Getting antioxidants from foods is a great part of a heart-friendly diet. You'll get plenty from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts. You'll also get fiber and great taste. That's a win-win plan.
If you're thinking about taking antioxidant supplements, that's not the same thing.
Four years ago, Emmetsburg, Iowa, insurance agent Jim Wirtz, now 65, had triple bypass surgery. Just 10 days later, he was back at the office. Three weeks after that, he received a clean bill of health from his doctors, who said he could do any physical activity -- except shovel heavy snow.
Wirtz took their advice, and he and his wife resumed having intercourse. "Stay in the game, whether it's sex or work," he says. "My own philosophy is, you just better live."
Wirtz is doing what doctors say most...
"Vitamin or mineral supplements aren't a substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and dietary cholesterol," the American Heart Association's web site states.
Vitamin E supplements have not been shown to have benefits against heart disease. They also haven't been shown to be risky.
Food sources of vitamin E include nuts, leafy greens, seed oils, and fortified cereals.
Beta-carotene supplements also show no benefit for heart disease. Some studies show that people who smoke or drink heavily and take beta-carotene supplements are more likely to get heart disease.
The USPSTF recommends against taking beta-carotene or vitamin E supplements for the purpose of preventing heart disease or cancer.
Remember, the recommendation only applies to supplements. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood is linked to a smaller chance of getting heart disease or cancer, the USPSTF notes. You can get beta-carotene from fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes.