There are a lot of underlying factors that can lead to heart disease, and not all of them are things you can control. While there’s not much you can do about things like genetics, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) often has a lot to do with your daily lifestyle. This cardiovascular condition involves the buildup of plaque along the arterial wall, which causes the arteries to narrow and harden. Some of the risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and – of course – by what you eat. Here are eight foods you can work into your diet to keep plaque out of those blood vessels.
Fatty or oily fish such as salmon and tuna are a great source of omega-3 fats, compounds which have been shown in studies to reduce the amount of plaque which sticks in your arteries. These healthy fats also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help with many aspects of your overall health.
If you’re looking for a heart-healthy snack, you can do a lot worse than a handful of nuts or seeds. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews and seeds such as sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or flaxseeds are great sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They boost levels of HDL (or “good” cholesterol) while lowering LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and have also been shown to help reduce blood pressure.
Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are packed with health benefits. They contain nitrates which are linked to better cardiovascular function and reduced inflammation. They’re also a fantastic source of potassium, which helps prevent the blood vessels from hardening. Eating more salads is a great move for your heart health!
A cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory properties. It is very high in polyphenols which researchers believe are behind its positive impact on inflammation within the blood vessels and overall function of your heart and cardiovascular system. Keep in mind that olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, meaning it can have some carcinogenic properties if cooked with at a high temperature.
Fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries have a bevy of nutritional benefits. Not only are they rich sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they also contain antioxidants which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and decrease your risk of heart disease. Nothing beats a handful of berries when they’re fresh and in season!
This delicious, buttery fruit has earned its reputationas a so-called “superfood,” being loadedwith healthy fats that can help decrease levels ofbad cholesterol that raise your risk of plaquebuildup and high blood pressure. Avocado is also arich source of antioxidants that can helpprevent heart disease. And that’s all not to mentionthat it tastes great on just about everything.
There’s a good reason why your parents always toldyou to eat your broccoli. These cruciferousvegetables are good sources of fiber that some studiesindicate may also reduce inflammationand activate proteins which boost your natural defenseagainst blockages in the bloodstream.
Here’s good news if you’ve got a sweet tooth – chocolatecan actually be good for you! Darkchocolate contains flavanols, which are compoundsthat have antioxidant properties. It’simportant to keep sugar consumption in moderation,but a little dark chocolate has been shownto reduce your heart disease risk.