Pick of the crop: what are the best veggies for your ticker?

Identifying the best veggies for heart health: a researcher's quest

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UNLOCKING THE SECRETS: Leafy green vegetables are a rich source of inorganic nitrate.

UNLOCKING THE SECRETS: Leafy green vegetables are a rich source of inorganic nitrate.

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"There are many compounds in vegetables that we still don't know much about."

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A post-doctoral researcher is stepping up her efforts to find which vegetables offer the most protection against heart attacks.

Lauren Blekkenhorst, from Edith Cowan University in WA, is building on her earlier work, which found that eating vegetables high in nitrate, such as spinach, rocket and lettuce, may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 40 per cent.

Dr Blekkenhorst, from the School of Medical & Health Sciences, has received awarded a five-year, $639,725 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council for the latest stage of her research.

"We know that eating a wide variety of vegetables can reduce your risk of heart disease," Dr Blekkenhorst said.

"This grant will allow me to dig deeper and look at which specific vegetables provide the greatest reduction in risk."

"I will also be exploring what particular compounds are in these vegetables that provide the protective effects against heart disease. There are many compounds in vegetables that we still don't know much about."

Dr Blekkenhorst said her NHMRC-funded research would focus on three types of vegetables:

  • Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
  • Allium vegetables - onions, garlic and leek.
  • Leafy green vegetables - spinach, arugula (rocket) and lettuce.

"There are particular sulphur-containing compounds that are found almost exclusively in cruciferous and allium vegetables. There is some emerging evidence showing that these compounds may play a role in preventing heart disease."

"Leafy green vegetables are a rich source of inorganic nitrate, which my previous research has shown may protect against heart disease."

Dr Blekkenhorst said the first part of the project will involve studying the diets of more than 500,000 people around the world to establish which types of vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

"We will then establish causal effects using randomised controlled trials to show definitively which vegetables are the best for heart health."

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