As heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States for all adults, a new report released by the Nutrilite Health Institute, America's Phytonutrient Report: Heart Health by Color, shows that Americans are falling short on heart-healthy phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are the natural plant-based compounds that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors and provide us with potential health benefits. Using NHANES and USDA data, the report explores phytonutrient gaps and key phytonutrient food sources that research suggests are important contributors to heart health. It finds only two out of 10 Americans consume "prudent intake" levels of select heart-healthy phytonutrients, leaving the other 80 percent with a "cardio phytonutrient gap."
"This report makes it clear that most adults are not getting the recommended intakes of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with beneficial compounds like phytonutrients," says Dr. Ken Kornman of Interleukin Genetics, and Scientific Advisory Board Member for Nutrilite Health Institute. "It also points out that adults who do not meet the recommendations are more likely to have conditions, such as high blood pressure, that are associated with heart disease. In light of the prevalence of heart disease, and other diet related disorders, in this country, this report sheds light on the potential importance of making people more aware of phytonutrients in the diet."
Phytonutrients are natural components or compounds of plants thought to offer benefits to health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas are rich sources of phytonutrients. Though there are many important phytonutrients, the report focuses on four – allicin, quercetin, anthocyanidins and resveratrol – that research suggests may benefit the heart. These compounds are grouped in the white and purple/blue color categories and are commonly found in garlic, onions, apples, blueberries and grapes.
Closing the "Cardio Phytonutrient Gap"
According to America's Phytonutrient Report: Heart Health by Color, 83 percent of Americans aren't getting enough "white" phytonutrients (allicin, quercetin), most commonly found in garlic, onions and apples. And 76 percent of Americans aren't getting enough "purple/blue" phytonutrients (anthocyanidins, resveratrol), found in blueberries and grapes for example.
"Heart disease and its risks can be modified by certain lifestyle habits including daily exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which include low calorie sources of potassium, fiber, folic acid, and vitamins A, C and E," says Amy Hendel, Nutrilite's Phytonutrient Coach.
To help close the gap and promote heart-friendly lifestyle choices, Hendel, a registered physician assistant and health/wellness expert, offers the following tips:
- Cook with Garlic and Onions. Choose to eat and cook with garlic and onions. Garlic offers you the benefits of allicin, a phytonutrient that supports healthy blood pressure. Onions provide the benefit of quercetin, a phytonutrient that also supports healthy blood pressure.
- Heart-Healthy Snacking. A cup of tea with apple slices, a small piece of dark chocolate or a handful of nuts are all good, heart-healthy snack options.
- Exercise. It's important to incorporate a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily routine.
- Small Changes. Improving your heart health can be as easy as making small changes to your diet. Toss a handful of blueberries onto your cereal, add some chopped apples to your salad or snack on some grapes.
- Meeting the Daily Goal. For those having trouble getting enough fruits and vegetables, natural, plant-based supplements can help close the "cardio phytonutrient gap."