3 must-have minerals for a healthy heart

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Cereal with raisins and almonds.

Yogurt mixed with tropical trail mix.

A banana smoothie.

These treats may not seem heart-smart, but they are. They all give you calcium, magnesium, and potassium — the three must-have minerals for a healthy heart.

1.  Calcium

Four out of five women over 20 don’t get as much calcium as recommended. Not only does this put their bones in jeopardy, but their hearts, as well.

Calcium lowers blood pressure in both healthy people and those with high blood pressure. Getting more calcium into your diet even slows the rise of systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) that comes with age.

But calcium’s heart-healthy benefits don’t stop there. A New Zealand study of older women found that calcium supplements boosted levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, by 7 percent. In another study, dieters who took calcium along with vitamin D lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, by 14 percent.

 

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Not surprisingly, considering its positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol, calcium also protects against stroke, or brain attack. A Japanese study found that a high intake of dietary calcium, especially from dairy products, reduced the risk of stroke in middle-age men and women.

A University of California, Los Angeles study suggested that calcium can lessen the severity of strokes and make recovery go more smoothly. People who had high blood levels of calcium had strokes one-third as severe as those with relatively low levels. They also were much less likely to function poorly by the time they left the hospital. 

2.  Magnesium

Because they are rich in magnesium, foods like bananas, raisins, and almonds can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that lead to heart disease and diabetes. Studies show that more magnesium means less risk of this dangerous syndrome. You have metabolic syndrome if you have any three of the following:

  • too much fat around the middle
  • high blood pressure
  • low HDL cholesterol
  • high triglycerides
  • high blood sugar

The more magnesium you get, the lower your blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI) tend to be, research shows. Lower BMI may mean less fat around your middle. Studies also link getting plenty of magnesium to higher HDL, lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides. So enjoy more magnesium-rich foods like tropical trail mix, pumpkin seeds, beans, brown rice, nuts, and baked potatoes.

3.  Potassium

Although a high salt diet can raise your blood pressure, more potassium from foods can blunt salt’s effects on blood pressure. That is why potassium is called the “un-salt,” because of its amazing ability to keep blood pressure low. Try three tasty snack foods just loaded with it — dates, raisins, and tropical trail mix — to get started.

Although the Institute of Medicine recommends 4.7 grams of potassium a day, high amounts can be dangerous for some people, so talk to your doctor before adding more potassium to your diet. If your doctor agrees, eat more potassium-rich foods like papaya, yogurt, bananas, and dried plums.

 

 

 

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  • FC&A Staff Writer