Spring is still a few weeks away. But you don’t have to wait until then to go green—at least when it comes to your heart.
For starters, there’s good news about the benefits of green tea. A growing volume of data ties this tasty brew to better heart health.
In the most recent research—published in the journal, Stroke—people who had had heart attacks and stroke were asked about their health habits, including their diet, and followed for about 20 years. The data showed that drinking 7 cups of green tea a day lowered the risk of death among stroke survivors by 62%. Heart attack survivors who drank that amount of tea had a 53% percent lower risk of death.
Green tea may also help to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which included data from 13 other studies. The study found that people who drank the most green tea had a 28% lower risk for heart problems like heart attacks than those who drank the least amount of green tea.
Why is green tea good for your heart? The benefits come from substances called polyphenols—a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants attack chemicals called oxidants, which can harm blood vessel walls possibly leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Eating green can also make a difference in your heart health. A new twist on the Mediterranean diet, called the green Mediterranean diet, is a good start.
The Mediterranean diet is a mostly plant-based eating pattern. It consists of plenty of vegetables and fruits; lean meat, particularly fish and poultry; legumes; low-fat dairy products; whole grains; nuts and seeds; and olive oil.
Many studies have found that eating the Mediterranean way is good for the heart. For example, a study in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people on the eating plan saw improvements in several heart risk factors. These included blood sugar levels, blood pressure, the ratio of total to “good” HDL cholesterol, and levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation that is often high among people with heart problems.
You may get even more benefits from the new “green” Mediterranean diet. What’s the difference? To follow this eating plan, you adopt the Mediterranean diet and take it a step further. Try to:
- Cut out almost all red meat and focus on high-fiber foods and healthy fats.
- Drink 3 to 4 cups of green tea a day
- Eat 28 grams of walnuts (a small fistful) every day.
- Try an aquatic plant called duckweed. Similar in taste to watercress and spinach, this plant contains loads of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. (If you can’t find duckweed, you can also use hemp, chia, or flax seeds instead.) Smoothies are one way to add these substances to your diet.)
New research comparing the two types of Mediterranean diet showed that the green version was even better for heart health than the traditional version. Compared to people on the original diet, those who ate a green Mediterranean diet for six months lost more fat around the middle, saw greater improvements in their cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and had greater reductions in C-reactive protein.
While you’re going green, load up your grocery cart with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collards, and avocados. With a wealth of antioxidants, fiber, and heart-healthy fats, these foods are sure to keep your heart and blood vessels in good working order, too!