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In 2004, the British Medical Journal designed most heart-healthy meal imaginable, and called it the “polymeal.” (1) Based on the results of the Framingham Heart Study, which surveyed more than 5000 subjects and followed them for 46 years, the polymeal was shown to reduce heart disease by a staggering 76%. Nothing has ever come close to that! This research-based theoretical meal consisted of the following foods: wine, fish, dark chocolate, garlic, fruits and vegetables, and almonds. Researchers calculated the polymeal ingredients based on evidence that suggests that each of these foods take a role in supporting optimal heart health.
While I agree that each of these foods are great for the heart, please understand that I am simply reporting on the findings of this study in BMJ, and I do not necessarily recommend this meal, but it does represent the value of balanced meals which are critical to not crave, snack, and feel strained throughout the day. For information on my take on diet, check out my archive of articles in the Diet and Seasonal Eating category.
Wine was chosen due to studies suggesting that daily consumption of 5 ounces of wine reduces cardiovascular disease by 32%. (1) Red wine, in particular, is loaded with cardioprotective factors, such as resveratrol from the skins of red grapes, as well as other beneficial polyphenols and flavonoids. Red wine has been shown to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterols, raise HDL levels and increase nitric oxide production which relaxes arterial pressure. (2)
Note: Alcohol has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in women who are deficient in folic acid, but not at the levels cited above. Daily requirements of dietary folic acid are 400mcg per day.
Four ounces of fish consumed four times a week reduced cardiovascular disease by 14%. (1) The best source of cardioprotective omega-3 fatty acids is wild, not farmed, salmon. Wild salmon is high in a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin and heart-healthy potassium. Sadly, our oceans are contaminated with mercury, which can be mitigated by buying the highest quality salmon (cardiologist’s recommend the company Vital Choice), getting regular mercury testing, striving for better digestive strength, and intelligent cleansing (see the Colorado Cleanse for more on boosting digestive strength and cleansing).
Eating 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily reduced systolic blood pressure by 5.1 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure by 1.8 mmHg; similar reductions in blood pressure correspond to a reduction in cardiovascular events by 21%. (1) In another study, elderly men who ate the most cacao compared to those who ate the least had HALF the risk of dying from cardiovascular issues. (3) Cheers, chocolate lovers!
Daily consumption of garlic reduced total cholesterol concentrations by 66%, which was found to be associated with a 38% reduction in cardiovascular disease at age 50. (1) In addition to supporting cardiovascular health and healthy blood pressure, garlic has been shown to have potent antioxidant, lipid-lowering, antimicrobial properties.
Note: Garlic needs to be chopped or crushed to activate its active ingredient, allicin. The allicin degrades quickly, so experts suggest that garlic be added to cooked food or towards the end of the cooking process.
Fruits and Vegetables
A total of 14 ounces of fruits and vegetables consumed daily produced a reduction in blood pressure similar to that observed with chocolate (4.0 mmHg systolic blood pressure and 1.5 mmHg diastolic blood pressure), resulting in a reduction in cardiovascular disease events by 21%. (1) In another study, those averaging 8 servings of fruits and veggies a day decreased their risk of a cardiovascular event by 30%. (4)
Consuming 2.3 ounces of almonds per day produced a reduction in total cholesterol by 33%. (1) Studies show that folks who eat nuts several times a week had a 30-50% decreased risk of heart disease. (4) Nuts are high in arginine, which converts into nitric oxide in the body, which protects the lining of the arteries while relaxing tight or stressed blood vessels. (5)