Eating vegetables may help older women keep their blood vessels healthy, thus reducing risks of heart diseases, says a study conducted by Australian researchers.
The study said the biggest benefit comes from cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.
Eating these strong-smelling veggies is linked to less thickening of the carotid arteries located in the neck, the study said.
“These findings reinforce the importance of adequate vegetable intake to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis [“hardening of the arteries”], heart attacks and strokes,” said lead researcher Lauren Blekkenhorst.
“Recommendations to include a couple of servings of cruciferous vegetables may optimize the health benefits of increasing vegetables in the diet.”
Almost 1,000 women aged 70 and above were asked to fill out questionnaires about how often they eat vegetables.
The vegetables consumed by the participants included onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, beans, leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and yellow, orange or red vegetables.
The women said the frequency of consumption ranged from never to three or more times a day.
The researchers used sonograms to measure the thickness of each woman’s carotid arteries and the amount of plaque they contained.
The findings showed that the carotid artery walls of women who ate the most vegetables were about 0.05 millimeter thinner than those who ate the fewest.
That difference might be significant, Blekkenhorst said, because a 0.1 millimeter decrease in carotid wall thickness was linked to a 10 to 18 percent lower risk of stroke and heart attack.
Blekkenhorst explained that vegetables, whether raw or cooked, are good for the health, because of their high fibre content which makes you feel full without consuming many calories.
She said the benefits found in the study were limited to vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli, adding that other vegetables did not show the same protective link.
The researchers, however, said it wasn’t clear whether men also gain these benefits from vegetables.
“We cannot be certain that the findings will be the same for older men, as the risk factors for vascular disease are different for men and women, but it can’t hurt for men to consume more cruciferous vegetables every day,” said Samantha Heller, the study co-author.
The report was published online in Journal of the American Heart Association.