B Vitamins and Your Heart


By Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger, R.D.

It turns out that Popeye was right all along…it can really pay to load up on B vitamin- rich spinach. New and emerging research based on a recent Japanese study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that Japanese women who ate the most dietary folate and B6 were less likely to die from stroke, heart disease or heart failure. And the Japanese men who ate the most were significantly less likely to die from heart failure. The evidence for an association between dietary intakes of folate and B vitamins and the risk of cardiovascular disease in Asian populations remains limited and further studies are needed. That being said, my take-home from this study? Instead of thinking only about the foods we shouldn’t eat for our heart, let’s starting focusing on all the great foods we should.

Since folate and vitamin B6 are found in a variety of foods, the best way to add them to your day is to simply consume a well-rounded diet brimming with a few healthy specifics. Leafy-green vegetables, broccoli, beans and lentils, orange juice and avocados are great ways to get more natural sources of folate in your diet. And meats, fish, nuts, legumes, whole grains and some fruits and vegetables (such as bananas, spinach, potatoes and avocados) are great sources of vitamin B6.

Luckily, those aren’t obscure foods, and you can easily find them in just about any grocery store year-round. But why not add a little fun to your quest to improve the nutrition quality of your diet? This time of year, local farm markets are bursting with vitamin-rich greens and veggies; and often local suppliers are also there peddling freshly caught fish, just-baked whole-grain breads, and other meats to help you get your B6 fix. And since local produce has more vitamins (the nutritional integrity begins to deteriorate the moment food is harvested), it’s a perfect way to stock up your diet with the healthiest possible picks.

If there’s no time to go to the market, do a little research to see if your community has a local-produce delivery. This summer, for the first time, I’ve signed up to have my veggies dropped right at my door, and it’s always fresh, seasonal produce that comes from a collection of farms no more than a 100-mile radius from my city. No kidding, I anticipate the box on delivery day as much as I do a birthday gift—and it’s not because I’m a dietitian, either. What’s not to love about a big crate loaded with beautifully green superstars? So far it’s been packed with the most tender broccoli I’ve ever eaten, an unusual variety of leafy green kale and mild baby spinach, just to name a few. Even my mustard-greens-wary husband happily is enjoying the bounty, and last night, my veggie-discriminating toddler ate Napa cabbage! There’s no question that we’re eating more veggies—and definitely trying (and enjoying) new things. But best of all, if you’re eating local produce, you’re not only helping your ticker, you’re also gaining the satisfaction of supporting proud community farmers. So, what’s good for the heart can be good for the soul!


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