How Functional Foods May Help Your Heart
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and nuts -- and most Americans don't get enough. In fact, the average American eats half the fiber recommended in the USDA's 2010 dietary guidelines. You can find fiber added to functional foods like bread, waffles, cereal, and soy milk.
Here's how fiber helps body and heart health:
- Fiber helps lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Fiber also helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Fiber also aids digestion, and may help prevent certain cancers.
We need two kinds of fiber, insoluble fiber, found in whole grains and vegetables, and soluble fiber, which is found in beans, grains, and nuts. Recommendations are 25 grams of fiber every day for women, and 38 grams daily for men.
Calcium is found naturally in dairy products such as milk and yogurt, and in lesser amounts in foods like leafy greens, beans, nuts, and seeds. The USDA says most Americans don't get enough of this important mineral. Thus, calcium is a popular nutrient added to functional foods. You can find calcium added to juices, breads, and soy products.
Here's how calcium helps body and heart health:
- Calcium helps in blood clotting.
- It helps regulates the heartbeat.
- Calcium also helps conduct nerve impulses.
- And calcium maintains healthy bones and teeth.
Young and middle-aged adults need 1,000 mg of calcium daily up to age 50. People over 50 should aim for 1,200 mg a day. Avoid taking very high doses of calcium. Overdoses of any nutrient can cause health problems.
5. Vitamin D
As with calcium, most of us don't get enough vitamin D, a vital nutrient commonly added to milk, yogurt, and cheese. You can also find vitamin D-enriched juices, cereals, and margarine.
Here's how vitamin D helps body and heart health:
- Vitamin D may prevent high blood pressure and artery damage.
- Vitamin D helps keep the immune system strong.
- It may help prevent depression.
- And vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones.
Although too little vitamin D can be associated with a raised risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and heart failure, the jury is out on exactly how vitamin D affects the heart, says Washington dietitian Kerry Neville, MS, RD. Most adults need 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
Remember, a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and keeping up on routine exams are the cornerstones of heart health. However, if you think functional foods can give your heart a boost, talk to your doctor for tips on which nutrients you need and how best to get them.