fresh fruit for dessert or an ounce or two of low-fat cheese with some whole-wheat crackers. As for the eight servings of fruits and vegetables, that’s more than most people eat, but if you plan ahead, it’s easier than you may think. 



It’s no surprise that a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can lower your blood cholesterol level. But new research shows that the soluble fiber in oats can also lower blood pressure. In fact, one recent study of people taking blood pressure medication found that half were able to go off their drugs entirely by simply eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and a few handfuls of a dry oat cereal later in the day for a snack. Of course, these people were all followed closely by their doctors and only made medication changes under close supervision 



You’re probably going to think I’m nuts, but I’m about to recommend margarine for some people. These two margarine products, Benecol and Take Control, each contain a special plant extract designed to lower cholesterol levels. Eating two to three servings a day along with a healthy low-fat diet, can lower cholesterol levels between 10 and 14 percent.  

There’s a fine line here between food and medicine! Studies show they really do have a therapeutic effect. If you’re watching your budget, keep in mind that these do cost more than regular margarine.  

So by adding some surprising new flavorful foods to your regular healthy diet, you can easily boost the health of your heart -- (

© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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