The most food cures exist in the produce aisle of your grocery store, or the baskets at your local farmer’s market. The fact that fruits and vegetables are very good for you is obviously not news. But a new study should attract attention of everyone, especially those at higher risk of heart problems. It found that keeping a diet rich in plant- based antioxidants could protect you from a heart attack.
This health breakthrough, published in the new issue of the American Journal of Medicine, comes from Sweden. This study focused on 32,500 women between 49 and 83 years of age—for whom heart disease is a major cause of death (as it is for men). It is the first study to look at all antioxidants in the diet in direct relation to heart attack risk.
The decade-long study included a food questionnaire where women recorded how often they would consume certain foods and drinks. From that, researchers calculated the amount of total antioxidants they were taking in.
Over the 10 years, 1,114 women suffered a heart attack. Those women consuming the most antioxidants had 20% lower risk. They ate nearly seven servings of fruit and veggies a day, compared to the lowest antioxidant group who took in an average of 2.4 servings.
Past studies have found that antioxidant supplements have little benefit for heart disease. But the new study was different, in measuring “dietary total antioxidant capacity.” This includes the thousands of natural compounds available in our diet (the ones that go far beyond vitamins and minerals).
The researchers say that only 14% of U.S. adults, and 9.5% of adolescents get at least five servings of fruit and veggies a day. On one hand, that means that more unhealthy things are being consumed, leading to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. On the other hand, people aren’t getting enough life-saving antioxidants every day.
The take-away message here is obvious. Start shopping mostly in the outside aisles of the grocery store, and find ways to work more fruits and vegetables into your weekly diet.