The arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. With a poor diet high in fats and cholesterol, artery walls can become clogged with a fatty substance called plaque. When this happens, blood flow is reduced and every function of the body suffers. Over time, plaque can cause the walls of the artery to harden, raising the risk for a heart attack. Luckily, there are many foods that help unclog arteries naturally and keep the heart healthy.
Olive oil contains antioxidants that lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, while keeping “good” HDL cholesterol intact and helping to prevent heart disease. The Food and Drug Administration recommends replacing other fats in your diet with this heart-healthy oil and using up to 2 tablespoons daily as a salad dressing, marinade, or flavorful addition to sautéed vegetables. For the greatest benefit, choose extra-virgin olive oil, which contains more antioxidants because it has been minimally processed.
The antioxidants in tea have been shown to prevent blood clots and keep blood vessels pliable and relaxed. Tea contains flavinoids that prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing plaque formation on artery walls. Green or black tea contains the most antioxidants per cup, and for best results, brew it at home. Prevention.com recommends enjoying one cup a day.
Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, which decreases LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber also binds to bile acids made from cholesterol in the intestines, allowing it to move them through the body through waste. A collection of studies published in the 1992 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association found that diets that included two daily servings of oatmeal led to a 2 to 3 percent greater reduction in LDL cholesterol than low-fat diets alone.
Salmon and other fatty fish are very rich in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which reduce blood pressure and prevent clotting. Omega-3s also reduce LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. "Salmon contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is a very powerful antioxidant," says cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra author of "Lower Your Blood Pressure In Eight Weeks." The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of salmon weekly.
Beans are very high in soluble fiber, which is highly effective in the fight against heart disease. In fact, consuming 1 cup of beans daily for six weeks can lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent. The FDA and the National Cancer Institute recommend that adults get 25 to 30g of fiber in their daily diet; help meet your quota by eating beans as often as possible.