health

Science Shows That These Foods Might Unclog Your Arteries

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What do you think of when you picture your arteries in your mind’s eye? Wide-open channels that transport your blood with ease? Or narrow passageways, oozing with thick, yellow fatty plaques on all sides? 

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people, including young people, it’s the latter. Most of us, unless we’re cautious about what we eat, have arteries that have become “clogged,” for want of a better word. 

Scientists first realized that heart disease was something that affected teens in western countries during the Korean War. Bodies of dead soldiers would return home, and when doctors examined them, they would find the same plaques in their arteries that they regularly found in older people. Heart disease wasn’t just a disease of the middle age and the elderly, but something that started much earlier in the life cycle. 

This led to a kind of panic among medical professionals. Heart disease couldn’t just be a disease of aging as they’d previously thought because so many apparently healthy people had it. It was either just a fact of life or something induced by the environment. 

Well, we all know what happened. The science over the following decades found that diet played a more significant role in the onset of cardiovascular disease than anyone could have imagined. People were getting sick because of the food they ate. 

By the early 1990s, researchers had a pretty good idea of the kinds of foods that were responsible for causing heart disease. Meat, dairy, and eggs were all prime suspects, as were refined flours, some oils, and added sugar. Meat was off the menu, but so too were sugary desserts, Danish pastries, and Mars bars fried in lard. 

The question then was, would heart disease reverse itself if you got those foods out of the diet and put people on something a lot healthier. Dean Ornish, a young doctor at the time working out of the US, decided to put the theory to the test. He organized a medical intervention where people with heart disease were randomly split into two groups. One group would receive treatment as usual, while the other would eat a plant-based diet, full of beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and take part in regular yoga classes. 

To the surprise of many, including those in the press, Ornish’s intervention not only slowed the progression of heart disease but actually reversed it, clearing up the plaques in people’s arteries and giving sixty-year-olds the cardiovascular health of those in their thirties. It was an incredible breakthrough and proved that diet could be a powerful contributing factor to both the cause and prevention of heart disease. 

The fact that eating different diets could have such a profound effect on heart disease was a shock to many. One diet, high in meat, sugar and refined foods, seemed to promote heart disease actively, while another, high in whole plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, appeared to do the opposite. The body was expressing itself in totally different ways, based on the food that people were putting in their mouths. It was quite extraordinary. 

The next question was which foods were the best at fighting plaques. Was it the overall diet? Or could specific foods chip away at plaques and cause the arteries to go back to normal. 

It turns out that it’s a bit of both: some foods do appear to work better than others, but adding blueberries to a diet of steak and cheese probably won’t have the effect that you imagine. 

You can know more here about heart disease. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the foods that you’ll want to include in your diet to prevent this disease before it can hurt you. 

Pomegranate

Scientists are very interested in pomegranate because of its apparent heart-healthy properties. The fruit contains a special chemical which appears to modify the body’s epigenetic expression, priming it for health. Pomegranates don’t scrub the inside of your arteries but rather make it less likely that damage done by constituents in the blood will lead to plaques. Pomegranate is, if you will, a kind of anti-inflammatory for the walls of the arteries, minimizing the damage caused by particles like small-dense LDL. Opt for the whole fruit if you can, not the juice.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are nothing like their refined counterparts. When somebody says that you should cut carbs out of your diet, they’re referring to all the white stuff: the bread, the pasta, and pastry. 

Nutritionally, all that stuff is junk. It’s made of white flour, a type of flour without the germ or the bran, two constituents of whole grains that make them healthy. Researchers think that whole grains contain beneficial chemicals which protect the lining of the arteries and prevent them from becoming thicker. While thick artery walls might sound like a good idea, it makes them less able to stretch, meaning that you’re at higher risk of hypertension and stroke. Whole grains enable your artery walls to relax and open up, making nutrient transport easy. 

Broccoli

Broccoli is a poster child for healthy eating and with good reason. The cruciferous vegetable has a plethora of health benefits which are now coming to light, thanks to modern science. 

The main benefit of broccoli and other vegetables in the family appears to be the fiber. When bacteria in the gut break down fiber, they create “short-chain fatty acids.” These fatty acids, when absorbed into the body, have been shown to lower inflammation in the arteries and stop the process that causes arterial plaques in its tracks. 

Nuts

For a while, researchers weren’t sure whether nuts were a good thing for the health of arteries. They knew that fat from animal foods was a big no-no, but whether the same applied to fat from plants, like nuts, remained a matter for debate. 

The consensus now, however, is that nuts are highly beneficial for the arteries of most people and can lower cholesterol, a lipoprotein in the blood associated with heart disease. Try snacking on tree nuts, like walnuts and almonds, for maximum effect. 

 

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