If you have high cholesterol levels, it could accumulate as plaque in your arteries. Over time, the accumulation of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood causes atherosclerosis, an early form of heart disease. A rupture in the clogged artery can cause chest pain, or even stroke and heart attack.
Atherosclerosis is the main cause of heart disease, which accounts for 32% of all deaths.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include
Here are some foods that will unclog your arteries and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Lowering your cholesterol level is the first step to unclog your arteries. Whole grains are known to significantly reduce the levels of unhealthy cholesterol or LDL without affecting the level of healthy cholesterol. In a study, whole grain diets – on an average – reduced cholesterol levels by 4.6 points, with oats lowering the cholesterol levels by 6.5 points. While whole-wheat bread, oats, quinoa, and millet are all
2. Legumes: Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas, and Peas
Research indicates that a diet rich in legumes (like lentils, beans, and chickpeas) can lower the LDL-C levels. Legumes are rich in soluble fiber, which reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. This, in turn, lowers your LDL-C levels, thus unclogging your arteries and reducing your risk of heart disease.4
Legumes not only decrease cholesterol levels but also lower your blood sugar level, thus reducing the lipid (fat) accumulation in your arteries.5
3. Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries
To reduce your cholesterol level and prevent plaque buildup, eat a handful of berries every day. However, berry juice can increase your sugar intake and actually do more harm than good. Berries, especially blackberries, have a significant LDL-inhibitory effect. Anthocyanin, an antioxidant present in berries, can manage lipid levels and unclog arteries. Strawberries also contain pectin, a soluble fiber that’s known to reduce cholesterol levels.6 7
4. Fatty fish
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish like tuna and sardines can reduce LDL levels. Omega-3 fats also reduce the triglycerides (a certain type of fat) in your blood that could contribute to plaque buildup. However, don’t eat fish more than 2-3 times a week, as it can lead to mercury toxicity.8
Eat a handful of nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios
Spinach is rich in arginine, an amino acid that converts the nitrate in nuts into nitric oxide, which expands your blood vessels and improves blood flow. Dietary nitrate is reported to reduce arterial stiffness and high blood pressure, the two contributing factors for atherosclerosis.11
Eat half an avocado
The LDL-reducing effect is also attributed to the presence of a plant-based compound called beta-sitosterol present in avocados. This reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food in the body.
8. Dark chocolate
Cocoa is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate. Unlike milk chocolates which are high in sugar, dark chocolate doesn’t have high sugar content and has more than 70% cocoa. Both cocoa and dark contain flavonoids – an antioxidant that is shown to
9. Olive oil
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to oils that contain saturated fat, opt for olive oil. It’s an important component of the Mediterranean diet, which is known to improve overall heart health and increase lifespan. It has high amounts (about around 75-80%) of unsaturated fat that reduce your “bad” cholesterol levels, thus unclogging your arteries.14
Include these foods in your diet to clear up your clogged arteries and reduce your risk of developing other conditions, such as heart disease.
|↑1||Atherosclerosis statistics. OMICS international.|
|↑2||Atherosclerosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑3||Whole-grain oats: Best bet for lowering cholesterol. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑4||Wallace, Taylor C., Robert Murray, and Kathleen M. Zelman. “The nutritional value and health benefits of chickpeas and hummus.” Nutrients 8, no. 12 (2016): 766.|
|↑5||Trinidad, Trinidad P., Aida C. Mallillin, Anacleta S. Loyola, Rosario S. Sagum, and Rosario R. Encabo. “The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre.” British Journal of Nutrition 103, no. 4 (2010):
|↑6||Basu, Arpita, Michael Rhone, and Timothy J. Lyons. “Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health.” Nutrition reviews 68, no. 3 (2010): 168-177.|
|↑7, ↑8||11 foods that lower cholesterol. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑9||Nuts for the heart. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑10||Pistachios lower cholesterol provide antioxidants. Penn State University.|
|↑11||Lidder, Satnam, and Andrew J. Webb. “Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75, no. 3 (2013): 677-696.|
|↑12||Wang, Li, Peter L. Bordi, Jennifer A. Fleming, Alison M. Hill, and Penny M. Kris‐Etherton. “Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclasses in overweight and obese adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Journal of the American Heart Association 4, no. 1 (2015): e001355.|
|↑13||Tokede, O. A., J. M. Gaziano, and L. Djoussé. “Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65, no. 8 (2011): 879-886.|
|↑14||High Cholesterol Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|