More good news for vegetable fans! (Count me in.) Researchers at the Imperial College of London have found that a chemical called sulforaphane protects arteries against plaque buildup. Sulforaphane is available in vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
Writing in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, Paul C. Evans, PhD, said that sulforaphane works by activating a natural protein called Nrf2. This protein reduces inflammation in the body. However, it is inactive where arteries bend or branch, which are the places where plaques that cause heart attacks tend to form. But it appears that sulforaphane can activate Nrf2 in these areas.
Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: “These fascinating findings provide a possible mechanism by which eating vegetables protects against heart disease.”
Mediterranean Diet Rules!
As Web Editor Diane Fennell wrote last week, the Mediterranean diet has again won a face-off with another dietary approach. To quote Diane, “Basic features of the Mediterranean diet include an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and healthful fats such as olive oil, the consumption of small amounts of nuts and moderate amounts of red wine, and a very low intake of red meat.”
I’m a big fan of the Mediterranean diet. It isn’t so much about what not to eat. It’s about getting more of the good things, especially unsaturated fats.
The current study showed improved blood glucose and cholesterol levels for people on the Mediterranean diet compared to those on a low-fat diet. The superiority of the Mediterranean diet over the low-fat has been shown before, like in this Israeli study and this study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
When Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets go head-to-head, studies seem to find them about equal. But some low-carbohydrate, Atkins-, or Bernstein-style diets are just too much red meat for me. Even scientists at Atkins Nutritionals, Atkins’ own company, now advise no more than 20% of calories come from saturated fats such as that found in red meat. They advise more Mediterranean-style unsaturated fats.
Readers can advise me if I’m wrong, but I think part of the charm of the Mediterranean diet is eating in a relaxed way, taking your time, and not stressing too much over every gram. The recommended moderate intake of red wine is a plus for some of us too! The downside of it for some people is that this style of eating can be expensive. Nuts and other foods containing healthful fats such as olive oil and fish can be pricey. But people following a Mediterranean diet are also encouraged to get calories from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Actually, it’s surprising how much protein you can get from vegetables. You have to eat a variety of them and supplement them with grains to make a complete protein, but it’s not that hard. People do not need as much protein as we have been led to believe. The issue for people with diabetes is how to get energy without eating too much carbohydrate. Unsaturated fats, such as those featured in the Mediterranean diet, might be the answer.
Another big edge for vegetables is that you can grow your own. If you have a yard or garden, greens are among the easiest things to grow. I used to have collard greens twice a week for months from one plant in our yard. The leaves just kept growing. Vegetables also contain minerals and vitamins that can help us stay healthy.
You’ll save money growing your own vegetables, too. If you live in a warm climate, perhaps you can even plant olive trees for a source of unsaturated fat. Nut trees grow in many climates and their nuts provide protein as well as fat.
Wish Us Luck!
Aisha and I are off to Carlsbad, California to lead a workshop for couples. It’s about keeping strong relationships when you have a chronic illness. In this case, the illness is multiple sclerosis, but we’re looking to do these programs for people with diabetes. We’ll be teaching about communication skills, intimacy, teamwork in managing illness, overcoming sexual challenges, and maintaining emotional balance. It’s a cool, fun program. Contact me if you’re interested.
I’m a little scared about the amount of work that will be involved. I hope I can keep my energy up. Any advice or support you can give will be appreciated.