Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is one way to improve your heart health, and it helps weight-loss efforts, too. A diet rich in heart healthy vegetables can help lower cholesterol levels as well as lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Your organic garden can be your best source for fresh, heart healthy vegetables.
Garlic is a mainstay of heart healthy recipes. Garlic helps reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It helps decrease platelet aggregation to improve blood flow, and it can lower blood pressure. Garlic is typically planted in early fall and harvested the following summer. Replant garlic each fall to keep a constant supply.
Tomatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Cooking actually increases the concentration of lycopene in tomatoes, so use recipes with plenty of tomato sauce. Start tomato seeds indoors about 8 to 10 weeks before you will transplant them outdoors. Set tomato plants out after the soil is warm, and there is no danger of frost.
Broccoli is high in antioxidants, especially vitamin C. It is rich in antioxidant carotenoids and anthocyanins, which improve blood vessel functions. Start broccoli seed indoors about eight weeks before you transplant them to the garden. Broccoli is a cool weather vegetable that can be planted as both spring and fall crops.
Spinach, lettuces and Swiss chard are leafy green vegetables that are rich in antioxidants which improve heart health. Spinach is especially high in potassium, folate, Co-enzyme Q10, and lutein, all of which lower blood pressure naturally. Spinach seed germinates best in cool soil, and it can be planted as early in the spring as the ground can be worked.
Mark Houston, M. D., director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN, says that patients who added only four sticks of celery per day to their diet saw average reductions of six systolic and three diastolic points in their blood pressure readings. Scientists believe that phytochemicals in celery relax blood vessel walls, thereby improving blood flow. Grow celery in humus-rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Its upright growing habit makes celery ideal to plant in a raised bed.