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Scientists reveal how to have a healthy heart at Christmas


Most people think of Christmas as a time of indulgence in more ’naughty’ foods, and a time to worry about our waistlines. However, a University of Glasgow researcher can reveal that Christmas dishes can, in fact, have hidden health benefits. Alan Crozier, a Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Human Nutrition, from the University of Glasgow, has studied the health giving properties of several foods often eaten at Christmas.

Also, Dr Jason Gill, from the department of Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Systems at the University of Glasgow, has recently carried out research showing that exercise before Christmas indulgence can lower fat levels in the blood.

Dark chocolate - Christmas is a great opportunity to treat ourselves to chocolate, which can boost the level of heart-protecting antioxidants in the blood. The anti-oxidant properties can protect the heart and arteries from oxidative damage, similar to the rust that develops on metal after a period of time. Dark chocolate can boost levels of antioxidants in the blood by 20%. However, milk chocolate does not have the same health giving properties. A study revealed that you need twice as much milk chocolate as dark chocolates to obtain the same amount of antioxidants.

Drinking red wine - Research shows that full bodied red wines produced in countries with lots of sunshine, such as Chile, Argentina, Australia and South Africa, are the best when it comes to antioxidants that can help fend off heart disease and cancer by lowering the levels of free radicals in the body cancer. However, because of the adverse effects of excessive alcohol, it should be no more than 2-3 glasses of red wine per day.

Some fruits and vegetables also contain unusually high level of protective antioxidants.

Cherry tomatoes and Lollo Rosso lettuce - Adding cherry tomatoes to a salad rather than can also boost health. Cherry tomatoes contain 10 times the level of antioxidants as normal sized tomatoes. Similarly using Lollo Rosso lettuce in the salad will provide much higher amounts of antioxidants than Iceberg lettuce.

Eating frozen berries- Blackberries, redcurrents, raspberries etc are also rich sources of antioxidants and they are present in similar amounts in fresh and frozen berries.

Professor Alan Crozier, from the University of Glasgow, said: “Eating seemingly ’bad’ foods at Christmas may seem like a good idea, and in fact can be not too bad a thing - if chosen carefully and eaten in moderation. Foods with high levels of antioxidants can cut the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.”

Take a 90-minute walk before your meal - New research from the British Heart Foundation and Dr Jason Gill, from the University of Glasgow, shows that people gearing up for an indulgent holiday feast should make time for some pre-meal exercise. A study has found that a 90-minute walk lowers fat levels in the blood and improves the function of the blood vessels, even after the walker eats a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal.

The study gives new insight into how exercise works in reducing the build up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, the UK’s biggest killer. It may also provide valuable advice for those who know they will not be able to resist the temptation of an extra serving of Christmas pudding.

A long walk before a fatty meal can lessen the effects of high fat intake on blood vessel function. Eating high-fat foods is known to transiently elevate levels of blood fats such as triglycerides, and a rich meal can also temporarily impair the functioning of the lining of blood vessels-called the endothelium. The study suggests that moderate exercise can blunt these effects in both thin and obese middle-aged men.

Jenny Murray | alfa
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