If heart disease runs in your family, it doesn’t have to be a life sentence—all thanks to your diet.
A specific “chromosome 9p21” region in your genetic makeup strongly influences whether you have a higher heart attack risk. But new analyses show that upping daily consumption of fresh fruits and raw vegetables can lower this risk—down to to the level of someone without genetic risk factors.
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A diet of raw vegetables, fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains and dairy products is what researchers call a “prudent diet.” Researchers analyzed data from the Interheart study, including over 8,000 people, and found that having two copies of the risk gene (9p21) and a low prudent diet doubled heart attack risk, while two copies of the risk gene and a high prudent diet completely eliminated the risk. In other words, diet can actually change genetic expression, taking the bite out of what might otherwise seem like "bad genes" and giving you more control over maintaining a healthy heart. The prudent diet diet had more heart-healthy effects than a Western diet (eggs, meats, fried and salty foods, sugar, nuts, desserts) and more surprisingly, a Southeast Asian diet (tofu, soy sauce, pickled foods, green leafy vegetables, eggs, low sugar).
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Another analysis of over 19,000 people who participated in the Finrisk study found that the richer the diet of fruits, berries and vegetables, the lower the risk of heart disease.
So what can you do right now to capitalize on this great news?
Amp your intake of raw spinach, carrots, strawberries—you name it. Kirkpatrick recommends blending your favorites together for a yummy smoothie. “Add an apple and a little agave, too,” she adds. Try a smoothie in the morning for breakfast, within an hour of waking up. One study found that people who skip breakfast have higher cholesterol than their counterparts who “break the fast” each morning.
As for vegetables, you can incorporate them into fun appetizers, or even meals.
“Make ‘lettuce’ wraps but use spinach instead. You could take seasoned ground turkey or chicken breast and mix with raw carrots and cucumber and roll in the spinach leaves (like spinach sushi).” Kirkpatrick says. “You won't believe this but I have actually done this before (but with tofu) for appetizers.”
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And what about the fruit? “Eat the raspberries as a dessert afterwards!” Kirkpatrick recommends.
And this may not have a nutritionist’s approval, but we say those berries pair well with frozen yogurt or a dollop of whipped cream, if you're looking for a treat.
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