Eat more fruits and veggies for better heart health in 8 weeks

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When it comes to the 100-meter dash, the undisputed champs are Usain Bolt (he did it is 9.58 seconds in 2009) and Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49 second in 1988). But if you want better heart health, a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine says you should set out on an eight-week-long DASH diet. 

Researchers wanted to see what two diets rich in fruit and veggies -- they delivered 8.5 and 9.5 servings of produce daily -- would do for middle-age Americans’ heart health. The diet with the most servings of produce (9.5) was the DASH diet, which also includes beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, low-fat dairy, very little saturated fat or cholesterol, and reduced salt. 

Their conclusion? In just eight weeks, folks on both those plant-loving diets saw a significant reduction in heart strain and heart muscle injury, like what might happen from high blood pressure, heart failure or severe calcification of heart arteries. But the DASH diet is more effective. 

Previous analyses show that for folks with high blood pressure, the DASH diet lowers systolic blood pressure (top number) by 11.4 points and diastolic blood pressure (lower number) by 5.5 points, and it reduces LDL cholesterol levels. For diet guidelines, go to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Search for “DASH eating plan.” 

Other powerful approaches to reversing heart disease include the Ornish, Pritikin and Esselstyn diets: www.ornish.com; www.pritikin.com; www.dresselstyn.com. 

So, dash out to the store for some veggies and fruit, and try a plant-centered diet for two months. You’ll end up the big winner.

More proof that cooked tomatoes help prevent prostate cancer

In “The Godfather,” capo Peter Clemenza teaches Don Vito Corleone’s youngest son Michael how to make Sunday gravy. “Come here ... You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday,” he says. “Start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic, then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it and make sure it doesn’t stick.” 

These red-sauce-loving mobsters probably had no idea their concoction could do more than coat linguini -- turns out it also protects the family jewels. 

New research confirms that eating cooked tomatoes may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. A study published in Cancer Causes & Control followed more than 27,000 men without cancer for almost eight years. The researchers found that men who consumed canned or cooked tomatoes four or more times a week had a lower risk for prostate cancer than those who never consumed tomatoes. The most dramatic benefits were seen in guys who consumed about a third of a cup daily, compared with no tomato intake. 

Tomatoes contain high levels of a polyphenolic compound known as lycopene that’s made more bioavailable when heated. Other foods high in this nutrient include red bell peppers, watermelon, papaya and guava.

Lucky for you, tomato season is right around the corner. For fabulous recipes using cooked and canned tomatoes, preorder Dr. Mike’s “What to Cook When Cookbook” -- in August you can discover dishes such as Chunky Roasted Tomato Salsa, Eggplant Sliders El-Roma and Pasta with Harissa-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach.

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