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10 foods to keep your arteries clean

Last updated on: September 23, 2010 18:28 IST

10 foods to keep your arteries clean

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Adding these to your diet will ensure you keep multiple medical conditions associated with clogged arteries at bay.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are gripping the world like wild fire. Nutritionists believe that they are 'The Plague' of the 21st century. One of the key risks for developing CVD is clogged arteries. This is not an overnight occurrence, but a series of wrong choices in food and lifestyle.

Your 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.

As plaque deposits grow, a condition called atherosclerosis results. 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. So if you are experiencing shortness of breath and pain in the chest, you should add them to your diet. Move on to the following pages to know what will make it to your list.



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Garlic

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Garlic has been used to treat heart diseases and hypertension since ancient times.

According to a study published in Preventive Medicine, it can inhibit coronary artery calcification (the result of calcium deposition in the coronary arteries, which serves as a marker for plaque formation).

Another study conducted by a German scientist Professor Guautnter Siegel, found that powdered garlic reduced the formation of nanoplaque (the first building blocks of plaque) by up to 40 percent and reduced the size of the nanoplaque that has already formed by up to 20 percent.


Image: Garlic can inhibit coronary artery calcification
Photographs: David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons
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Grapes

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The benefit of grapes comes from flavonoids that give them, their juices and wines that vibrant purple colour.

The flavonoids, quercitin and resveratrol, appear to be most concentrated in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes rather than their juicy middle sections. These flavonoids have been shown to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol ('bad' cholesterol) that leads to the formation of plaque in artery walls.

They can also lower the risk of developing the blood clots that lead to heart attacks.


Image: Flavonoids in grapes prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol
Photographs: Lebowskyclone/Wikimedia Commons
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Berries

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Berries (such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries) are rich in antioxidant flavonoids (such as anthocyanins) that can help prevent artery hardening and help to scour plaque from the walls of the arteries.


Image: Berries can help prevent artery hardening
Photographs: Angelo Juan Ramos/Wikimedia Commons
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Apples

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Apples contain 'pectin', a soluble fibre that lowers cholesterol, probably by interfering with the intestinal absorption of bile acids, which forces the liver to use circulating cholesterol to make more bile.

They also contain quercetin, potassium and magnesium which help keep your blood pressure under control. Other pectin-rich fruit include pears and citrus fruit.


Image: The pectin in apples lowers cholesterol
Photographs: Johann Rela/Wikimedia Commons
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Spinach

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Spinach is rich in lutein, a plant carotenoid, which not only protects against age-related macular degeneration, but may also help prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol build-up.

Spinach is also high in potassium and folic acid, both of which are main lines of defense against high blood pressure.


Image: The potassium and folic acid in spinach prevent high BP
Photographs: Nillerdk/Wikimedia Commons
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Fish

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Especially oily fish like salmon and tuna, which have Omega 3 fatty acid prevent clots from forming and cholesterol from becoming damaged or oxidised.

A study conducted by researchers at Southampton University found that Omega 3 oils stop the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries.


Image: Omega 3 fatty acid present in oily fish prevents clots from forming
Photographs: Akira Kamikura/Wikimedia Commons
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Olive oil

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Studies have shown that molecules of bad cholesterol when mixed with monounsaturated fats found in olive oil become less likely to be oxidised (only oxidised cholesterol is able to stick to your artery walls and form plaques).


Image: Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil are beneficial
Photographs: Badagnani/Wikimedia Commons
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Tomatoes

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Tomatoes are rich in carotenoid lycopene, the compound that gives tomatoes their colour -- an antioxidant that can significantly lower your risk of atherosclerosis by 50 percent.

According to a new study conducted by Korean researchers, lycopene may help to prevent hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. In the study, researchers found that women with the highest lycopene levels in their blood had the least stiffness in their arteries and women with lowest lycopene levels had the most.


Image: Tomatoes lower your risk of atherosclerosis
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
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Green tea

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Green tea also contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids that can improve the health of the delicate cells lining the blood vessels (endothelial cells) and help lower your risk of heart disease.

Endothelial cell dysfunction plays a key role in the development of clogged arteries. Researchers found that people who drink green tea experience significantly increased artery widening (dilation) -- a sign of better blood vessel function, with the highest increase noted at 30 minutes.


Image: Lower your risk of heart disease with green tea
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
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Pomegranate

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Pomegranate and its juice are high in antioxidant content, which may help fight hardening of the arteries.

A new study found that pomegranate juice not only appears to prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage, but may also reverse the progression of this disease. The tests showed that pomegranate juice reduced the effects of stress on human blood vessel cells by stimulating the production of nitric oxide. This chemical is thought to help keep arteries open and keep blood flowing.

Apart from the above mentioned foods, you also need the following tips to clean your arteries quickly:

  • Exercise keeps you and your heart healthy. So make sure you exercise on a regular basis.
  • Reduce saturated fat intake by reducing the intake of processed food in your diet. In addition, reduce the intake of trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats as they are known to raise your LDL cholesterol.
  • It is also important that you drink plenty of water.

Plaque is detrimental to your arteries' health. Eating junk food and living a sedentary life is the path to clogged arteries. Start eating the right foods along with an exercise programme and you will be well on your way to squeaky-clean arteries!


Image: Pomegranate's antioxidants help fight hardening of the arteries
Photographs: Loke Seng Hon/Wikimedia Commons
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LifeMojo is a wellness company, helping people to live a healthier life. LifeMojo provides online and on phone nutrition consultation services to help you achieve your weight loss and fitness goals.