Eating This 3 Times a Day Can Boost Your Heart Health, New Study Says
This everyday food item can help maintain a lower blood pressure.
While everyone may require a different plan of attack when it comes to maintaining their heart health, there's at least one universal truth: Everyone should be keeping an eye on their risk of cardiovascular disease. After all, about one in every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But besides getting plenty of exercise and staying active, there may be other diet tricks that can help you maintain a healthy ticker. And according to one new study, eating one type of food item three times a day can provide a serious boost to your heart health, especially as you age. Read on to see what you should be adding to your meals.
Eating three servings of whole grains a day can lower your risk of heart disease.
When it comes to managing your heart health, you may want to go with the grain. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition on July 13 followed 3,100 participants in their 50s for 18 years. Every four years, a check-up was conducted to measure certain health signs such as waist size, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, as well as noting dietary habits.
Results of the study found that people who ate three servings of whole grains each day were better able to manage hypertension, with average lower increases in systolic blood pressure over time than those who consumed less than one-half serving. As the study's authors point out, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends this amount, citing examples of serving sizes as one slice of whole-grain bread, a half cup of rolled oats cereal, or a half-cup of brown rice.
Consuming more whole grains also decreased blood sugar, bad cholesterol, and weight gain.
But the health benefits of eating more whole grains weren't just limited to heart health benefits. The study also found that those who took in three servings daily also saw a lower average increase in waist size of half an inch, compared to an inch seen in those who ate fewer servings. And results also showed that those who consumed more whole grains saw a greater decline in bad cholesterol and lower average increases in blood sugar.
"Our findings suggest that eating whole-grain foods as part of a healthy diet delivers health benefits beyond just helping us lose or maintain weight as we age," Nicola McKeown, MD, the study's senior author, said in a press release. "In fact, these data suggest that people who eat more whole grains are better able to maintain their blood sugar and blood pressure over time. Managing these risk factors as we age may help to protect against heart disease."
The vitamin-rich husk of whole grains is lost during the refinement process.
The research team explained that whole grains contain more vital nutrients than the refined grains commonly found in diets, such as pasta, bagels, and white bread. This is because the refining process removes the vitamin-rich husk, leaving only starches remaining.
"There are several reasons that whole grains may work to help people maintain waist size and reduce increases in the other risk factors," Caleigh Sawicki, one of the study's authors and a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained in a statement. "The presence of dietary fiber in whole grains can have a satiating effect, and the magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants may contribute to lowering blood pressure. Soluble fiber, in particular, may have a beneficial effect on post-meal blood sugar spikes."
The study's authors recommend replacing refined grains with whole grains in your diet.
The researchers point out that the average American "consumes about five servings of refined grains daily," which exceeds the recommended amount of less than three. To boost your long-term health, they recommend finding ways to replace items with whole grains whenever possible.
"For example, you might consider a bowl of whole-grain cereal instead of a white flour bagel for breakfast and replacing refined-grain snacks, entrees, and side dishes with whole-grain options," McKeown suggests. "Small incremental changes in your diet to increase whole-grain intake will make a difference over time,"