Your arteries are constantly working to keep you alive and healthy. Some arteries take oxygen and nutrients from your heart to other parts of your body, while other arteries transfer oxygen back to your heart to keep it functioning in a healthy manner. While many factors can affect the health of your heart and arteries, your diet and nutrition play a key role.
“Nutrition plays a multifactorial role in preventing the progression and promotion of plaque in the arteries, and what we eat can cause constriction in the arteries, a buildup of substances and/or elicit an inflammatory response that can cause clogged arteries,” says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, CDNcardiology dietitian and owner of Entirely Nourished. “On the other hand, what we eat can also allow for the opening of the arteries, removal of these substances (ie fatty acids, cellular waste, calcium), and reduce inflammation in the arteries – leading to optimal heart health and prevention of plaque formation in the arteries.”
Continue reading to learn more about eating for better artery and heart health, and for more healthy eating tips make sure to check out The #1 Best Vegetable for Heart Disease.
Oats are not only delicious, but can provide a long list of health benefits as well. These benefits include weight management, improving your gut health, and helping with the health of your heart.
“Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our expert medical board. “It partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in your gut further helping to lower bad and total cholesterol, aka helping to prevent clogged arteries, and increasing feelings of fullness. The best part is that oats are really versatile. They can be eaten as oatmeal, chilled overnight oats, toasted and used as a topping on yogurt parfait, or you can grind oats into flour for breads, pancakes, and muffins to amp up the fiber of your favorite baked breakfast foods. And better yet, oats pair well with other foods that are good for your heart like berries, nuts, and seeds.”
Fruit is a healthy way to get a dose of natural sweetness and tons of helpful nutrients. But Goodson points out that sometimes the skin of a fruit may pack the most nutrient-dense punch.
“Fruits like apples, pears, peaches, and berries also contain soluble fiber in their skin that can help lower cholesterol, which ultimately contributes to clogging your arteries, so pairing something like an apple with almonds at snack time is a heart health win,” says Goodson.
Because soluble fiber can help you manage your cholesterol and heart health, finding unique ways to eat fiber throughout your day can be helpful.
“Energy bites made with oats, seeds like chia, pumpkin, and hemp seeds can really amp up your heart-healthy soluble fiber intake,” says Goodson. “And instead of using honey or maple syrup as the ‘glue’ to fold them together , puree fresh Medjool dates for added fiber and potassium, another friend of the heart. This will provide natural sweetness with the health goodness of fiber.”
There are certain nutrients that can help you maintain a healthy heart and prevent clogged arteries. B12 and folate are some examples, which you can get from supplements or food sources like fish, chicken, dairy, beans, whole grains, and veggies.
“If you’re not consuming enough folate or B12 in your diet, it could lead to increased homocysteine levels which can promote plaque to form in the arteries,” says Routhenstein.
There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to your favorite sweet every now and then, but limiting your consumption of them can help you improve your heart health.
“Consuming large quantities of saturated fat and refined sugars can clog the arteries by causing elevations in LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar, which can cause blood vessel health aggravation, leading to promotion of plaque in the arteries,” says Routhenstein.