Choosing foods that are good for you doesn’t have to be a chore. These five foods are as tasty as they are beneficial for improving your cardiometabolic health
Only 6.8% of U.S. adults have optimal cardiometabolic health, which means the remaining 93.2% do not, instead belonging to the majority whose cardiometabolic health has been “poor and worsening” since 2000.
The findings, from Tufts University, Boston, researchers, involved assessments of foundational aspects of human health, including adiposity, blood glucose, blood lipids, blood pressure and clinical cardiovascular disease.
Cardiometabolic disease refers to a group of conditions that often begin with insulin resistance and, without healthy lifestyle changes, progress to metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for cardiometabolic disease include high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, dyslipidemia, abdominal obesity and elevated triglycerides.
Lifestyle changes such as avoiding prolonged sitting, getting adequate sleep and staying physically active are considered effective at improving cardiometabolic health, and the Tufts University researchers also called for “nationwide clinical and public health interventions to improve cardiometabolic health.”
Fortifying your diet with powerful functional foods is another way to support this important aspect of your overall health — and the good news is that many of the healthiest foods that offer cardiometabolic benefits are incredibly delicious!
Tasty Foods to Boost Your Cardiometabolic Health
Watermelon, a summer staple, contains L-citrulline and L-arginine, which are important precursors to nitric oxide (NO). NO relaxes blood vessels, making it important for cardiometabolic health. In studies of watermelon consumption and L-citrulline supplementation in humans, reduced blood pressure was noted. Watermelon also improves lipids and lipoprotein metabolism, and may potentially help to control body weight by increasing satiety.
Eating watermelon may also improve gut barrier function and improve the gut’s microbial composition, while animal studies suggest it also improves glucose homeostasis. Taken together, “watermelon fruit contains unique vaso- and metabolically active compounds,” according to researchers with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research. “Accumulating evidence supports regular intake for cardiometabolic health.”
2. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate is an antioxidant, cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory powerhouse. Its high anthocyanin content is responsible for some of these benefits. Anthocyanins are natural pigments that give certain red-orange and blue-violet plants and fruit their color.
Their consumption leads to improvements in a number of cardiometabolic risk factors, including reduced fasting glucose and total cholesterol. “Significant improvements in glycemic control and lipids support the benefits of anthocyanins in the prevention and management of cardiometabolic disease,” researchers wrote in Advances in Nutrition.
Another study found consuming pomegranate juice for eight weeks led to improvements in blood pressure, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, oxidative stress and inflammation in hemodialysis patients.
Starting your day with two to three cups of organic, black coffee is an enjoyable and health-promoting choice, due to the hundreds of biologically active compounds in this popular beverage. Many of these compounds, such as the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant chlorogenic acid, reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
There is an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and metabolic syndrome, and black coffee consumers were less likely to have increased waist circumference, elevated triglycerides and reduced beneficial HDL cholesterol than non-coffee consumers. Among people who are overweight or obese, lower coffee consumption was also associated with a higher risk of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal glucose concentration and triglycerides, and metabolic syndrome.
Cocoa is a natural source of flavonols that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as activate NO effects. Compared with people who consumed the least chocolate, meta-analysis of epidemiological studies found that people who consumed the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke.
Similar to coffee, cocoa consumption is associated with a decreased risk of many cardiometabolic risk factors, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Overall, researchers wrote in “The Role of Functional Food Security in Global Health:
“Dietary supplementation with cocoa (300-1000 mg/day) in chocolates may provide protection against NCDs, cardiometabolic diseases, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, as well as memory dysfunction and cancer.”
Apples are one of nature’s near-perfect foods, rich in bioactive polyphenols, such as catechin and proanthocyanidins, and fiber, such as pectin. Not only is apple intake associated with decreased body mass index (BMI), but among adults with mildly elevated cholesterol, eating two apples a day for eight weeks led to lower cholesterol and improved cardiometabolic biomarkers.
Importantly, those who consumed an apple beverage with the same amount of sugar did not experience these effects. As the researchers noted, consuming the whole apple is essential, as “the matrix of a whole food, such as apples, can affect the release of nutrients, e.g., sugars, fiber, and polyphenols, as well as their fate and function in the body compared with a simple sugar beverage.”
Eating Your Way to Better Health
When you consume whole foods from nature, you gain access to thousands of natural compounds that work synergistically to maintain balance in your body for optimal health. At GreenMedInfo.com, we’ve compiled research on hundreds of delicious foods you can choose to eat your way to better health. Explore our Therapeutic Substances database to get started on your journey of eating with the intention of improving your health.
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