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Produce Found to Impact on Strokes, Blood Pressure

Studies show the benefits of adding apples, tomatoes and cranberry juice to your diet.

How is your produce intake?  

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least one half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables but for many Americans this desirable balance is still a goal and not a reality. Three recent studies might push you to achieve the goal a bit sooner.

The first study appeared in the journal Neurology and it looked at the lycopene content of tomatoes related to reduction of stroke risk in men. Lycopene is an antioxidant that works in the body to counter act free radicals which contribute to aging and disease risk.

Lycopene is found in reddish colored fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapefruit and guava but the content in tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, is higher. The study of more than 1000 men, ages 42 to 61, found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene had a 55 percent lower risk of suffering a stroke than those with the lowest lycopene levels.

Lycopene is absorbed better when it is consumed cooked, and with some fat, so a bit of olive oil on pasta and tomato sauce or tomatoes stir-fried in olive oil would be good options.

The second study was a small scale study presented at a recent American Heart Association meeting. The study looked at the impact of low-calorie cranberry juice on blood pressure. Half of the 56 subjects in the study were given eight ounces of low-calorie cranberry juice twice a day for eight weeks; the other half consumed a placebo beverage. At the end of the study the group who drank the low-calorie cranberry juice had blood pressures which showed a greater drop than subjects who did not receive the cranberry juice.*

And the third study, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, found that eating one apple a day can lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels by as much as 40 percent. The four week study of 51 people consisted of three different samples; one group ate an apple a day, one consumed capsules that contained apple polyphenols (an antioxidant) and the third group took a placebo capsule. While the group consuming the apple polyphenol capsules also saw a drop in the LDL those who ate the apples had the largest reduction in their levels.

Adding an apple, cooking with tomatoes and drinking low-calorie cranberry juice are relatively simple steps that might help you reap larger health benefits.

*Editor's Note: Diekman provides nutrition consultation to Ocean Spray but had no connection to this study.

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