Heart Health: All About the Endothelium

Heart Health: All About the Endothelium

Heart Health:  All About Endothelium

February is heart month, and there is no better place to start than getting “up close and personal” with the inner workings of the pump that keeps us going. This information is key because everyone should be aware of how the foods you eat affect your heart and your health. So let us begin with the ENDOTHELIUM. Most people have never heard of an endothelium, although if stretched out, it would be 50,000 miles long and weigh as much as your liver!

 

WHAT IS THE ENDOTHELIUM AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The endothelium is the tissue that lines the inside of all the arteries and veins in the body.  It is only one cell thick, and although it is the barrier between your blood and the artery wall, it is also so much more! The endothelium is actually metabolically active.  Endothelial cells make hormones,  they are responsible for maintaining blood vessel function and preventing inappropriate blood clotting, and most importantly, they produce a molecule called NITRIC OXIDE.  Nitric oxide (NO) is critical in the maintenance of healthy arteries.  NO relaxes the artery wall, promotes normal blood pressure, increases blood flow, and prevents inflammation and plaque formation.  High levels of NO production by the endothelium is an indicator of good heart and vascular health.  Dysfunction of the endothelium results in stiff, chronically inflamed arteries, thrombosis and plaque formation (leading to strokes and heart attacks), and high blood pressure.  So it is important to eat foods that keep your endothelium healthy and avoid those foods that lead to dysfunction.

FOODS THAT KEEP THE ENDOTHELIUM HEALTHY:

Certain foods contain high levels of Nitric Oxide precursors, so when eaten, they increase the NO production in the heart and vessels:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Rhubarb
  • Oak Leaf Lettuce
  • Basil
  • Swiss chard
  • Cilantro
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Lentils
  • Pomegranate

Other foods called “Cruciferous Vegetables” contain a sulfur-containing compound that is converted in the body into “Isothiocyanates” (or ITCs).  There are over 100 ITCs that have been identified, and one important thing these ITCs do is to activate a protein called Nrf2.  When Nrf2 is activated, it prevents plaque deposits in the endothelium and limits the inflammation and oxidative damage to the cells of the arteries.  The cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Broccoli
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Radishes
  • Turnip greens
  • Arugula
  • Horseradish

These are some other foods to add to your daily diet that protect the endothelium:

  • Turmeric
  • Green Tea
  • Flaxseed

THINGS THAT DAMAGE THE ENDOTHELIUM:

Certain things that harm the endothelium are “no-brainers”, such as tobacco smoke.  But the foods we eat are the biggest perpetrators.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) which consists of high animal protein (including poultry, cheese, and eggs), processed sugar, and saturated fat, is the biggest destroyers of the endothelium.  That is why avoiding junk food, white flour, refined grains, soda,  and drastically limiting meat and dairy are the way to a healthy, happy endothelium.

YES, you can eat your way to a healthy heart and a healthy endothelium. But you can also eat your way to disease and death.  So be thoughtful of your food choices and visit FoodTherapyMD.com for more life-saving information on nutrition and health.

If you have any ideas or health concerns that you would like FoodTherapyMD™ to address, email us!

Eat The Seasons: Fall Edition

Eat The Seasons: Fall Edition

Eat The Seasons!  Fall Edition

“Eating the seasons” is an important way to introduce food variety into your diet, but it also has many other benefits as well.  Foods that are in season taste better, they are less expensive than those grown out of season, they are more nutrient-dense, and they are better for the environment (that blueberry you love doesn’t have to be flown, shipped, and driven from far away so it has a lower carbon footprint).

As summer turns to fall, a whole new crop of foods are coming into season.  Here are FoodTherapyMD’s top 5 foods to add to your grocery list this fall.

Arugula

Arugula is one of my favorite leafy greens, and for good reason.  It is one of the highest nitrate containing vegetables, which, when converted into nitric oxide in the body, is a powerful vasodilator.  This means it relaxes the blood vessels, increase oxygen delivery, and lowers blood pressure.  In addition to putting arugula in salads, try juicing it with beets and celery for an amazing heart-healthy juice.

Artichoke

Artichoke is not a food that many people have on their radar, but they should! That is because artichokes are full of fiber, packed with antioxidants (150% more per cup than blueberries), and have phytonutrients that decrease insulin resistance and help control diabetes.  Studies have shown that artichokes are particularly good at lowering glucose levels after a meal, so definitely add these to your shopping list this season.

Radish

Radish are one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables.  Cruciferous vegetables are the most nutrient dense of all plants, and they have powerful cancer-fighting properties.  Radish are also perfect for getting over colds, flus, and allergies because they contain large amounts of quercetin, which blocks histamine.  Radish also loosen phlegm and help to clear mucus from the lungs.  Fall means back to school, and that means germs and colds! So don’t forget to stock up on radish.

Raspberries

Raspberries are delicious.  That is probably enough to get you to eat them, but if you need more reasons, they also have one of the highest levels of ellagic acid and anthocyanins of any fruit.  This means they decrease oxidative stress in the heart and vessels, they are powerful cancer fighters, and they help protect normal cells from DNA damage due to carcinogens.

Garlic

For me, garlic is ALWAYS in season, but fall is technically the best growing period.  Garlic is an allium vegetable (like onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions) and this type of vegetable does amazing things for the human immune system.  Epidemiological studies show that allium veggies are associated with a lower incidence of ALL cancers, but especially those of the colon, esophagus, ovaries, and prostate.  Garlic is also antibacterial, eliminates oxidative stress in the heart and lowers cholesterol.  

If you have any ideas or health concerns that you would like FoodTherapyMD™ to address, email us!

6 Plants To Eat NOW For Lower Blood Pressure

6 Plants To Eat NOW For Lower Blood Pressure

6 Plants To Eat NOW  for Lower Blood Pressure

Hypertension, also called “the silent killer”, is the major predictor of cardiovascular disease and death in the Western world.  Not only does it result in heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure, but is also the second leading cause of kidney failure (behind diabetes), and a major cause of blindness.  And what is even more troubling is that there are no symptoms.

Those with high blood pressure are usually prescribed a host of pharmaceuticals as the primary treatment, however drugs do not address the actual CAUSE of hypertension.  They only mask the symptoms.  And drugs come with their own list of side effects that can sometimes be as harmful as the hypertension itself.   The good news is that a Whole Foods Plant-Based diet has been repeatedly shown in scientific studies to reverse high blood pressure.  But in addition to adopting a plant-based diet, there are also specific foods that contain unique phytonutrient compounds that will help to get blood pressure down, and keep it down.

  1. Flaxseed.  Not many people are aware of flaxseeds amazing cardioprotective effects.  Most are familiar with flaxseed and protection against breast and prostate cancer, but in randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind studies of flax and hypertension, ground flaxseeds performed BETTER than several of the most widely prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.  With just 3 tablespoons a day, you can expect systolic numbers to drop 10-14 points, and diastolic numbers to decrease by 5-7 points.  A quick and yummy way to incorporate flaxseed into your diet is by adding it to your morning smoothie.
  2. Hibiscus tea.  This is one the most most delicious ways to drop your blood pressure.  The phytonutrients in hibiscus are actually natural “ACE Inhibitors”.  ACE Inhibitors block a chemical called “angiotensin converting enzyme”, and the result is a relaxation of the blood vessels and a decrease in blood pressure.  The most widely prescribed drugs for blood pressure are ACE Inhibitors, but hibiscus gets you the same results, without all the side effects.
  3. Celery.  Admittedly, celery is a little boring.  But when it comes to blood pressure lowering, celery is a star!  There are dozens of phytonutrients in celery, but a key phytonutrient called pthalides is responsible for its amazing effects on blood pressure and vascular health.  4 celery stalks a day, or 8 ounces of fresh celery juice have been shown to knock down systolic pressure by 6 points.
  4. Arugula.  One of the key components to heart health and healthy blood pressure is nitric oxide (NO).  Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator, meaning it opens up the blood vessels in the heart, and organs such as the brain and kidneys, thereby improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.  Arugula is the vegetable king of nitric oxide.  Adding arugula to your daily salad or even your morning smoothie is a great way to get your pressure under better control.
  5. Pomegranate.  Eating a pomegranate is troublesome, but your heart will thank you for the effort.  Pomegranate seeds and juice offer a wide array of protection for the heart and blood vessels.  Science has shown that pomegranates act as ACE Inhibitors, similar to hibiscus, and that is where most of their blood pressure-lowering characteristics come from.  Pomegranates are also powerful antioxidants and reduce the inflammation in the heart and vessels, which also lower blood pressure.  When looking for pomegranate juice, be sure it is organic, no chemicals added, and NO ADDED SUGAR.
  6. Beets.  Beet juice is one of the most widely studied foods for blood pressure management.  One cup (or 8 ounces) of beet juice daily have been repeatedly shown in studies to lower systolic pressure by 10 to 12 points.  That is because beets are another high nitric oxide vegetable, so consuming them improves the health of the blood vessels, making them more relaxed and supple.  And this results in lower pressures throughout the cardiovascular system. 

You don’t have to be afraid of getting your blood pressure checked, especially if you are following a plant-based diet and adding these hypertension superfoods to your daily routine.  And you just may be able to ditch the prescription drugs by using these key foods as your medicine.

If you have any ideas or health concerns that you would like FoodTherapyMD™ to address, email us!

7 Best Scientific Reasons to go Plant-Based

7 Best Scientific Reasons to go Plant-Based

7 Top Scientific Reasons To Finally Go Plant-Based

You may have been seeing on the internet and TV all the celebrities and athletes that have gone plant-based, or maybe you just left the doctor’s office with yet ANOTHER prescription and are feeling a bit frustrated.  Or perhaps you got the call that a friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer and it’s causing you some stress.  Whatever the reason, the idea of going plant-based is becoming more and more appealing, but some of you just aren’t quite there yet.   Well here are FoodTherapyMD’s top 7 reasons to finally take the plant-based leap:

  1. It’s the hands-down, unequivocally,  the best diet for your heart.  A whole food, plant-based diet is the ONLY diet that has reversed coronary lesions angiographically (which is the gold-standard).  Plant-based diets also have been proven to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and just 7 days eating plant-based resulted in measurable reduction in angina symptoms in those with ischemic heart disease and blockage of the arteries.
  2. Lowers your risk of cancer and cancer progression.  There is one thing that proponents of meat-centric diets cannot overlook or cover up, and that is the STRONG association between animal products and cancer.  There are numerous scientific explanations for this, including hormones, heme protein, pathogenic gut flora and TMAO.  But the elephant in the room is IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor).  IGF-1 is produced in the liver and is important for growth and sexual maturation in utero and in childhood.  However, if levels remain high in adulthood, it promotes cancer growth and decreases immune function.  The association between IGF-1 and cancer has been recognized for decades. In fact, cancer drugs that decrease IGF-1 pathway have been in development for many years, and decreasing levels through diet is a widely acknowledged as an effective method of cancer prevention. All animal flesh increases IGF-1, including poultry, dairy, and yes, grass fed meats.  The World Health Organization has even labeled processed meats (sausage, bacon, deli meats) as Group 1 Carcinogens (along with asbestos and cigarettes), and non-processed meats are “Probably Carcinogenic” and strongly associated with multiple forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
  3. Better for the environment.  It just so happens that the optimal diet for your body is also the optimal diet for the planet.  Animal agriculture plays a substantial part in greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, water scarcity, antibiotic resistance (60% of all antibiotics produced go into farmed animals) and deforestation.  Not to mention the issues with animal cruelty.  It has been estimated that an individual can reduce their carbon footprint by 70% just by giving up meat and dairy.  That makes it more effective AND CHEAPER than buying that Tesla!
  4. You will look better. Sometimes the appeal to vanity is the thing that finally works! And eating a whole foods plant based diet is a surefire way to turn back the clock.  This is because the aging process, although complicated, is essentially an inflammatory process.  Oxidative stress in the cells of the organs, which includes the skin, leads to shortening of the ends of chromosomes (called telomeres) and subsequent cell death. But certain things have been found to keep your telomeres long and healthy, and those things are the nutrients in whole plant foods.  And guess what causes your telomeres to shorten and cells to die?  Animal protein and processed refined sugar.  So yes, there is a fountain of youth, and its around the corner at the farmer’s market.
  5. You can say “bye bye” to Diabetes.  Adopting a whole foods, plant based diet is a proven way to lower blood sugar and reverse/eliminate Type 2 Diabetes.  Many people aren’t aware of the actual pathology in Type 2 Diabetes, and how inflammatory animal products cause insulin resistance.  Most people, including doctors, focus of sugar intake alone when managing diabetes.  But numerous studies with hundreds of thousands of subjects have conclusively demonstrated that vegan diets (and to a lesser extent, vegetarian diets) effectively lower blood sugar levels and reverse diabetes, as well as protecting against diabetic complications like heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney disease, and amputations.
  6. You can eliminate most (and possibly all) of your medications.  Amazing things happen as early as 2 weeks after starting a whole food plant based diet.  Blood pressure decreases, joint pains go away, and blood sugar lowers.  All inflammatory conditions,  like asthma and bowel disease, are also positively effected. This usually requires a reduction or stopping of several prescription meds.  And it makes sense, because drugs treat SYMPTOMS of disease, while plant-based diets treat the underlying inflammatory CAUSE of disease.
  7. You will improve your mood, sleep, and even prevent dementia.  Why is plant-based eating better for the brain health? Most research centers around the anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plant foods. The antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables helps to repair damage to cells and can help to balance neurotransmitters for optimal brain function and less depression.

If you are still not convinced that transitioning to a plant-based diet is right for you, give it a trial run for a few weeks and experience the difference in your health and the way you feel firsthand.   And if you need help in transitioning, or have questions, contact us at FoodTherapyMD.com. 

If you have any ideas or health concerns that you would like FoodTherapyMD™ to address, email us!

Eat The Season! 6 Springtime Superfoods

Eat The Season! 6 Springtime Superfoods

Eat The Seasons! Six Best Spring Superfoods

Spring brings amazing changes.  If you live in a cold-weather city, spring means the winter hibernation is over and tasting the sun for the first time in the new year.  But even if you live in a place like California, where it is perpetual summer, spring also brings new fruits and vegetables to the market shelves.  “Eating the seasons”, is always optimal because foods that are in season taste better, have more nutrients, and are better for the environment because the blueberries you crave aren’t being flown, trucked, and shipped thousands of miles to get to you.

So when you are at the farmers market or local grocery store, keep these springtime superfoods in mind.  It will help you keep variety in your diet, and expose you to the health benefits of different plant phytonutrients. Happy eating!

Asparagus:  Asparagus is  full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, especially quercetin, which is one of the most researched flavonoids in nutrition.  Its consumption is directly associated with decreasing cardiovascular risk and anti-carcinogenic properties. (And FYI, that funky smell in your urine is from the phytonutrient asparagusic acid).

Radish:  Radish is one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables, and its fitting that their prime season is springtime.  That is because radish have phytonutrients that block histamine and loosen phlegm in the sinuses and respiratory tract, which makes them excellent in combating seasonal allergies.

Morel mushrooms:  Mushrooms are truly amazing superfoods.  They possess incredible immune-enhancing properties, and also fight cancer by inhibiting angiogenesis.  Angiogenesis is the process whereby tumors create their own blood supply in order to get oxygen and nutrients.  If you block angiogenesis, the cancer shrivels and dies.  Mushrooms also inhibit the enzyme aromatase, which is critical in breast cancer treatment.

Fava Beans:  Hannibal Lecter isn’t alone in his love for fava beans.  These delicious and often forgotten veggies are full of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and folate (important for pregnant women).  And here is an interesting fact about fava beans: they contain levodopa, which is converted by the body into dopamine.  For this reason, fava beans have been studied as a natural way to relieve depression, as well as a complementary treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

Collard Greens:  Another cruciferous vegetable, collard greens are one of the most nutrient dense foods around.  When collard greens and other cruciferous veggies are digested, they are broken down into ITCs (or isothiocyanates), which are compounds with powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant activity.  If you eat collard greens out of season, they can be a bit tough, so now is the time to add them to your grocery list.

Spinach:  Even though spinach is readily available all year round, spring is actually the prime growing season, and foods harvested in-season are more nutrient dense and better for you.  Spinach boasts an impressive phytonutrient profile (carotenoids, flavonoids, lutein) which makes it highly anti-inflammatory.  Spinach also has natural nitrates, which lowers blood pressure and improves heart function.

If you have any ideas or health concerns that you would like FoodTherapyMD™ to address, email us!

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