When we think about cardiovascular or heart health, what we are really worried about is maintaining the health of our arteries. When plaque buildup occurs in these critical passageways it restricts proper blood flow and may ultimately lead to a heart attack.
But you don’t need to have had a heart attack to feel the effects of coronary artery disease. When those arteries are clogged, you won’t be getting enough blood to your heart, which causes chest pain, a feeling of heaviness, and shortness of breath.
The good news is that you don’t have to go on some crazy detox diet in order to help clear out your arteries. Just look for foods that are high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and most crucially, fiber. Eat more of the following nutritious and delicious foods to naturally clear your arteries.
1. Healthy fats
A huge marketing campaign in the 1980s pointed to fat as the demon driving weight gain, but the reality is more complicated. In fact, evidence now points to sugar as the real culprit.
Of course, fat should be consumed in moderation, and the important thing is to eat the right kind. The saturated fats in burgers and fried foods are not good for your arteries, but the monounsaturated variety actually lowers bad cholesterol and protects you from a heart attack or stroke.
Where to get it:
Avocados are full of healthy fat that balances out good and bad cholesterol levels, actually removing some of the bad from your arteries. They are also high in potassium, which studies show can help prevent calcification of the artery walls.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are great choices for healthy unsaturated fats. Fish is also high in omega-3 fatty acids that can lower the level of harmful triglycerides in your arteries.
Nuts are fantastic as a snack or crunchy topper to all sorts of meals. They are high in unsaturated fat, but also in vitamins and fiber. We recommend cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts for their additional magnesium content, which is thought to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaque in your arteries.
Oxidants, more commonly known as free radicals, are a by-product of the use of oxygen in our bodies. They are also internalized when we smoke, breathe polluted air, or spend too much time in the sun.
These free radicals are notorious for causing damage to cell walls and generally lowering health all over the body, including the arteries. Eating food rich in antioxidants helps because these substances bind with the free radicals and stop them from doing damage.
Where to get it:
Turmeric is the aromatic spice that gives curry its distinctive taste and color. It is also an antioxidant powerhouse that can repair damage to your arterial walls and reduce inflammation all over the body. Eat more curry, make turmeric tea, or take a capsule supplement.
Citrus fruits are high in both antioxidants and vitamin C, which plays a key role in heart health. Aim to eat at least a piece or two of citrus fruit each day, or sip on lemon water throughout the day.
Though not technically a citrus fruit, pomegranate is particularly high is antioxidants and has been found to clear out clogged arteries and improve blood flow in the process. We don’t normally recommend fruit juice over whole fruit, but pomegranate juice is a good choice as long as there is no added sugar.
Fiber is an important element of a heart-healthy diet because it can lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. Fiber is actually indigestible and passes through the body whole, taking with it a host of bad stuff you don’t want hanging around.
There are actually two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water into a kind of gel that helps to reduce both cholesterol and sugar in the bloodstream. Insoluble fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut and also attracts water into your colon, making it easier to pass stool.
Where to get it:
Whole grains are critical because eating a diet rich in them has been shown to prevent dangerous thickening of artery walls. Choose whole grain breads and eat lots of brown rice, barley, quinoa, and oatmeal.
Vegetables and fruits in general contain a lot of fiber, but broccoli is especially good for this. Broccoli’s cruciferous relatives like cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are also particularly high in fiber.
Popcorn is an excellent snack for adding fiber to your diet as long as you don’t drown it in butter and salt. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of your favorite spice blend makes popcorn delicious and adds to the health value as well.
The last word
As you focus on eating more foods that naturally clear your arteries, you may find that you also naturally eat less of the bad stuff that can damage them.
But as you look at intentionally cutting out some of these more dangerous foods, don’t worry about your daily coffee. Studies show that drinking three cups a day actually lowers the risk of developing clogged arteries!
Not a coffee drinker? That’s okay – green and black tea also have a host of benefits to cardiovascular health.