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Greens, Sunflower Seeds and Almonds Protect Middle-Aged Women against Cardiovascular Disease

Greens abundant in vitamin E, such as mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, and spinach, along with vitamin E-rich sunflower seeds, almonds, and olives, provide women with the cardiovascular protection we were told, incorrectly, we could get from conventional HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

An Italian study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that evaluated more than 300 middle-aged women found that those whose diets provided them with the highest blood levels of vitamin E had the lowest risk for high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

Practical Tips

With the generous support George Mateljan has provided through his funding of The World’s Healthiest Foods, women can now find dozens of quick and delicious recipes designed with their heart’s health in mind. Here are just a few of the many quick serving ideas for vitamin E-rich members of the World’s Healthiest Foods:

  • Add chopped mustard greens to a pasta salad. One of our favorite combinations is chopped tomatoes, pine nuts, goat cheese, pasta and mustard greens tossed with a little olive oil.
  • Add sunflower seeds to your favorite tuna, chicken or turkey salad recipe.
  • Sprinkle chopped walnuts over braised Swiss chard and top with a little fresh squeezed orange juice.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich of almond butter and bananas drizzled with either maple syrup or honey.

To learn more about the many health benefits of these vitamin-E rich members of the World’s Healthiest Foods, click mustard greens, chard, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, or olives.

For some truly exceptional recipes that make the most of these foods, take a look at the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes that feature them. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you’d like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

In this population study among middle-aged women in Progetto Atena, Italy, 310 women were examined by B-mode ultrasound to detect early signs of atherosclerosis in their carotid arteries. The participants answered a food-frequency questionnaire, and their blood levels of vitamin E, vitamin A, and carotenoids were measured. None of the women took vitamin supplements.

The occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques in the women’s carotid arteries was found to be highly inversely associated with the amount of vitamin E the women consumed in their diets. And, the ratio of vitamin E to cholesterol in the women’s blood was also significantly inversely related to the presence of plaques in their carotid arteries—the higher their blood levels of vitamin E in relation to their cholesterol, the less their likelihood of having atherosclerosis.

No association was found, however, between the women’s dietary consumption or blood levels of other antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A and C and carotenoids) and the presence of atherosclerotic plaques.

The researchers concluded that low dietary vitamin E intake is a risk factor for early atherosclerosis in women.

It is well known that after menopause, women’s risk for cardiovascular disease sharply rises. Until recent studies came out demonstrating otherwise, women were told that HRT (typically Premarin and progestins) offered a means of maintaining the cardiovascular protection afforded by youthful estrogen production. Although our faith in HRT has been found to be mistaken, this study demonstrates that we can truly rely on the World's Healthiest Foods.

Reference: Arcangelo Iannuzzi, Egidio Celentano, Salvatore Panico, Rocco Galasso, Giuseppe Covetti, Lucia Sacchetti, Federica Zarrilli, Mario De Michele and Paolo Rubba. Dietary and circulating antioxidant vitamins in relation to carotid plaques in middle-aged women.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 3, 582-587, September 2002.


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