Cleveland Clinic's List of 40 Top Foods Can Help Protect Your Heart - and Maybe Your Brain
I’ve heard a lot about the Cleveland Clinic’s quality of care, so my interest was piqued when Better Homes and Gardens’ website, Heart-Healthy Living, promoted the clinic’s top 40 foods. For those of you who haven’t heard of the Cleveland Clinic, this nonprofit multi-specialty academic medical center consistently ranks as one of the top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute heart program has been ranked as the top program in America for 15 years in a row. The clinic’s programs in urology, rheumatology and gastrointestinal disorders rank among the top two in the U.S.
The Clinic researchers selected these foods due to the nutrients they contained that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as help with weight loss. The top vegetables are asparagus, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, garlic, onions/shallots, leeks, leafy greens (such as spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, romaine, kale, beet greens and mustard greens), potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and squash. The top fruits are apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, papaya and peaches. The top grains are barley, brown rice, bulgur, flaxseed, oats and wheat germ. The legumes you should be eating include black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lentils. The best proteins to be eaten include tuna (wild or light canned in water), salmon (wild or canned pink), and natural nut butter (peanut, almond or walnut). And the top soy products to eat include soy milk, soy cheese, soy nuts and tofu/tempeh.
In addition, the Cleveland Clinic and Heart-Healthy Living website have put together a great handout (see the PDF listed on this weblink) which you can download after registering with Heart-Healthy Living. The handout includes the list of identified vegetables, their nutrients, as well as what to look for when buying each product, how to store the product, and ways to use it.
Another reason why I’m interested in this list is that a new study indicates that eating a Mediterranean diet (which meshes with the foods that the Cleveland Clinic is suggesting) reduces strokes in the brain that are seen by brain scans, as reported by ABC News. In addition, the study by researchers from the Taub Institute for Resarch on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center indicates that the diet may reduce the chances of having mild cognitive decline transition to Alzheimer’s disease. I am especially interested in this since my mother suffered from Alzheimer's disease; I chronicled her battle with this disease for HealthCentral.com.
According to USA Today, almost 1,900 individuals were examined and interviewed for the study. Of those, 1,393 had healthy brains while 482 had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). During the study, 275 of the 1,393 participants who did not have MCI at the start of the study developed the condition. Those who most strictly followed the Mediterranean diet had a 28-percent lower risk of developing MCI than the 33 percent of participants who didn’t stick closely to the diet. Those in the middle group of adherence had a 17-percent lower risk of developing MCI than the lower group who ate the fewest number of foods on the Mediterranean diet.
A total of 106 of the 482 participants who had MCI when the study began developed Alzheimer’s disease in the next four years. However, adhering to the diet seemed to help in this area as well. “The one-third of participants with the highest scores for Mediterranean diet adherence had a 48% less risk of developing Alzheimer's than the one-third with the lowest diet scores,” wrote USA Today reporter Mary Brophy Marcus.
This is the first study that connects a Mediterranean diet with decreased risk of MCI. Although researchers believe that clinical studies are needed to prove that the diet has this kind of impact, I think this information is a good reason to go ahead and focus on eating the foods that are highlighted in the Cleveland Clinic. It’s not too early to get started making this type of investment on heart – and brain – health.