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Does Eating Veggies Protect Your Heart? Trending Research Translated for Wellness

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A recent study made media headlines questioning whether eating veggies really protected your heart. Since eating ‘lots of veggies’ has been the mainstream nutrition recommendation for promoting health and wellness, we thought a closer look into this new research was warranted. Here we bring you the Dietitians’ translation of the science into meaningful advice to support healthy living.

The Study [1]

Published in the Frontiers of Nutrition, a new study by researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Bristol involved nearly 400 000 British adults and 12 years of follow up. There are strengths in the diverse team and sample size. The study initially found that the people who consumed the highest amount of vegetables had a 10% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to the people with the lowest vegetable intakes. However, when they adjusted for socioeconomic and lifestyle factors (including physical activity, body weight, high blood pressure, smoking and other nutrients) any protective effect of vegetable intake became much less important. [2]  This surprising finding resulted in the headlines ‘Eating vegetables may not protect against heart disease.’

Low quality evidence

  • Very low vegetable intakes
    The study says the “Mean intakes of raw and cooked vegetables were 2.3 and 2.8 tablespoons/day, respectively”. This amount is very low, less than half a serving per day!  Healthy dietary guidelines recommend much more than this. For example, the WHO suggests consuming at least 400 g (i.e., five portions) of fruit and vegetables per day excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots to improve overall health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. [3]
  • Observational study errors
    One of the limitations of this observational study was that all data was self reported and vegetable intakes may not have been reported accurately, causing measurement errors. It is possible that the study participants had difficulty visualizing their vegetable intakes as their number of “heaping tablespoons”, which the questionnaire asked them to estimate for their vegetable intakes.1
  • Inconsistent with current evidence
    This is one surprising study whose findings are not supported by the significant amount of existing data. Current mainstream evidence shows higher vegetable consumption promotes health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our Recommendations

Keep eating plenty of vegetables and fruit for health including your heart health! Make veggies and fruit half your plate at each meal. Pile your plate with colour and eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us! Registered Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

[1] Feng Q, Kim JH, Omiyale,  Bešević j, Conroy M, May M, et al. Raw and cooked vegetable consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a study of 400,000 adults in UK biobank. Front Nutr. 2022 Feb; 9:831470. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.831470. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.831470/full

[2] Dietitians of Canada, PEN Nutrition (2022) Available at: https://www.pennutrition.com/TrendingTopic.aspx?id=29382 (PEN registration required to access)

[3] Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003. Available at: WHO_TRS_916.pdf

Why Does Magnesium Matter for Health?

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Magnesium is a hot topic and clients are asking what does it do?

Magnesium is an important mineral in the body. It plays a role in over 300 body enzyme reactions. Its many functions include producing energy, making body protein, and building bones and teeth. Magnesium also supports muscle and nerve function by helping our muscles relax and contract. Magnesium has a role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels and may help protect against heart disease. Magnesium helps maintain a healthy immune response.

Magnesium is becoming a hot topic lately because research shows that many people are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. More than 34% of Canadians over the age of 19 consume less magnesium that would meet their nutrient requirement. [1] Although a true deficiency is rare in healthy people, because the body can compensate for lower magnesium intakes by reducing its loss in the urine and taking magnesium from deposits stored in your bones.  If you don’t consume enough magnesium, a concern is that you may not have enough of this important mineral stored to keep yourself healthy and protect your body against heart disease and immune disorders. [2]

How much magnesium do you need?[3]

Adult men need 400-420 milligrams daily and adult women need 310-320 milligrams magnesium every day.

Supplements provide non-food sources of magnesium. The tolerable upper intake level for non-food sources of magnesium is 350 milligrams / day. This amount would be in addition to the magnesium provided by food. Consult with your doctor or dietitian if you have any questions about non-food sources of magnesium in your diet. This is especially important because magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, so do discuss supplements with a health care provider before taking one.

Where is magnesium found in food? [4]

Magnesium is found in many foods.

The best sources of magnesium are nuts and seeds. Here are some examples:

  • Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup (60 mL) of has 317 mg magnesium (about 10 medium nuts) [5]
  • Brazil nuts ¼ cup (60 mL) has 133 mg magnesium
  • Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, cashews, mixed nuts etc.) ¼ cup (60 mL) have 79-98 mg magnesium
  • Soybeans (edamame) frozen or prepared ¾ cup (175mL) has 73 mg magnesium

Other magnesium-rich foods are dark green leafy veggies including spinach and Swiss chard with
½ cup (125 mL) cooked dark greens delivering about 80 mg magnesium.

Magnesium is also found in legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), grain foods like fortified breakfast cereals, bread, rice; soy foods like soymilk and tofu; peanut butter, avocados, potatoes, dairy yogurt and milk.

Bottom line

About one third of Canadians consume less than the average requirement for magnesium. Be sure to include plenty of magnesium rich foods in your diet. Inadequate nutrient intake can lead to nutrient deficiencies that may negatively affect the quality of your life.

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature it in our Ask a Dietitian posts. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy nutritious, sustainable, and affordable and healthy eating.

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

 

[1] Health Canada (2012) Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Available at

art-nutr-adult-eng.pdf (canada.ca)

[2] Duyff Academy of Food and Nutrition (2017) Complete Food & Nutrition Guide

[3] Dietitians of Canada-UnlockFood.ca (2019) What You Need to Know About Magnesium Available at What You Need to Know About Magnesium – Unlock Food

[4] Alberta Health Services (2019) Magnesium and Your Diet. Available at Magnesium and Your Diet (albertahealthservices.ca)

[5] Government of Canada, Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=2544