(Eat Right to Prevent Heart Attack)
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body. They go to your brain as well as to the tips of your toes.
Healthy arteries are flexible, strong, elastic and clear of any deposits – blood flows through them easily. But as you age, deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, and calcium are formed on the inner walls of the arteries.
This arterial plaque can reduce blood flow or, in some instances, block it altogether. Development of plaque deposits leads to a condition called atherosclerosis. This condition causes the arteries to narrow and harden. Clogged arteries in different parts of the body can lead to multiple medical conditions, including reduced blood flow to the lower legs and other extremities (due to clogging of peripheral arteries); angina (chest pain), heart disease or heart attack (due to clogging of coronary arteries); and stroke (due to clogging of carotid arteries that supply oxygen to your brain).
The main cause behind your clogged arteries is eating a lot of processed foods, added with saturated fats, chemicals and toxins. But you will be amazed to know that just as there are foods that will clog up your arteries, there are a few foods that will clean them as well. These foods can actually help clear arteries, lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. So get started on the road to good heart health – you will love every bite.
Almonds – Most nuts are made of “good” (monounsaturated) fat, which will only help your cholesterol level. But almonds pack even more nutritional punch. They provide a dose of artery-protecting vitamin E, plus zinc, fiber and magnesium.
Garlic – No matter how you like it – fresh, powdered or extracted – garlic helps lower cholesterol levels. And the same compound that reduces cholesterol – thioallyls – may also help prevent blood clots.
Grape fruit – Grapefruit is a nutritional bargain. One half has just 40 calories and lots of heart-healthy nutrients, including vitamin C and folic acid. And if you like pink grapefruit, more good news: Lycopene, which gives pink grapefruit its color, is an antioxidant that helps protect your arteries from cholesterol damage.
Oats – Oatmeal and oat bran are at the top of the list of cholesterol busters. Thanks to the soluble fiber in oats. This fiber attaches itself to cholesterol and carries it right out of your system. Some studies have shown that eating just 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of cooked oat-bran cereal daily can lower cholesterol levels as much at 20 percent.
Olive oil – When olive oil takes the place of saturated fats (such as butter) in the diet, cholesterol levels and blood pressure may improve. In one Spanish study, when a group of women with high blood pressure were put on an olive-oil rich diet for four weeks, their total cholesterol levels fell, HDL cholesterol levels rose and blood pressure dropped significantly.
Onions – A cousin of garlic, onions are true to their family and fight hard for your heart’s health. The flavonoid quercitin in onions has been shown to prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and damaging artery walls. Yellow, red and Bermuda varieties are packed with them.
Oranges – The king of citrus is packed with an unbelievable array of nutrients. The fiber pectin reduces cholesterol, especially in people with high levels. The antioxidant vitamin C protects artery walls. And the folic acid carries artery-clogging homocysteine out of your system.
Rice – Both brown and wild rice contain rice bran – a proven cholesterol fighter – and the antioxidant vitamin E. One cup also supplies a healthy dose of folic acid and other B vitamins that help keep your heart healthy.
Salmon – Most of the fat in salmon is monounsaturated, the type that helps reduce cholesterol levels. Salmon is also a rich source of omega-3 fats, which may help lower the risk of heart attack.
Spinach – This leafy green attacks heart disease and hypertension with a vengeance. Just 1/2 cup of cooked spinach (or 1 1/2 cups raw) contains an abundance of carotene, which helps keep cholesterol from lodging in your arteries. Spinach is also packed with minerals such as magnesium and potassium that may help reduce high blood pressure, plus a dose of folic acid to help bring down levels of homocysteine.
Beans – Countless studies suggest that eating 1 1/2 cups of beans daily provides enough soluble fiber to lower cholesterol levels. In addition, beans provide folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent buildup of homocyseine, a substance that clogs arteries in the same way cholesterol does.
Corn – Every kernel is packed with vital nutrients. The kernel skins contain corn bran, a fiber that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Fresh corn is also a good source of folic acid, the B vitamin that helps protect your arteries.
Tea – Green or black, hot or cold, regular or decaf, brewed or instant – sipping a cup of tea is good for your heart. Tea contains powerful antioxidants called catechins, which may protect artery walls from cholesterol buildup. Catechins also lower the risk of blood clots, which reduces the likelihood of a heart attack.
Tomato – Lycopene, the compound that gives tomatoes their color, acts like an antioxidant by keeping cholesterol from building in artery walls. The most concentrated tomato sources of lycopene are tomato paste and tomato juice.
Chocolate – Believe it or not, dark, rich chocolate contains phenols, the same heart-protecting substance found in red wine. And though chocolate is high in fat, the fat is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels.
Peanuts – Peanuts supply vitamin E – the nutrient responsible for shielding your arteries from damaging cholesterol – plus folic acid, a B vitamin that protects your heart.
Wine – Sipping a glass of wine has a double benefit. The alcohol in wine increases your level of “good” HDL cholesterol; the flavonoids, which are most abundant in red wine, may help protect arteries from cholesterol damage and prevent blood clots. The key is moderation – just one or two glasses daily with meals.