Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease

Image: Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease

It is often said that presentation is everything when it comes to meals, but there’s an even better reason to fill your plate with colorful foods. The pigment that gives foods like berries their rich red and purple hues also doubles as powerful protection against cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that this pigment, anthocyanin, not only offers antioxidant effects; it also protects people from chronic diseases. Indeed, one of its most impressive feats is lowering the risk of the cardiovascular conditions that take millions of lives each year, such as stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

In a systematic review that involved more than 600,000 participants, British researchers looked at the impact that dietary anthocyanins had on cardiovascular events. They discovered that those who had the greatest dietary anthocyanin intake enjoyed a 9 percent reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease; when it came to death due to heart disease, their risk was 8 percent lower compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of anthocyanin.

The study, which was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, is the strongest argument yet for increasing your fruit intake. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests that people eat a minimum of two servings of fruit per day; just 32 percent of Americans reach that goal.

Choose the right fruits

It’s easy to spot fruits that contain anthocyanins because of their red, purple and blue colors. Some of the best sources include strawberries, blackberries, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and bilberries. They can also be found in red cabbage, eggplant, and purple potatoes. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the fruit’s skins contain the most anthocyanins given their rich color, so make sure you also eat the skin – and be sure to choose organic to avoid pesticide exposure. The review’s authors say that just one to two portions of berries per day are enough to get the anthocyanins you need to protect your heart.

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Anthocyanin’s many benefits

The review is supported by several other studies, including one from 2012 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That study showed a link between a higher intake of anthocyanin and significantly lower systolic blood pressure, arterial pressure, and pulse wave velocity. It also confirmed an earlier study that showed eight weeks of taking blueberry supplements reduced participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 6 and 4 percent respectively.

In addition, anthocyanins can help prevent neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. They accomplish this by improving the communication between nerves and boosting blood flow to the brain. Their antioxidant effect also means they can stop brain damage caused by oxidative stress.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of anthocyanins, consider this: They can fight cancer cells by attacking them and spurring cell death, in addition to activating the enzymes that rid your body of cancer-causing substances.

Studies have also shown that consuming foods rich in anthocyanins can lower your insulin resistance and protect beta cells in the pancreas, which helps normalize blood levels. That means anthocyanin-rich fruits can help inhibit diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the top causes of death in America, affecting 84 million Americans and causing roughly one out of every three deaths. Those are very frightening statistics, so you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consume more anthocyanins and take other steps known to reduce your risk, like exercising and eating as healthier diet overall.

Here’s Why You Should Add More Veggies to Your Diet ASAP

Vegetables can make your skin glow and help you shed pounds without dieting
I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate a meal that didn’t include vegetables. For me, they’re the main attraction at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But I’ve worked with plenty of clients who can go days without eating an adequate amount of veggies. They might opt for a little lettuce on a sandwich, or a side of starchy potatoes, but too often vegetables tend to be an afterthought.

It isn’t that surprising considering the latest data shows vegetable consumption has dropped over the past five years, despite all the positive buzz about this food group. About half of the total U.S. population eats less than 1.5 cups of vegetables a day. And a whopping 87% don’t reach the recommended minimum goal of 2 to 3 cups a day.

As a Health reader, you may be hitting the daily mark. But if you are falling short—or you have a friend or family member who still doesn’t get why veggies are so important, check out the seven points below. 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don’t Like

Veggies make you more attractive

You may have heard that eating healthy foods gives skin a “natural glow,” and it’s very true. One University of Nottingham study found when strangers viewed photographs of people’s faces, they rated the people who ate more produce as more attractive than the people who had suntans. Another study from St. Andrews University concluded that people who ate three additional daily portions of produce for six weeks were ranked as better looking than those with lower intakes. Why the beauty benefit? Veggies have been shown to change skin pigment and improve circulation, which means more blood flow to the skin’s surface, giving you a glowing appearance. Plus they could ward off signs of aging: research shows certain veggies help keep skin firm and wrinkle-free.
Veggies can help you lose pounds without “dieting”

Research has shown that people who eat primarily plant-based diets tend to weigh less. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that over a five-year period, both men and women who ate more plant foods and fewer animal foods gained the least weight. Researchers have attributed this result, in part, to the antioxidants and fiber in veggies, which have been tied to weight loss. In fact, some studies have observed that the body boosts calorie burn after eating plant-based meals.

Another reason is veggies are both filling and low in calories. For example, two cups of spinach contain less than 15 calories. That’s almost 200 fewer calories than a cup of rice. So rather than filling your plate with go-to staples like pasta and rice, swap in veggies and stick to smaller portions of starches. Cup for cup you’ll shave about 200 calories, without having to eat tiny meals.

Let’s face it: If your gut doesn’t feel good, you don’t feel good. People have told me that they’ve cancelled fun plans, lost their sex drive and called in sick due to the discomfort of being “backed up.” Luckily, veggies can remedy digestive problems. The natural fiber in veggies helps strengthen gastrointestinal muscle (kind of like a workout for your digestive system), and push waste through the body faster. One client, who regulated her digestion by eating more veggies, said the dietary change improved everything from her mood to how her clothes fit, because she was no longer sporting a constipation belly bump.

Veggies help support workouts

For all of the reasons already mentioned, veggies help athletes perform at their best. And some specific veggies have been shown to help boost endurance and support recovery. For example, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking 16 ounces of organic beetroot juice daily for six days helped men cycle up to 16% longer than they did with a placebo beverage. Meanwhile 100% tomato juice has been found to reduce exercise-induced stress on the body by as much as 84%. And watercress, a peppery green from the mustard family, could effectively counter the wear and tear of exercise, even after one serving. Veggie-loading, anyone?

Veggies boost happiness

One recent New Zealand study found that a higher produce intake helped people feel more energized, calmer, and happier—and the effects lasted through the following day. Another study, published in the journal Social Indicators Research, concluded that more produce boosted mental well being. So the next time you’re feeling down, skip the cookies and reach for some veggies and hummus instead.
Veggies lower the risk of chronic diseases

It may seem obvious that eating more veggies lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, but you may not realize how much of an impact small changes can make. One recent study found that eating just over one extra serving of leafy greens a day reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%. A higher intake of plant-based foods also means a more alkaline diet, which has been tied to lower risk of diabetes.

Veggies boost everyday energy

Most of my clients say the main thing they hope to improve by changing their diet is their energy level. And guess what? Veggies can help meet this goal too, especially when they replace refined carbs and processed foods. The fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in veggies improve circulation, immunity, mood, digestive health, blood sugar and insulin regulation—all of which translate into feeling lighter and more energized. The best part? These results can be pretty immediate. But don’t take my word for it: Try making veggies the star of every meal for one day, and monitor how you feel. Here are a few ideas:

Breakfast: Make a smoothie with spinach or kale, frozen fruit, a protein powder or Greek yogurt, almond butter and almond milk. Or whip up a veggie-heavy omelet with avocado, and enjoy with a side of fruit.

Lunch: Opt for a salad with lots of greens and veggies, dressed in an olive oil-based vinaigrette. Add salmon, chicken or beans. Top with quinoa or chickpeas.

Dinner: Cook up a stir-fry with lots of colorful veggies in a sauce made from brown rice vinegar and fresh squeezed citrus juice, seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Serve over a small bed of brown rice, topped with sesame seeds.

If you stick to a daily plan like this one, you’ll eat well over the recommended minimum recommendation for veggies. And I bet you’ll notice a tremendous difference in your energy level—even after just one day.

New Consumer Report guide breaks down the risks from eating 48 conventional fruit and veggies from 14 different countries

More than 85 percent of Americans are concerned about pesticide residue on their fruits and vegetables, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey of 1,050 people. However, many people are confused as to what to do about it, which is understandable, because if you aren’t growing your own food yet, buying organic isn’t exactly cheap.

The news about our food is everywhere, making it nearly impossible to avoid these days. But a lot of it is contradictory and can be difficult to decipher if you don’t know the facts. Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) necessary to feed the world’s growing population, or are they destroying our planet one field at a time?

While the biotech industry would adamantly disagree, the truth is that they aren’t sustainable, and they absolutely have not been proven safe to eat. Controversy continues to surround GMOs and their associated pesticides, and not just because of activists like the Food Babe, but because of emerging research that continues to unveil the harsh consequences of increased pesticide use in the U.S.


Traces of 29 chemicals detected in the average American’s body, CDC admits

Different foods are sprayed with varying amounts of pesticides. For example, eating one serving of green beans from the U.S. is 200 times riskier than consuming American-grown broccoli, according to Consumer Reports.

Strawberries have been known to carry upwards of 36 different types of pesticides, and 39 were found on raspberries, an important reminder to buy organic berries, as they often carry more chemicals than other fruits.

It’s unsurprising to learn that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body, as admitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s not realistic to expect we wouldn’t have any pesticides in our bodies in this day and age, but that would be the ideal,” said Michael Crupain, M.D., M.P.D., director of Consumer Reports‘ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “We just don’t know enough about the health effects.”

All organic produce falls into low- or very-low-risk categories, new assessment finds

Determining which foods are best to buy organic can be daunting; however, all you need is quick access to a few guides that can make grocery shopping easier. Consumer Reports recently released an excellent risk guide that places fruits and vegetables into five risk categories ranging from very low to very high.

Using 12 years of data from the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program, and a few other sources, this new tool shows the risk of pesticide exposure from eating 48 conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 different countries.

The risk assessment includes the number of pesticide residues on each food, the frequency at which they were found and the toxicity of the pesticides. Since children are more susceptible to pesticide toxicity, the assessment is based on the risk to a 3 1/2-year-old child, estimated to weigh about 35.2 pounds.

Consumer Reports recommends buying any produce in the medium- to very-high-risk category organic. Different foods grown in different countries have varying risk levels. For example, celery grown in Mexico has a very low risk level, while U.S.-grown celery is listed as having a medium risk.

Cherry tomatoes grown in the U.S have a low risk level, while cherry tomatoes grown in Mexico have a high risk. Cucumbers grown in Canada have a low risk level, while cucumbers grown in Mexico and the U.S. have a high risk level.

On average, the report shows cilantro, grapes, green onions and mushrooms to be low-risk, while peaches, green beans, sweet bell peppers, sweet potatoes and tangerines are considered high- to very-high-risk.

For a complete list of the foods and their risk levels, click here.

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