9 Foods to cleanse your arteries to protect your heart
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil is the pressed oil from olives – in its pure form, it is known as extra virgin olive oil. If it’s not extra virgin, it means it has been refined or diluted with cheaper oils and is therefore not as good for you. Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants and contains vitamins E and K plus the good fatty acids. Olive oil has its own anti-inflammatory properties, which can also help keep your arteries strong and working well.
The beauty of olive oil is that it is so much tastier than most of its alternatives and can be added to your diet in so many ways. It is also a great substitute for some of the worst offenders in our diet, such as polyunsaturated fats and butter. Did you know that in many Middle Eastern countries, olive oil is the go-to spread for bread and toast rather than butter? It is also so much easier to spread on a cold day and is great for dipping your bread into with a little bit of balsamic vinegar added.
Even though it is a “good” fat, it is still a fat which should be eaten in moderation. While the benefits of olive oil in your diet is known from population studies, scientists in the laboratory still don’t fully understand why olive oil is good for your heart. However, there does seem to be signs that the combination of olive oil and green vegetables creates a molecule called “nitro fatty acid” which can relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
The other benefit of olive oil is that it is so easy to combine with other foods which benefit the heart, such as asparagus, garlic or even broccoli. If you’re like me, thinking about the Mediterranean diet takes you to Italy, which has enough wonderful recipes to keep you going for years. Just remember that each and every country around the Med has its own wonderful tastes to discover, many of which include olive oil.
5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has enjoyed some highs and lows recently. First touted as the latest “super-food”, it was then found to increase bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood – it has more saturated fat (the bad one) than butter. In fact, it consists of nearly 90% saturated fatty acids. It also boosts good (HDL) cholesterol production and has been shown to reduce weight and waistlines in people with heart issues (all helpful things in warding off heart disease).
Recent research has shown that the saturated fat found in coconut oil is not the same as the “bad” saturated fat you find in butter or meat. The Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) that make up coconut oil’s saturated fat are dealt with by your body differently to the long chain fatty acids found in other fats. They actually end up being a good source of energy and ketones which can help with some brain disorders like epilepsy or Alzheimers.
The energy that comes from the MCTs can also make you burn calories quicker and help with your weight over the long term. At the same time, the ketones can reduce your appetite causing you to eat less, thus increasing any weight loss. Even better, it seems the weight loss is often centered on belly fat which is one of the highest risk factors for heart problems. Combined with the increase in HDL and the reduction of LDL cholesterols, your arteries are better protected.
Coconut oil is definitely proving to be a true “super-food” and has a multitude of other benefits and uses. Make sure you buy organic or extra virgin oil though, as the refined oils will not have the same chemical make-up. You can use it for cooking at a high heat, baking, salad dressings, sauces, coffee creamer, to make healthy snacks and as a replacement for butter or other oils. You can also use it as a beauty treatment for your skin or hair.
6. Orange Juice
Orange juice is an easy and simple addition to make your diet more heart-healthy – if it isn’t on your regular diet already. Orange juice is the classic source of Vitamin C and provides a range of nutrients and anti-oxidants, such as potassium, folate, and thiamine. In particular, an antioxidant in orange juice called hesperidin is a flavonoid compound which improves the health of the delicate endothelial cells that line blood vessels and thus prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Make sure that you choose complete, fresh orange juice with no added sugar, for best results. Of course, orange juice contains many other healthful nutrients. Try and buy the juice which retains the pulp, as this contains the fiber which has its own benefits. In fact, include actual citrus fruits in your diet whenever you can. Orange juice is also a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are good for lowering blood pressure levels.
Orange juice has lower sugar levels and higher nutrient levels than most other juices, which supports its broad health benefits. The many other health benefits of oranges combine to make for a generally healthier body which will relieve the heart of the need to strain. Several studies have reported that orange juice intake had beneficial impacts on various markers of oxidative stress and inflammation which can damage your health, including heart health.Some of these benefits include a stronger immune system, stronger, bones, better brain-cell health, improved collagen production for healthier skin, while the Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, which in its turn helps the blood absorb oxygen – a key factor in helping your heart. Thus, washing your iron tablet down with a glass of orange juice will help it to be absorbed quicker. However, drink orange juice in moderation. A single glass of orange juice in the morning is adequate.
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