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Spring Clean Your Heart With Food

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep your heart health in check. But many people are not aware of how what you eat affects your heart and blood vessels. When you eat foods that contain added sugar and substances (like white flour) which your body breaks down into sugar, you are contributing to damage to your arteries. Foods like baked goods, candy, soda, and potato chips conspire against you by increasing the amount of LDL (or "bad") cholesterol in your body and thicken the consistency of your blood. These actions contribute to heart disease because they can increase your blood pressure, make your blood pump less efficiently through your body, and lead to heart attacks and stroke.

You may be wondering what you can do to reverse some of the damage these foods have done to your arteries. The good news is by switching up some of the foods you eat, you can actually help repair your arteries and heart. Here are some of the best foods you can try to improve your heart health.

Avocados—Try swapping mayonnaise on your sandwich with mashed avocado. Avocados have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels and also raise HDL ("good") cholesterol in people who ate some nearly every day. Be careful not to eat too much though--avocados contain healthy fat but it's still fat. 1/3 of a regular-sized avocado counts as one serving.

Whole grains—Foods like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal contain soluble fiber which binds to the cholesterol in your food and helps pull it out of your body. By lowering the cholesterol in your body, the next time your body needs to use cholesterol, it will draw upon your current supply which means your cholesterol level will continue to decrease.

Nuts—If you're craving an afternoon snack, grab a small handful of nuts instead of chips or a cookie. Almonds and walnuts are particularly good for your heart because they are full of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively. These can help lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood which lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Fatty Fish—It may sound counterintuitive, but fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring can decrease inflammation and triglyceride levels in your body with their omega-3 fatty acids. Strive to eat these kinds of fish at least twice a week.

Asparagus—Spring is the perfect time to find lots of fresh asparagus at the grocery store. This skinny veggie is one of the best artery-clearing foods you can eat. It releases pressure in the veins and arteries and helps to ward off the clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Broccoli—Did you know that broccoli helps keep calcium from damaging your arteries? It is also chock-full of fiber which helps to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Orange juice—Your morning dose of Vitamin C is also good for your heart and blood vessels! Two cups of 100% pure orange juice can help reduce your resting blood pressure and may improve blood vessel function.

Watermelon—Yes, it's delicious and light on calories, but watermelon also contains an amino acid that has been shown to help lower blood pressure by producing nitric oxide, a compound that widens blood vessels.

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