As a cardiologist, I have some patients who have to take statins – cholesterol lowering drugs – at least for a while. Their former diets of too much animal fat contributed to high “bad” LDL and too low “good” HDL. In addition, adding too much refined sugar to this mix created inflammation throughout their bodies – and as a result, they developed plaque buildup in their arteries. Now, they are eating better and their cholesterol numbers are, happily moving in the right direction. Let me share with you 8 of the best, yet common, foods/food groups that will help keep your arteries clean, your blood circulating freely and decrease your risk of heart attack or stroke.
8 Simple Foods for Good Artery Health and a Longer Life
First, I’d like to impress on you, my readers, that it’s not a foregone conclusion that just because you’re getting older you’re going to develop cardiovascular disease. Your diet is one of the key factors that determine who will get cardiovascular disease and how significant it is.
Certain foods you eat can help keep your arteries with minimal plaque and your blood freely circulating throughout your body. This may not sound like much but clots and arterial blockages are what cause life-threatening heart attacks and strokes. Here are 8 good ones…
1. Avocado. A Mexican study showed that people who ate avocado for a week had a 17% decrease in their total cholesterol levels. You can add it to your diet just by eating it whole, sliced into salads, or as a dip for other vegetables. Some people even drink them in smoothies.
2. Mixed nuts. Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, cashews. Many studies have shown that people who include 5 servings (1/4 cup each) per week, have 35% lower risk of heart disease.
3. Spices. Cayenne, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon. Studies have shown that cayenne, turmeric and garlic help dissolve bad LDL cholesterol before it can turn into hardened arterial problems. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and improve the body’s insulin usage to burn more fat. Less fat storage equals less dangerous inflammatory chemicals in your body that damage arteries and allows plaque to build up like a “Band-Aid” at the injury site. Use cayenne to turn up the heat/flavor in your food, turmeric is found in mustard (or you can take as a supplement), and cinnamon is great for apples.
4. Leafy greens. Broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus, all contain powerful phytonutrients that help normalize cholesterol levels. Get at least 2-3 servings a day.
5. Fruits. Like persimmons, oranges, pomegranate, cranberries, watermelon, green olives all contain flavonoids that help normalize cholesterol. Eat a few servings a week.
6. Tea, Coffee. Who would have thought that green tea and regular ol’ coffee can help boost arterial health? It’s true though. Green tea contains catechins and other phytonutrients that neutralize bad LDL fats and helps clear them. Coffee – like fruit – contains important flavonoids that do the same.
7. Beneficial oils. Olive oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids that help dissolve plaque buildups and boost arterial elasticity. Use on salads, or on bread and vegetables instead of margarine or butter. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that boost HDL “good” cholesterol, normalize LDL cholesterol and keep arteries from hardening and becoming injured. Studies on Pacific Islander people, who eat high amounts of coconut oil a year, have revealed very low incidences of coronary artery disease and low cholesterol levels overall. Some researchers are even going so far as to say that coconut oil may soon be used like statins to help dissolve already present plaque buildups. Stir-fry your vegetables and other foods in it. One tablespoon goes a long way.
8. Fatty fish. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, are full of Omega-3 fatty acids that help cool down inflammation in arteries and help break up plaque deposits. 3 servings a week is helpful.
You’re likely eating several of these foods already. But, if you make a little effort to branch out and add several more of them to your diet every day, you’ll go a long way in helping prevent arterial plaque buildup and the dangerous consequences that can result. Getting aerobic and resistance type exercise several times a week will also help. More good news is that these artery-supporting foods are commonly found in your supermarket and are fairly economical as well. Even better, they taste great too!
Ron Blankstein, M.D.