If your goal is to restore or maintain a healthy heart, there are a variety of foods that can help to unclog arteries of plaque build-up, lower your blood pressure, and reduce inflammation – the main culprits of cardiovascular illness.
Many of the foods on this list contain healthy fats, antioxidants, and soluble fiber which are great not only for your heart, but also to promote healthy skin, hair, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. You can feel better, have more energy, and improve your heart health without the use of toxic chemicals.
One of the best vegetables for clearing arteries, asparagus is full of fiber and minerals, as well as a long list of vitamins including K, B1, B2, C, and E. Asparagus can help to lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots that can cause serious cardiovascular illness. Try steaming raw asparagus for maximum vitamin potential!
The next time you make a sandwich or salad, consider adding a few slices of avocado in lieu of mayonnaise or heavy salad dressing. Studies have shown that the daily consumption of avocado result in improved blood cholesterol with a decrease in triglycerides and LDL of around 22% and an 11% increase in HDL – the “good” cholesterol that helps to keep arteries clear of obstructions. Not only can this delicious fruit help to keep your blood flowing smoothly, the average avocado also contains around 4 grams protein and 11 grams of fiber, not to mention an impressive list of vitamins and antioxidants.
Broccoli is another vegetable that is loaded with vitamin K which helps to prevent calcification or hardening of arteries. Eating vitamin- and antioxidant-packed broccoli can also help to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol which can lead to serious heart conditions. This super healthy veggie also offers a heart-healthy dose of fiber which helps to normalize blood-pressure and reduce stress that may cause tears (and eventually plaque build-up) in arterial walls.
4. Chia Seeds
When included daily as part of a heart-healthy diet, the fiber and alpha-linolenic acid contained in just two ounces of Chia seeds can help to keep arteries clear by regulating blood pressure, reducing LDL cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, and increasing HDL cholesterol. Also, because daily cardiovascular exercise is another excellent way to improve heart health and keep arteries clear, Chia seeds are doubly effective. The boost of protein and nutrients offered by this tiny superfood can help to make any workout feel just a little bit easier.
(Further reading: 10 Emphatic Reasons Why You Should Add Chia Seeds To Your Diet Today)
You’ve probably heard that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But did you know that a spoonful of cinnamon makes your risk of heart disease go down? Just one tablespoon of ground cinnamon per day can work to reduce cholesterol levels while at the same time clearing and preventing plaque build-up. Cinnamon is also full of antioxidants which further improve cardiovascular health by protecting blood from damaging oxidation. So put down the sugar and start enjoying cinnamon. Try this fragrant spice in a cup of tea or sprinkled on top of coffee. Or check out these recipes on EatingWell with cinnamon.
6. Coconut Oil
Disregard the old myth that all saturated fats are bad and the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. Regular consumption of coconut oil – about 2 or 3 tablespoons per day – can help to reduce plaque build-up in the arteries by aiding the conversion of cholesterol in the blood stream into a form that our bodies can use. The high concentration of medium-chain triglyceride, lauric acid present in coconut oil is also thought to improve blood coagulation as well as to perform antioxidant functions in the blood stream, further diminishing the risk of heart disease.
Further Reading: 10 Mind Blowing Reasons You Should Add Coconut Oil To Your Diet
Also contrary to popular belief, coffee is not bad for your health. Studies have found that drinking between 8 and 16 oz of coffee per day can reduce your risk of heart disease by around 20%. Just remember to take all things in moderation, including caffeine. Over-consumption of any stimulant has the potential to increase your blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to some serious health problems.
Further Reading: 14 Genius Ways To Recycle Used Coffee Grounds
Cranberries are another antioxidant-rich food which can help to improve cardiovascular health by reducing LDL and raising HDL cholesterol levels. In fact, cranberry juice has more antioxidant power than all but one other fruit juice (100% red or black grape being the exception.) Enjoy two servings of 100% pure organic cranberry juice daily to protect your heart and improve your health.
9. Cold-water “Fatty” Fish
Also rich in healthy fats, cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna can help to clear arteries. Try to eat fish twice per week to reduce plaque build-up and inflammation that can lead to heart disease. Also, eating cold-water fish can help to improve your overall cholesterol – lowering triglyceride levels and increasing HDL cholesterol in the blood-stream.
One of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), flaxseeds are known for their ability to reduce blood-pressure and inflammation, helping to keep arteries clear of obstructions and improve overall heart health. Enjoy a serving of 100% organic golden flaxseed added to a delicious smoothie or in one of these heart-healthy recipes by EatingWell!
11. Green TeaGreen tea – especially nutrient-rich Matcha green tea – contains high levels of catechins, antioxidant plant phenols which hinder the absorption of cholesterol during digestion. Enjoy a cup or two of green tea every day to improve your blood-lipid levels and help reduce arterial blockage. Green tea also provides a natural boost to the metabolism which can help you to lose weight, further bolstering your cardiovascular health.
(Further reading: 10 Amazing Benefits Of Matcha Green Tea)
A heart healthy snack alternative to prepackaged and processed foods, raw nuts are a delicious way to clear arteries with many auxiliary benefits, to boot! Almonds are by far the best option, being very high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and protein. Walnuts are another great choice. As an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – the same EFA that gives flaxseeds their favorable reputation – eating a serving of walnuts every day can help to improve blood-pressure, reduce inflammation, and keep arteries clear of obstructions.
Further reading: 500 Healthy All-Natural Snack Recipes
13. Olive Oil
Rich in monounsaturated oleic acid – an essential fatty acid (EFA) known for its positive effects on cholesterol levels and oxidative stress in the blood stream – olive oil is widely considered to be one of the healthiest oils for cooking and dressing food. According to a recent study, use of olive oil for these purposes can actually reduce the risk of serious cardiovascular illnesses by up to 41%.
A word of caution: When shopping for olive oil, avoid buying the lowest-priced option on the shelf. These products are inexpensive for a good reason. Low-cost olive oils are often cut with cheaper, less-healthy oils or have been damaged by heat during the extraction process. Instead, go with a certified 100% organic virgin olive oil.
14. Orange Juice
Drinking just two cups of 100% orange juice (no sugar added) every day can help to improve blood pressure and reduce inflammation of arteries. Also, orange juice is full of antioxidant vitamin C which helps to keep arteries clear by preventing oxidative damage in the blood stream. For more information about how orange juice improves circulatory function, read this article by the Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
Persimmons are loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which work to decrease LDL and triglycerides in the blood-stream. Persimmons are also a great source of fiber which helps to regulate blood pressure, keep your heart healthy, and your arteries clear.
Antioxidant phytochemicals naturally present in pomegranates do an excellent job of protecting the circulatory system from damaging oxidation which can cause plaque build-up and dangerous blood clots. Pomegranate also naturally stimulates production of nitric oxide in the blood which helps to open arteries and regulate blood pressure. Try eating fresh pomegranate or enjoy some organic pomegranate juice!
One of the famed dark leafy greens, spinach is loaded with fiber, potassium, and folate – all of which help to lower blood pressure and keep arteries clear. According to recent studies, just one serving per day of folate-rich greens like spinach can lower homocysteine levels – a known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. Why not mix it up a little? Enjoy your spinach sautéed, in a salad, or as part of a heart-smart smoothie!
Spirulina is a cytobacteria (or blue-green algae as they are often called) which not only helps to regulate lipid levels in the blood, it is also a complete protein. Unlike other plant sources of protein, Spirulina contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body to maintain optimum health. Spirulina is also packed with EFAs, including alpha-linolenic acid – the essential omega-3 fatty acid found in chia and flaxseeds that has been researched extensively for its ability to reduce arterial inflammation and improve cardiovascular health. Take Spirulina daily as a supplement or try it in powder form in some of these delicious recipes.
Further Reading: 10 Wonderful Benefits Of Spirulina
Curcumin, the main component of Turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Adding turmeric to your diet can seriously reduce inflammation and damage to arterial walls which are leading causes of plaque build-up and blood clots. Furthermore, studies have shown us that the high levels of curcumin in Turmeric can aid in the reduction of fatty deposits in the arteries by up to 26%. Try some of these excellent recipes using all-natural organic turmeric.
Not only is it delicious, watermelon is another fruit that is great for your heart. As an excellent natural source of the amino acid L-citrulline, watermelon can help to keep arteries clear by lowering blood pressure and decreasing inflammation. In much the same way as pomegranate, watermelon naturally stimulates production of nitric oxide, which further improves artery health and blood pressure. Try some of these Best Watermelon Recipes by Southern Living!
21. Whole Grains
Trade out your bleached carbohydrates for their whole grain alternatives to give your heart health a boost. Foods like whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oatmeal have long been celebrated for their role in improving blood-cholesterol levels, keeping arteries clear, and reducing the risk of serious heart disease.
Need a little help finding foods that fit the bill? Check out this great guide to whole grain groceries.