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5 Servings a Day Could Reduce Your
Risk of Heart Disease
By Jeanie Davis
Here's more good news about fruits and veggies. "Five a day" can lower your blood pressure, greatly reducing risk of heart disease.
In a six-month study involving nearly 700 people, half were asked to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day; half served as controls and didn't change their diet.
The results: Those who ate the good stuff had higher levels of numerous healthy antioxidants than those who didn't.
Also: "significant decreases" in blood pressure were seen in the fruit-and-veggie group, reports Andrew Neil, PhD, a public health researcher at the University of Oxford, England. His study appears in this week's issue of The Lancet.
"The falls in blood pressure in our study ... would substantially reduce cardiovascular disease," he writes. His results match those of a larger study, which showed lower rates of high blood pressure in people who followed a similar five-a-day plan.
Most of the people participating in his study were women about 46 years old, and in the upper socioeconomic classes; 16% of the study participants were smokers, he reports. Neither group was advised to reduce fat intake; and the researchers saw no change in total cholesterol levels and only a small increase in body weight, he says.
"Therefore, the fall in blood pressure achieved in our study is unlikely to be attributable to reduced fat intake or changes in physical activity," writes Neil. "The reduction in blood pressure probably resulted from increased potassium intake, and possibly from some reduction in sodium, although participants were not advised specifically to reduce salt intake."
Here are some tips adapted from the 5 A Day For Better Health program -- a national nutrition effort to encourage Americans to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health:
Wake up to fruit. Drink a glass of 100% fruit juice or incorporate a helping of fruit into your breakfast every day.
Think "fruit" or "vegetable" when
snacking. Munch on a handful of carrots or a piece of fruit when you get the
urge to snack.
Keep the pantry packed with easy-to-prepare dried,
canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables.
Make them visible. You're more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they are easily accessible. Wash some carrots or celery sticks and keep them close at hand in the refrigerator.
Put clean fruit out for the family to snack on.
Use the microwave to your advantage. It's a great (and convenient) way to quickly prepare vegetables for meals.
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