Do you know that some of the best foods for healthy hearts are easily grown right in your own backyard? That’s right, to prevent heart problems, plant and enjoy fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fat.
Here are the top 10 homegrown fruit and veggie superfoods for heart health.
Avocado – The creamy texture of avocados comes from “good” fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol. Like olive oil, the “good” fats from avocados have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get hardening of arteries. They’re also high in antioxidants and potassium.
Avocado trees are wonderful additions to home landscapes, but some are rather large for typical urban gardens. However, there are smaller (and even dwarf) trees. Consider ‘Holiday’ (extra-large fruit with green skin), ‘Whitsell’ (medium-sized, high-quality fruit), Gwen’ (green-skinned fruit), ‘Littlecado’ (good for pots; green fruit), or ‘Reed’ (rough green skin, good flavor). If you’ve got a larger garden, any avocado will be ideal.
Avocado trees don’t like frequent, shallow watering, so avoid planting in lawns. Give them full sun, allowing them to dry before watering. Feed quarterly with E.B. Stone Citrus and Avocado Food.
Beans and Peas – Both of these legumes lower blood sugar levels which is important in helping people avoid complications related to diabetes such as heart disease. They also are a great source of protein without “bad” fats.
Research has shown that people who ate beans, peas and lentils four times a week lowered their risk of heart disease by 22% compared to those eating only one serving of legumes.
In California, beans are warm-season veggies (planted in spring for summer harvests), while peas are planted during our cool season (October – March). Both need full sun and well-amended soil. Add Sure Start fertilizer when amending.
Give beans and peas something to climb on unless you’re planting bush beans which need no support. They’re all easily grown from seed.
Blueberries – Anthocyanins give blueberries their blue coloring and antioxidants. They also contain flavonoids, another antioxidant. Together, these compounds help decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Research has found that people who ate three servings of blueberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack.
Grow blueberries in pots or in the ground in a sunny area. In hot inland areas, place where they will get some shade during the hottest hours of afternoon sun. Plant with an acidic planting mix (E.B. Stone Camellia and Azalea Mix) and feed with a food for acid-loving plants. Plant more than one blueberry variety for larger crops.
Broccoli, Spinach and Kale – These three cool-season veggies are particularly high in carotenoids, antioxidants that can rid your body of harmful compounds. Of course, they’re great providers of vitamins, minerals and fiber. All kinds of kale have omega-3 fatty acids.
Plant broccoli, spinach and kale October through March in temperate California areas. As with all veggies, amend the soil well, adding a starter fertilizer. These three are all “short-season” or quick crops, meaning that you can plant multiple times during the growing season.
Citrus Fruits – Citruses of all kinds are high in vitamin C, which research links to a lower risk of heart disease. They also contain flavonoid compounds, lowering the risk of strokes caused by blood clots. Be aware, however, that grapefruits can disrupt cholesterol-lowering drugs.
In temperate-climate California gardens, citruses of all kinds are both ornamental and productive home landscape trees. Dwarf citrus trees are excellent choices for pots. Choose your variety with the help of an Armstrong expert, as some varieties are better for cooler coastal gardens.
Plant citrus trees with organic E.B. Stone Citrus & Palm Planting Mix in a full-sun area. Water regularly, but soil should never remain soggy. Feed with E.B. Stone Citrus & Avocado Food which is also organic.
Red and Black Grapes – You’ve heard of the heart-healthy advantages of moderate amounts of red wine? Well, it’s not the alcohol. It’s the juicy red or black grapes that provide the benefits of resveratrol, which helps keep platelets in your blood from sticking together.
Table grapes are wonderful additions to gardens—especially if you have an unattractive fence to hide. But any sunny fence will support grapes. Simply train the rampant vines on the side (using wire) or along the top.
At planting time, amend your soil and add a starter fertilizer. Once you have the plant structure you want, prune each year’s growth back, leaving only two- to three-inches on top of the previous year’s woody stems.
Pomegranate – Pomegranate juice has shown to improve blood flow to the heart. Pomegranates contain various antioxidants, including heart-healthy polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help delay hardening of the arteries.
They’re very easily grown in mild California gardens—and almost nowhere else in the United States. Pomegranates form lovely, large, arching shrubs with small leaves that turn beautiful yellow, orange and red in fall. The large fruits stay on for a long time—looking a bit out of place once the leaves fall.
Plant pomegranates in full sun in well-draining soil. Add amendments and starter fertilizer. Once established, pomegranates can be surprisingly drought-tolerant.
Raspberries and Blackberries – These succulent berries are loaded with polyphenols -- antioxidants that wipe out damage-causing free radicals in your body. Additionally, they’re rich in fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke.
Be sure to plant “low-chill” raspberries in mild California gardens. The varieties ‘Bababerry’ and ‘Heritage’ are best. Most blackberry varieties grow anywhere in California. Amend the soil well, as these will be permanent plants. Give them plenty of sunshine.
Give these berries lots of room and sturdy support; arching canes can grow six feet or more. Each winter remove only the canes that fruited the previous year. This will encourage new canes to grow, which will produce fruit the following year. This way you’ll have berries each year.
Potatoes – Potatoes have lots of health benefits even though they’re sometimes frowned upon as unwelcome starch. There’s no question that they’re good for your heart because of their high amounts of potassium, which can lower blood pressure. The fiber found in potatoes lowers the risk of heart disease, too.
Potatoes can be grown in any well-draining soil in full sun. Amend the soil well with E.B. Stone Planting Mix, adding a starter fertilizer at the same time. As potatoes grow, the tubers may become exposed, causing discoloration. To avoid this, gradually pile up soil around the plants as they grow, always leaving 3- to 4-inches of leaves showing.
Potatoes are fully mature once the tops begin to brown at the end of the growing season. If you can’t wait, test to see if tubers have reached “baby potato” size. If so, harvest as you use them.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are well-known as a source of lycopene, an antioxidant and carotenoid that helps keep blood vessels open, lowering the risk of heart attacks. They also help get rid of “bad” cholesterol. Tomatoes are related to potatoes and like them, are also high in heart-healthy potassium.
Nothing’s easier to grown than fresh, juicy, health-promoting tomatoes. Find a sunny site and amend the soil well with E.B. Stone Flower and Vegetable Planting Mix and Sure Start fertilizer.
Place the plants about three feet apart and provide sturdy supports. Feed once or twice during the summer, but not more. Overfeeding can cause lots of leaf growth, but not fruiting. Water regularly, allowing the soil surface to dry between watering times.
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