Published January 21, 2022
Your arteries are the largest blood vessels in your body, and they are vital for oxygen and nutrition delivery to every tissue, organ, and cell. To imply that maintaining these key channels in top condition is essential for your health is an understatement.
However, millions of Americans suffer from clogged arteries. They have atherosclerosis, an inflammatory disorder in which plaques (fatty deposits made of cholesterol and other substances) accumulate inside arteries, obstructing normal blood flow and potentially leading to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. According to some estimates, atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of 50% of fatalities in Westernized societies and is the primary cause of strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is that there are plenty of foods that unclog arteries to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis and even reverse existing plaque accumulation.
18 Heart Healthy Foods and Why They Help
Below are the foods that unclog arteries:
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as sardines, anchovies, salmon, and mackerel, are high in omega-3 fats, which are potent anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats that protect against vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help prevent platelet aggregation (which decreases the risk of blood clots), lower triglyceride levels, and boost HDL cholesterol levels, which helps offset the plaque-forming effects of bad LDL cholesterol.
Additionally, evidence indicates that individuals who consume two or more meals of fish each week are less likely to develop carotid artery atherosclerosis.
2. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds also include anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids derived from plants (alpha-linolenic acid), fiber, and antioxidant plant compounds called lignans. Consumption of flaxseed on a regular basis has been linked to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as better insulin sensitivity, in overweight and obese people with prediabetes. Additionally, a preliminary animal study indicates that daily flax ingestion may help slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaques.
Just keep in mind that whole flax seeds are not completely broken down during digestion, so opt for ground flax seeds and store them in the refrigerator to receive the full benefits.
When it comes to vascular health, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries carry a powerful punch. These vividly colored fruits are loaded with polyphenol compounds, including quercetin and anthocyanins, which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Berry eating has been related to benefits in LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and even blood sugar regulation — all of which contribute to keeping arteries clear and healthy.
As opposed to other fruits such as oranges, grapes, and apples (which are high in a type of sugar called fructose), berries are an excellent choice for frequent consumption due to their low glycemic index, which means they are unlikely to trigger a blood sugar increase.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus is abundant in polyphenol compounds known as flavonoids. These citrus bioflavonoids are potent antioxidants, scavenging free radicals that would otherwise produce oxidative stress and promote disease processes. Citrus bioflavonoids, in particular, can help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing into a more harmful, inflammatory form known as oxidized LDL, which is closely connected with atherosclerosis. A study discovered that daily consumption of a grapefruit dramatically decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients who had recently undergone coronary bypass surgery.
Citrus foods with low sugar content are the best. Choose grapefruit (as long as it does not conflict with any of your medications), or add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water for an extra dose of bioflavonoids.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Increased consumption of olive oil has been linked to a decreased risk of death and cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. What distinguishes olive oil? It is an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and antioxidant polyphenols. Consumption of MUFAs has been linked to an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol and a decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol, while the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil assist in reducing inflammation, LDL oxidation, platelet aggregation, and blood pressure.
Olive oil also has a favorable effect on blood sugar — a meta-analysis found that persons who consumed the most olive oil had a 16% lower likelihood of developing diabetes and lower hemoglobin A1c (HbA1C), a measure of average blood glucose over a period of several months.
Avocados provide a double-whammy when it comes to cleaning out your arteries. Avocados, like olive oil, are high in MUFAs that help stabilize blood sugar and improve cholesterol. However, they are a surprising source of fiber, with approximately 6.5 grams per half avocado. Furthermore, a recent study discovered that consuming one avocado daily is connected with a decrease in LDL cholesterol.
While saturated fat consumption increases LDL cholesterol, it often increases larger, “bouncier” LDL particles that are less likely to adhere to artery walls and cause harm than small, dense LDL particles. Also, current evidence indicates that reduced saturated fat intake has no favorable cardiovascular effects.
If you regularly consume grain-based side dishes, consider using legumes (peas, chickpeas, beans, lentils). These are high in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which has been shown to help prevent atherosclerosis by decreasing LDL cholesterol. Even one serving of beans per day has been linked to a considerable reduction in LDL cholesterol. Additionally, legumes have been associated with reduced blood pressure and chronic inflammation, both of which contribute to atherosclerosis and blood vessel damage.
According to the American Diabetes Association, beans have a low glycemic index, which indicates they are unlikely to cause a blood sugar surge despite their carbohydrate content. Combining legumes with a source of fat and/or protein helps mitigate their ability to spike blood sugar.
Tomatoes, particularly cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce, are an excellent source of lycopene — a potent plant pigment that gives tomatoes their red color and has been linked to an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol. In a study, those who consumed a diet high in lycopene from tomato products had a 17–26% decreased chance of developing heart disease; while in another, greater lycopene blood levels were related to a lower risk of stroke.
Pro tip: Fat enhances the absorption of lycopene in the body, so drizzle some olive oil over your pasta sauce.
9. Allium Vegetables
Increased consumption of allium vegetables (including cruciferous vegetables) has been linked to a decreased risk of death from atherosclerotic vascular disease. Allium vegetables such as garlic, chives, onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots are high in organosulfur compounds, which may help lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol, and platelet clumping – all of which are beneficial for maintaining healthy arteries.
10. Cruciferous Vegetables
As with allium vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower) contain organosulfur compounds and may help lessen your chance of dying from atherosclerosis. Additionally, consumption of all vegetables — particularly cruciferous vegetables — has been linked to thinner, healthier carotid artery walls (thick artery walls are a sign of atherosclerosis). Furthermore, cruciferous vegetables include fiber that helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and consistent nut consumption has been linked to a lower risk of overall cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, which happens when plaque builds up in the arteries and inhibits blood flow to the heart.
Walnuts contain the highest concentration of heart-healthy, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids of any nut. Consuming walnuts as part of a high-fat diet showed a 55% reduction in the development of atherosclerotic plaques when compared to control diets.
While red, golden, and rainbow beets are controversial in terms of flavor — with a distinct earthiness — there is little doubt they are beneficial for promoting healthy blood flow. Beets and beetroot juice are excellent sources of beneficial dietary nitrates, which are metabolized in the bloodstream to nitric oxide (NO).
NO relaxes and expands blood arteries, lowering blood pressure and aiding in the prevention of arterial wall damage that could make them more susceptible to constriction and plaque formation. To moderate the earthy flavor of beets, consider roasting them in olive oil or incorporating them into a smoothie.
As with beets, spinach and other dark leafy greens are high in dietary nitrates, which promote the production of NO in the blood vessels and arteries. Furthermore, leafy greens are a good source of fiber and a variety of minerals, including folate.
Folate contributes significantly to cardiovascular health by reducing homocysteine levels. Homocysteine levels in the blood are a known risk factor for atherosclerosis, as they can damage the lining of blood vessels and accelerate the production of arterial plaque.
14. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains a high concentration of polyphenol compounds, particularly cocoa flavanols, which have been found to help lower blood pressure and increase blood flow (by increasing nitric oxide production), as well as to reduce inflammation and avoid blood clots. According to some research, cocoa flavanols may even help attract our body’s own stem cells (specifically, endothelial progenitor cells) to assist in repairing damaged blood vessels and growing new ones — which is critical for preventing and reversing the vascular damage that can clog arteries and result in heart disease.
Choose a low- to no-sugar dark chocolate bar that contains at least 70% cocoa and try mixing it with some walnuts to help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Aromatic herbs and spices are usually rich in beneficial substances that are favorable to the heart and arteries — including cinnamon, which you probably already have in your kitchen. Cinnamon consumption may be connected with decreased HbA1C and blood pressure levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to research. In other words, this spice may help mitigate the detrimental effects of insulin resistance, which contribute to atherosclerosis.
16. Green Tea
Lastly, you can drink your way to clear, healthy arteries. According to one meta-analysis, each daily cup of green tea was associated with a 5% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, another study found a link between green tea consumption and a decrease in vascular cell adhesion molecules, which are proteins released in response to inflammation that cause cells to adhere to their surroundings and to one another — implying that they can play a significant role in clogged arteries. The secret is in the polyphenol compounds found in green tea called catechins, which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Oats are a great alternative for individuals who have atherosclerosis or wish to avoid clogged arteries. Consuming oats can greatly assist reduce atherosclerosis risk factors, such as elevated total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
According to a study involving 716 people with coronary artery disease, those who eat oat fiber on a daily basis had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and inflammatory indicators than those who did not.
Asparagus is one of the top foods that unclog arteries. It is high in fiber and minerals and aids in the reduction of blood pressure and the prevention of blood clots, which can result in serious cardiovascular disease. It works by reducing inflammation that has built up in the veins and arteries over time.
It increases the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant that combats inflammation and protects against the harmful oxidation that results in clogged or blocked arteries. Additionally, it contains alpha-linoleic acid and folic acid, which help prevent arterial stiffening.
These dietary changes will help enhance your overall health and prevent artery blockage. Fortunately, these foods that unclog arteries are tasty and offer limitless possibilities for new recipes and inventiveness.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.