It is often said that the arterial system in the body can be likened to rivers that continually transport essential nutrients and oxygen from your heart to the entire body. As such, good artery health is an imperative part of a smooth running cardiovascular system. The ability to keep the arteries clean and clear has been proven to be affected by your diet as well as lifestyle.
A study published in the July 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association in which a whole foods diet was compared head-on with treatment by statin drugs found the whole foods approach to be so effective that the comment accompanying this JAMA article is entitled, “Diet first, then medication for hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
It’s important to know that while genetic make-up and family history may play a role in the development of atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries), a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet are being found to have equal, if not greater, impact on artery health.
Below are some foods that are artery-health-friendly and can help to keep your cardiovascular system supported.
15 Healthy Foods that Support Artery Health
Raw & Organic Nuts
Most nuts have a large amount of important nutrients packed into a very tiny package. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, eating a handful of nuts instead of an unhealthy snack can help you more easily follow a heart-healthy diet. Eating nuts may reduce the risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also appear to improve the health of the lining of your arteries.
Nuts contain unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, natural vitamin E (helps help stop the development of plaques in your arteries), plant sterols L-arginine which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow. For example, almonds are very high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and fiber, while walnuts are a great plant-based source of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid.
Some good ways to consume nuts: spread some organic almond butter on a piece of gluten-free toast or down the center of a stalk of organic celery. Add a handful of raw almonds to your salad or chop and use as a topping for steamed or healthy sautéed vegetables. Add freshly ground nuts to your morning smoothie.
Pomegranate contains phytochemicals that act as antioxidants to protect the lining of the arteries from damage. A 2005 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice stimulated the body’s production of nitric oxide, which helps keep blood flowing and arteries open.
Asparagus is one of the best, natural artery-clearing foods around, says Shane Ellison, an organic chemist and author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures. “Asparagus works within the 100,000 miles of veins and arteries to release pressure, thereby allowing the body to accommodate for inflammation that has accumulated over the years.” It also helps ward off deadly clots, Ellison says.
Just one teaspoon a day of antioxidant-rich cinnamon can help reduce fats in the bloodstream, helping to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries and lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as 26 percent, according to recent research. Ceylon cinnamon can be added to hot drinks, healthy smoothies and as a topping for organic oatmeal.
Turmeric contains curcumin which lowers inflammation—a major cause of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). A 2009 study found that curcumin helps reduce the fatty deposits in arteries by as much as 26 percent.
A daily 4,500mg dose of this blue-green algae (usually found in supplement or powder form) can help relax artery walls and normalize blood pressure. It may also help your liver balance your blood fat levels—decreasing your LDL cholesterol by 10 percent and raising HDL cholesterol by 15 percent, according a recent study.
Research shows that potassium-rich cranberries can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and help raise the good HDL levels in your body. Regular consumption of this holiday favorite may help reduce your overall risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent.
A 1996 study done by researchers in Mexico found that people who ate avocado every day for one week experienced an average 17 percent drop in total blood cholesterol. Also, their levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased and HDL (“good”) cholesterol increased. If you find it difficult to work avocado into your diet, you can use avocado in smoothies, as a substitute for mayonnaise on your favorite healthy sandwich or as dip for veggies.
A Florida State University study found that people given a 4,000mg supplement of L-citrulline (an amino acid found in watermelon) lowered their blood pressure in just six weeks. Researchers say the amino acid helps your body produce nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels.
The soluble fiber in organic oatmeal binds cholesterol and drags it out of the body. When your body needs to utilize cholesterol in the future, it draws on your blood cholesterol supply, effectively lowering your total blood cholesterol level and your risk for heart disease.
Cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A 2011 study found that people ages 65 or older who regularly used olive oil (for both cooking and as a dressing) were 41 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who never use olive oil in their diet. Extra virgin olive oil, a much richer source of polyphenols than refined olive or other refined oils, is the best vegetable oil for heart health, according to the results of the Eurolive study, published in the September 2006 Annals of Internal Medicine.
Wild Caught Coldwater Fish
Mackerel, herring, cod, sardines and salmon are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish 3-4 times a week may act as a preventative to reduce your risk of developing heart disease by decreasing inflammation and lowering triglyceride levels. Be aware that many fish contain high levels of mercury and it is wise to do your research about fish that are caught in your area.
Organic Green Tea
Green tea is rich in catechins, compounds that have been shown to decrease cholesterol absorption in your body. It may help prevent cancer and weight gain, too.
Eggs usually get a bad rap as far as being recognized as a healthy food. A study published in the October 2003 issue of Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin demonstrated that proteins in egg yolk are not only potent inhibitors of human platelet aggregation, but also prolong the time it takes for fibrinogen, a protein present in blood, to be converted into fibrin. Fibrin serves as the scaffolding upon which clumps of platelets along with red and white blood cells are deposited to form a blood clot. These anti-clotting egg yolk proteins inhibit clot formation in a dose-dependent manner—the more egg yolks eaten, the more clot preventing action.
Garlic & Onion
Research presented at the 6th Annual Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology held by the American Heart Association April 29, 2005 in Washington, D.C., suggests that garlic can help prevent and potentially reverse atherosclerotic plaque formation.
The laboratory studies, conducted by well-known German scientist Professor Günter Siegel, M.D., from the University of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, found that powdered garlic (Kwai® garlic) reduced the formation of nanoplaque (the first building blocks of atherosclerotic plaque) by up to 40% and reduced the size of the nanoplaque that did form by up to 20%.
Adding high amounts of garlic and onions to food may improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the progression of atherosclerosis. Studies seem to indicate that the most beneficial components of garlic and onion are found in the ones that are the freshest. In order to get the best effects, it’s recommended that people use fresh organic garlic and onions, instead of dried or powdered, in their foods.
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