Archive for Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Make heart-healthy eating choices

November 2, 2005


Q: What is homocysteine? Why should I lower it?

A: Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Too much homocysteine in the blood has been shown to raise the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Some studies indicate it may be tied to diseases of dementia, like Alzheimer's disease.

Q: How does it get too high?

A: Elevated homocysteine levels can result from an inadequate intake of B vitamins and too much animal protein, which is rich in L-methionine, a sulfur containing amino acid that is metabolized to homocysteine.

Q: How do I lower it?

A: Consume more foods with B-12, B-6 and folate. Consume fewer animal protein foods. Here are some foods that you could eat more of:

¢ Beans are high in folic acid but low in methionine. So when you eat beans instead of meat, that helps lower homocysteine (as well as LDL or "bad cholesterol").

¢ Seafood has omega-3s and is a good source of B-12. Both omega-3s and B-12 are needed to slow the decline of mental function with age.

¢ Fruits and vegetables are good sources of folate, B-6 and potassium, and they are low in sodium. They help keep blood pressure as well as homocysteine levels low, and both higher blood pressure and homocysteine cause a more rapid loss of mental function.

¢ Whole grains are a good source of B-6 and folate, and like other plant foods, they help keep cholesterol levels down.

¢ Nonfat dairy and/or fortified soy milk are both an excellent source of B-12 and a good source of B-6. They are high in calcium, so they help keep blood pressure down.

Here's a quick shopping list for foods high in the B vitamins that may be of interest to you:

¢ Folate: Fortified grain foods, whole grains, black-eyed peas, spinach, Great Northern beans and asparagus are excellent sources of folate. Green peas, broccoli, avocados, peanuts, romaine lettuce, wheat germ and orange juice are good sources, too.

¢ B-6: Farmed trout, salmon, bananas, spinach, red peppers, greens, broccoli, asparagus, chicken breast, turkey breast, salmon, cod, snapper and halibut are heart-healthy excellent sources of B-6. Whole grains, nonfat dairy and fruits and vegetables are good sources, too.

¢ B-12: Nonfat dairy, fortified soyfoods and seafood are the best heart-healthy choices for this vitamin. All of these foods have a high satiety-per-calorie ratio. This means they make you feel fuller on fewer calories, which helps prevent weight gain, insulin resistance and rising blood sugar levels. Put it all together, and you have a diet that is more likely to lower your risk for heart disease and prevent the loss of mental function with age.

Q: What should I eat less of if I want to lower my homocysteine?

A: Meats, eggs and dairy are all rich in L-methionine. High-fat and high-refined carbohydrate foods are generally how in B-vitamins. This includes many baked goods and is an especially bad combination if you are trying to watch your weight.

Q: Are cattails edible?

A: Cattails are decorative to many, but to some they are a source of food. Yes, cattails are edible. In fact, all parts of the plant are edible at a certain growth stage.

The stem base that attaches to the rhizome can be used like potatoes. Young flower stalks, without their sheaths, can be used like corn. Cattail pollen, yellow or green in color, makes colorful flour. Rhizomes are sweet and can be eaten raw, baked, roasted or broiled. Their starch content is 30 percent to 46 percent. The rhizome core can be ground into flour. It has about 80 percent carbohydrates and 6 percent to 8 percent protein. One acre of cattails yields about 6,475 pounds of flour.


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