Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, responsible for 655,000 deaths every year, or roughly one in four. While there are plenty of factors that may impact a person’s heart health, doctors and researchers alike have long preached a healthy diet in order to mitigate heart disease risks and adverse effects.
But now, they say that adding cruciferous vegetables to a daily diet may significantly reduce the risk of calcified plaque build-up, which is a major cause of heart disease and treatment complications.
What Is Calcified Plaque?
Arteries are part of the circulatory system and carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. Over time, plaque may start to build up in arteries — due to older age, poor diet, and a combination of other factors — which can in turn make it harder for the body to receive oxygen-filled blood.
That plaque may contain an abundance of calcium that can solidify in the artery walls, not only blocking pathways and causing health problems like a stroke or heart attack but also creating more challenges for doctors if they try to repair damage.
How Can Cruciferous Vegetables Lead to Better Artery Health?
Cruciferous vegetables are all grouped under the same genus of plants called Brassica. These include but are not limited to Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, turnips, and watercress.
Researchers at Edith Cowan University recently published new research in the British Journal of Nutrition that showed that older people who ate at least a small serving of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis dropped their risk of artery calcium build-up by 46 percent. The study had 684 female participants with an average age of roughly 75 years old and focused specifically on the effects of Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli.
Even better, the serving sizes for these extra helpings of cruciferous vegetables are attainable for even the most adverse veggie eaters: The study saw these improvements in artery calcification risk after participants ate just one-quarter cup for broccoli or half a cup of raw cabbage per day.
Why did the study produce such big results? Researchers are still parsing the data, but they believe that cruciferous vegetables have a particularly high concentration of vitamin K, which regulates blood clotting and therefore also helps in preventing build-up in the circulatory system.
If cruciferous vegetables’ heart disease-fighting effects aren’t enough to make you try them out, there’s also additional promising research showing that they fight inflammation and may even reduce the risk of cancer. It might be time to start looking up delicious broccoli recipes for your next dinner.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.