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Exploring Womanhood > Mind, Body & Soul > Health & Well-Being Channel > Healthy Eating

Garlic is Heart Healthy
By Kathy Kastan, LCSW, MA ED, and Suzanne Banfield, PhD, with Wendy Leonard and the Members of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

Excerpted from WomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbook: Featuring the 40 Foods Proven to Promote Heart Health

www.womensheart.org

Considered so sacred by the ancient Egyptians, it was placed in the tombs of Pharaohs. Believed to be so powerful by the Greeks and Romans, they ritually consumed it prior to going to war. So loved by the Israelites, they pined for it when wandering the desert. Of what are we speaking? Garlic . . . of course.

Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder strongly encouraged the consumption of garlic because of its profound health virtues. Indeed, the "stinking rose" (and a member of the lily family) has a long history of offering a veritable cornucopia of heart healthy benefits--a reputation that it absolutely deserves.

Thanks to garlic's rich antioxidant content in the form of allicin, plus vitamins A and C, study after study has shown that regularly eating garlic can lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol levels, as well as prevent, reduce, and even reverse the development of atherosclerosis.

Garlic is also a terrific source of salt-lowering potassium, which in turn reduces blood pressure. And it's rich in folate, which lowers blood pressure and homocysteine levels, relaxes blood vessels, and improves blood flow. Plus, garlic has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, help prevent the formation of blood clots, and stave off heart disease--and reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack.

Heart Helper Extraordinaire
A study investigated how garlic might benefit 30 people with preexisting coronary heart disease. Each day for 3 months, participants consumed 1 gram of peeled and crushed raw garlic. The results showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol and triglycerides and a significant increase in HDL. The study also concluded that garlic successfully inhibits the formation of blood clots.

Another study investigating whether eating garlic might help reduce blood clots followed men ranging in age from 40 to 50 who ate one clove of garlic (approximately 3 grams) each day for 16 weeks. Tested 6 months after their last daily clove, the men, on average, reduced their cholesterol levels by 20 percent and reduced their serum thromboxane--a lipid in your blood that encourages clot formation--by a dramatic 80 percent!

Then there was a study investigating garlic's impact on moderately high cholesterol levels. Every day for 6 months, 56 men ages 32 to 68 consumed 7.2 grams of pure garlic extract. On average, they achieved a 6 to 7 percent reduction in total cholesterol, a 4.6 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol, and a 5.5 percent decrease in blood pressure.

Heart Health Benefits

  • Lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Raises "good" HDL cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers homocysteine levels
  • Inhibits blood clot formation
  • Reduces plaque buildup
  • Improves blood flow
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Improves glycemic control

So plan your meals accordingly and make Garlic a part of your life everyday.

Recipe - Happy Heart Pasta Primavera

"I wanted to put together an easy dish that was heart healthy and at the same time would be a favorite for the entire family. I started with a family choice of pasta, and then added my favorite heart-wise foods. Everyone loves it!" - Marci B., Lake Placid, Florida

8 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups small frozen cooked shrimp, thawed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup (1 1/3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a large serving bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the carrot, squash, broccoli, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes longer, or until crisp-tender.

3. Stir in the shrimp and tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, or until heated through. Pour over the pasta and sprinkle with the cheese.

Serves 6
Heart healthy ingredients: 9
Per serving: 296 calories, 103 calories from fat, 12 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 7 g monounsaturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, 36 mg cholesterol, 126 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 12 g protein

About the Author:
Kathy Kastan, LCSW/MAEd, is Immediate Past President of the Board of Directors of WomenHeart; a national organization dedicated to reducing death and disability among women living with heart disease. Ms. Kastan is the co-author of the newly released WomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbook. Ms. Kastan is the author of From the Heart: A Woman's Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease, 2007 by Da Capo Lifelong Books--a member of the Perseus Books Group. She resides with her husband and three boys in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information visit www.womensheart.org.

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