tomato, bean and rice casserole

A diet rich in amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- could be good for your heart along the same lines as quitting smoking, reducing salt and alcohol consumption and getting optimal exercise, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that eating high-levels of certain proteins found in meat and plant-based foods can lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness leading to better heart health.

Researchers investigated the effect of seven amino acids on cardiovascular health among almost 2,000 healthy women. It was discovered that there is a protective effect of several amino acids on cardiovascular health. The research team compared participants' diets to clinical measures of blood pressure and blood vessel health, finding strong evidence that high amino acid intake is essential. Plant-based protein sources were more strongly associated with lower blood pressure whereas meat was more strongly associated with reduced arterial stiffness, according to the study. "We studied seven amino acids -- arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine," explained lead researcher Dr Amy Jennings from UEA's Norwich Medical School. "Glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine are found in animal sources, and a higher intake was associated with lower levels of arterial stiffness."

Dr Jennings went on to say that “increasing intake from protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach could be an important and readily achievable way to reduce people's risk of cardiovascular disease,”

High blood pressure poses a significant risk to heart health, and Dr. Jennings recommends a 75-gram portion of steak, a 100-gram salmon fillet or a 500-milliliter glass of skimmed milk per day to benefit from her study's findings.