Your heart thanks you for the oatmeal, nuts, beets, etc.

By Hari Pulapaka and Jenneffer Pulapaka

A whole-food, plant-based (WFPD) diet low in sodium has been conclusively shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But which foods are the stars and stewards of healthy hearts?

The list below gives our “Top 10” heart-healthy foods. Each item has valuable medical attributes that make them integral ingredients to include in any diet that promotes and maintains heart health.

1. Oatmeal. Oats are high in fiber and possess cholesterol-reducing properties. Additionally, studies have shown that oats in collaboration with vitamin C prevent HDL (“good”) cholesterol oxidation – thus fighting the progression of heart disease.

2. Flaxseed. Increasing the levels of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. In a WFPB diet, flaxseeds provide a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that daily consumption of flaxseeds may help maintain lower blood pressure. Flaxseeds have binding qualities that make them a useful substitute for eggs and processed flours.

3. Berries. They contain high amounts of polyphenols. And most berries are low in calories and high in moisture and fiber. They contain natural antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and micronutrients – all essential for heart health.

4. Dark leafy greens.  A diet rich in collards, mustards, kale, spinach, etc. (and black-eyed peas) promotes heart health. Additionally, they have low glycemic indices and low caloric profiles, which makes them particularly beneficial in maintaining a healthy weight.

5. Pomegranate. Pomegranates are a rich source of potent antioxidants which act against several types of free radicals. Additionally, pomegranates help protect against the oxidation of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and help reduce blood pressure.

6. Walnuts or almonds. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Specifically, walnuts and almonds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats. They are, however, also high in calories, so they must be consumed in moderate portions.

7. Beans. All legumes are rich in minerals and fiber – beans especially so. Because beans don’t contain saturated fats and are rich in protein, they provide healthy nutrition and satiation. Beans are a deliciously versatile component to help maintain a heart-healthy diet and are an essential ingredient in many cuisines.

8. Soy. Foods containing soy protein have been shown to reduce cholesterol, even as the precise mechanisms are still being actively researched. Edamame and soy protein are good examples of ingredients that can be easily incorporated into a heart-healthy diet.

9. Plant sterols. These compounds, naturally found in plant cell membranes, are similar in chemical structure to the human body’s cholesterol. When our diet is plant-based, the plant sterols compete with cholesterol for absorption into our digestive system, resulting in a blocking and hence, reduction of cholesterol absorption.

10. Beets and beet greens. Beets (juice, root, and leaves) are naturally concentrated in nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase oxygen levels. A diet that includes all edible aspects of beets helps increase oxygen levels and improve overall cardiovascular function.

Blueberries (and berries in general) are a good source of antioxidants.

Hari Pulapaka is a professional chef. Dr. Jenneffer Pulapaka specializes in diabetic and vascular disease.

Vouchers help low-income seniors buy market produce

Older adults in Pierce County can use vouchers to buy vegetables and fruit from farmers markets and farm stores.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program issues the vouchers to low-income seniors who live in Pierce County, are at least 60 years old (55-plus for Native Americans or Native Alaskans), have a valid government-issued identification, and have monthly incomes of less than $2,096 for a one-person household and $2,823 for a two-person household. For households of three or more people, applicants should add $728 for each additional person.

Applications are available at or by calling Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources at 253-798-4600 or 1-800-562-0332.

A  list of farmers markets is in the Things to Do feature of

Fruit and veggies, like these at the Puyallup Farmers Market, can be purchased with county-issued vouchers by older Pierce County residents.
Avoid junk food like your health depends on it (which it does)

Sure, most people know what a healthy diet looks like. But truth be told, they don’t all follow it, leading to a myriad of health problems. Junk food, fast food, and highly processed items may be convenient and taste good, but they aren’t good for the body.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of the adult population considered obese continues to rise. The latest figures show that 42 percent are obese, and obesity increases the risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer—all of which, the CDC points out, are largely preventable through diet and lifestyle.

Here are some expert tips a healthier diet:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day and aim for half your plate to be fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume no more than 2,000 mg per day of sodium. Purchase canned goods with no salt added, and cook without adding salt. Salt can be added at the table, but it can’t be removed once it’s an ingredient in the cooking.
  • Don’t drink your calories. Eliminate empty calories in sugar-sweetened beverages, coffee, and fruit juices.
  • Focus on fiber. Try for at least 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams for men. Great sources of fiber include oatmeal, beans, lentils, popcorn, and whole-grain bread.
  • Power up with protein by getting 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight. Consuming adequate protein is good for bone health, retaining muscle mass, and reducing cravings by keeping you full. Great protein sources include lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, tofu, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
  • Increase daily fruit and vegetable intake. They should be a staple because they contain fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. The CDC reports only 9 percent and 12 percent of adults, respectively, eat the recommended daily supply of vegetables and fruit.
  • Limit your eating of highly processed food. Most of them have unhealthy ingredients. The National Institutes of Health reports people who eat the stuff consume more calories and gain more weight. Make snacks at home, so there’s more control over what goes into them.

In general, to get in the habit of eating healthier, make a list of planned meals and shop only for the ingredients needed to make them. And avoid grocery shopping while hungry.


Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and National Institutes of Health (

Food like this might taste good, but it isn’t good for the body.
Wine lovers can tout the grape with license plates

Wine fans might raise a glass to

Washington’s wineries in places like the Yakima Valley will be promoted with the help of specialized license plates for vehicles.

this: Washington is selling specialty automobile license plates that support the state’s wine industry.

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Chambers of Puyallup and passed by the Legislature earlier this year calls for vehicle plates featuring a scenic landscape of Washington wine country.

The plates will cost $40. That money, plus the $30 renewal fee, will go to the state to help promote destination tourism, including wineries.

Chjambers said nearly 4,000 Washingtonians signed a petition in support of creating the specialty plate.

Here are some facts (from about Washington’s wine industry:

  • Number of licensed wineries: 1,050
  • National rank as wine producer in the United States: second./
  • Wine grape acreage: 60,000-plus acres.
  • Number of wine grape growers: 400.
  • Annual wine production: 17 million cases.
  • Varieties of wine produced: 80-plus.
  • Total annual in-state economic impact: $8 billion.