April 25, 2019
Various green cabbages in basket winter Seasonal Vegetables on daylight
Wellness Tip

Cruciferous Veggies May Help Arteries

by Health After 50  

Eating a lot of vegetables—especially the cruciferous type—is associated with healthier carotid arteries among older women compared with those who eat fewer vegetables, new research has shown.

In an observational study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, nearly 1,000 Australian women ages 70 and older were asked to record their daily vegetable intake. Three years later, researchers used sonograms to measure the thickness of the walls of the women’s carotid arteries, the blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Thickened artery walls are a sign of atherosclerosis—a buildup of fat deposits and fibrous tissue that can narrow the arteries and reduce blood flow. Women who ate three or more servings of vegetables a day had thinner artery walls by 0.05 millimeters than women who ate less than two servings of vegetables. A 0.1 millimeter decrease is associated with a 10 to 18 percent decrease in stroke and heart attack risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts) was associated with the best results.

The study was observational, so it can’t prove that eating lots of vegetables directly prevents thickening of carotid artery walls—nor can it prove that not eating vegetables will lead to buildup of plaque in the carotid arteries.

Still, such research provides even more good reason not to skimp on your veggies. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most adults get 2½ cups of vegetables daily. Consume a variety of colorful vegetables, raw or cooked, with a focus on cruciferous types.

This article first appeared in the July 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.

Also see Crucifers: Veggie Superstars.