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Arteries can become clogged with deposits of fat, causing a condition called atherosclerosis. This can constrict the space within the arteries, consequently spiking blood pressure, restricting blood flow to the heart, and increasing inflammation within the body. (1)
Long-term unchecked atherosclerosis can result in stroke, heart attack, and even death. (1)
Managing atherosclerosis involves the consumption of fiber-rich foods, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables while also avoiding high-fat meats, processed meats, deep-fried foods, and cakes and pastries. (1)
Foods That Cleanse the Arteries
Some foods have a more beneficial effect in improving the outcome of atherosclerosis than others. Through their content of bioactive compounds, good fats, and other nutrients, the following foods can prevent the accumulation of fat within the arteries and clear the buildup of fatty plaques.
Avocados are nutrient dense, and only half an avocado provides 20% of the daily recommendation of fiber, 10% of potassium, 5% of magnesium, and 15% of folate. It also contains good fats including monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). (2)
In population studies, consumption of ≥2 servings of avocado each week resulted in a 16% lower risk of developing heart disease. (2)
Avocados are versatile and can be used on toast, sandwiches, dips, salads, and smoothies. They can also be used to replace other high-fat foods such as butter, margarine, cheese, or eggs. (2)
Commonly consumed berries such as cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis. (3)
Berries improve free radical damage, reduce inflammation, and prevent the accumulation of cholesterol through their polyphenol content. (3)
Consume blueberries as part of a healthy well-balanced diet for healthy arteries.
When atherosclerosis goes untreated and unmanaged for a long time, calcium can deposit into the fatty plaque, leading to calcification. This process commonly occurs in older adults. (4)
Onions have a protective effect against heart diseases. They can lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. They are also powerful antioxidants due to their content of sulfur compounds. (5)
In animal studies, onion-fed rats had reduced free radical activity that can damage cells and improved the functioning of blood vessels. (5)
In another study, rats on a high-fat diet and fed with onions had improved blood vessel function and antioxidant status, demonstrating the possible use of onions in reducing the development of atherosclerosis. (6)
Oats are rich in beta-glucans, a type of dietary fiber known for its cholesterol-lowering property. Beta-glucans form a thin layer within the intestine to reduce the absorption of cholesterol. (7)
Unrefined and whole oats are better at lowering cholesterol than refined oat products. Include oats as part of a healthy diet to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
6. Fatty fish
Consuming fatty fish may not seem like a good idea for reducing cholesterol and cleansing the arteries. However, fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and haddock are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are considered “good fats” and provide anti-inflammatory effects. (8)
Omega-3 fatty acids consist of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA). In human studies, EPA supplementation of 1.8 g each day reduced the thickness and cell accumulation within the fatty plaques of the arteries. (8)
Several other studies report the same results, where EPA/DHA supplementation reduced fat in the arteries. (8)
You may take omega-3 supplements; however, it is advisable to consult your doctor before doing so.
Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds contain good fats and several nutrients that can lower cholesterol and help cleanse the arteries by lowering inflammation. (9)
In a human study, consuming walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts for 4 weeks reduced total cholesterol, improved HDL, and significantly reduced triglycerides that can cause fatty buildup in arteries. (9)
The phytochemicals in some spices can exert a beneficial effect on atherosclerosis.
Chinese five spice, which includes peppercorn, fennel, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon, has been shown to improve symptoms of heart diseases. (10) Moreover, chili, cinnamon, black pepper, garlic, ginger, clove, and turmeric all have potent anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering activities. (10)
Include spices in your daily diet to add flavor to your dishes and cleanse the arteries of fatty plaques.
9. Olive oil
Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, which is promoted as beneficial against heart diseases. (11) Consumption of olive oil is associated with a reduction of inflammation and cholesterol levels. (11)
Olive oil can safely replace other oils in the diet to cleanse the arteries.
10. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is abundant in antioxidants and flavonoids. In a study done on people with high blood pressure, consuming 100 g of dark chocolate each day effectively reduced their blood pressure. (12)
In the Family Heart Study, the participants consumed dark chocolate up to three times a week and were observed to have reduced fatty plaques in their blood vessels. This study suggested that consuming 2 servings of dark chocolate each week can be beneficial in reducing atherosclerosis. (12)
Ensure the dark chocolate you consume is 70%–85% cacao. (13)
Spinach is replete with dietary nitrates. These compounds can help in easing blood flow through the blood vessels, reduce stiffness in the arteries, and provide protection to arterial muscles.
All of these functions work together to reduce blood pressure, which is one of the main indicators of heart health. (14) These effects were validated in one study, where the consumption of spinach was effective in lowering blood pressure in adults within 7 days. (14)
Precautions to Consider
While certain foods may help with lowering cholesterol levels and discouraging the buildup of fat in the blood vessels, it is important to note that the foods discussed in this article are meant to be included as part of a healthy well-balanced diet and lifestyle.
Consuming artery-cleansing foods will not be helpful alongside a high-fat diet.
What is the best diet if I have atherosclerosis?
An anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, and fish is recommended to reverse the damage done by the accumulation of fatty plaque in the blood vessels. (15)
Can atherosclerosis be reversed?
Dietary modifications, exercise, and medical treatment help in lowering blood cholesterol levels and can prevent the worsening of the disease.
Atherosclerosis, or fatty plaque deposits in the blood vessels, can cause narrowing and increase the pressure of flowing blood. If untreated, it can become a life-threatening condition.
Though a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses is beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels and inflammation, including artery-cleansing foods in the diet can provide more benefits.
However, the damage done by a diet high in fat and processed foods cannot simply be neutralized by consuming artery-cleansing foods. Focusing on the overall diet is very important.