Berries may be the next best thing for a heart-healthy diet

Blueberries and strawberries may be the newest superfoods that can help build resistance to clogged arteries and the heart attacks that often result from them.

As part of the U.S.Nurses’ Health Study, the diet habits of nearly 94,000 young and middle-aged women were reviewed over 18 years. Researchers, led by Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., of Norwich Medical School in England, learned that eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries every week made women 32 percent less likely to suffer heart attacks than those who ate berries once a month or less.

Even compared to women who ate others fruits and vegetables in large amounts, those who focused on berry consumption had less risk of heart trouble, according to findings published in the medical journal Circulation.

Researchers believe berries’ high levels of flavonoids, which are compounds associated with keeping arteries open so that blood flow isn’t restricted to the heart, are the reason. Berries also contain significant amounts of vitamin C, potassium and folate.

“Berries were the most commonly consumed sources of these substances in the U.S. diet, and they are one of the best sources of these powerful bioactive compounds,” said Cassidy, who heads Norwich’s nutrition department at the University of East Anglia.

Although the study only included women, he said men are likely to reap heart-healthy benefits from berry consumption as well. The study noted that berries can be easily included regularly in one’s diet.

Dietary supplements such as Ultimate Reds from Dr. Newton’s Naturals offer another way for people to add the benefits of berries to their diets. Ultimate Reds have the antioxidant value of 20 fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and cherries. They are believed to improve immune function, support joints and maintain cholesterol and blood pressure levels that contribute to good cardiovascular health.