Minerals in Foods for Cardiovascular Health
Currently, the diet that predominates in the world is the Western diet. This is characterized by a high intake of saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. Thus, it’s deficient in minerals that keep the body balanced. This is because the consumption of vegetables, fruits, and seeds is insufficient to meet the recommended daily intake. However, why are minerals in foods important for cardiovascular health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Consequently, for effective prevention and timely treatment of these disorders, experts recommend following a healthy diet in conjunction with regular physical activity to prevent these diseases or as adjunctive therapy to pharmacological treatment.
What are cardiovascular diseases?
Essentially, cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders that include heart disorders, cerebrovascular diseases, and blood vessel or vascular diseases. Each year, 17.1 million people worldwide die due to these conditions. According to the WHO, 80% of deaths attributable to these diseases could have been prevented if the patients followed a healthy lifestyle and also reduced their risk factors.
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Major risk factors for the development of heart disease
Excessive consumption of fats, refined flours, and sugar is related to the onset of cardiovascular disorders.
Overall, poor eating habits, along with harmful health habits, are directly related to the development of atherosclerosis. This disease consists of the formation of plaque deposits build up in the arteries, preventing their proper operation.
Here are some of the factors that promote the development of atherosclerosis:
- Behavioral risk factors: Smoking, physical inactivity, a diet high in salt and fats, and alcoholism.
- Metabolic risk factors: Hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, excess weight, and obesity.
Also, metabolic diseases are closely related to behavioral risk factors. The Western diet is associated with an excessive accumulation of adipose tissue, which is reflected in the increasing body weight of individuals. Excess weight and obesity alter organ functions, triggering diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia.
In this regard, leading a healthy lifestyle by changing eating habits and exercising is essential. After all, certain nutritional recommendations can help regulate metabolic disorders, as well as eating plans that control many risk factors and exert a cardioprotective effect. Among them, the most known is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet).
The DASH diet for cardiovascular health
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) created the DASH diet. Overall, it’s characterized by:
- High consumption of vegetables and fruits
- Replacing refined flours for whole grains
- A moderate intake of fats and foods of animal origin
- Occasional or nonexistent consumption of foods that contain a significant amount of sugar
Overall, this diet effectively modulates the main metabolic factors associated with the development of a cardiovascular event. Numerous meta-analyses show that this diet has countless health benefits. In fact, it lowers the incidence of a cardiovascular event, blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, glycated hemoglobin, fasting plasma insulin, and even bodyweight in clinical trials.
The beneficial effects of the DASH diet are related to the biological effect of other nutritional components in foods. These include flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as minerals in foods, which exert an effect in blood vessels.
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What are the main minerals in foods to maintain cardiovascular health?
Foods rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help maintain cardiovascular health.
As you may have seen, many nutrients positively impact cardiovascular health. However, we’ll focus this section on minerals in foods that, as a study published in Current Hypertension Reports highlighted, are beneficial.
Minerals in food for cardiovascular health: Potassium
First, this mineral interacts with the renin-angiotensin system to alter the plasma activity of the retina. Thus, it prevents an increase in blood pressure levels. Also, it participates in renal sodium excretion. Therefore, it lowers the body’s endothelial dysfunction markers.
- Food sources of potassium include spinach as well as tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, bananas, nuts, avocado, and chia seeds.
Minerals in foods: Magnesium
Next, this mineral acts as an inhibitor of vascular smooth muscle contraction, exerting a vasodilator effect. Thus, blood flows at lower pressure through the veins and arteries.
- Food sources include nuts, dark chocolate (70% cocoa), and whole grains.
Finally, calcium has a similar effect to the family of drugs known as angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors). Thus, it inhibits vascular contraction. Also, it works along with potassium in renal sodium excretion.
- Food sources include skimmed milk products, sardines, almonds, and chickpeas, among others.
Eating a varied diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with a moderate intake of low-fat foods of animal origin ensures the requirements of cardioprotective minerals and other nutritional components. Thus, they’ll keep your body functioning optimally. In addition, it’ll help control the major metabolic risk factors associated with the development of heart disease.
Overall, it’s important to consult a nutritionist to get an adequate nutritional assessment and diagnosis to make an individualized eating plan that meets your individual needs and contributes to better health.