NYS Certified Nutritionist

Nitrate-Rich Vegetables & Heart Health

In April of last year, the European Journal of Epidemiology reported the results of a 23 year Danish study of 53,000 subjects evaluating who among them had a lower rate of hypertension [high blood pressure], and heart disease, and how their diets might have influenced the findings .

It was discovered that those who consumed the most nitrate-rich vegetables had lower systolic blood pressure [the number that goes on top of the diastolic blood pressure number]. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure against the artery walls as your heart beats to push the blood through your blood vessels. The higher the systolic pressure is, the greater the risks of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.

In the Danish study, those who ate at least one cup per day of vegetables rich in nitrates, like: spinach, kale, beets, radishes, turnips, and arugula, reduced their risk of heart disease between 12% and 26%. One cup of these vegetables, raw, equals 1/2 cup cooked. Eating more than one cup per day did not offer any increased health benefit, according to the researchers.

So often we are told what not to eat to control hypertension. It is encouraging to see a study that urges people to consume wonderful vegetables that add color, texture, and flavor to our meals, knowing they offer some protection while we enjoy them. Of course, we would also have to be mindful of not adding salt, butter, creamy sauces or dressings to these vegetables, or we might cancel out their wonderful benefits. Fresh or frozen vegetables are perfectly fine.

Steaming, microwaving, lightly stir-frying, or roasting would be appetizing, and health promoting methods of preparation, adding herbs and spices. The summer is the perfect time to add fresh, cleaned vegetables to a crunchy salad, or sandwich. Using low fat salad dressings would be a sensible and tasty addition.

Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York State