Top 10 foods to keep your arteries clean
by Dr. Jack Wolfson —
As a board-certified cardiologist, I believe the best way to treat heart problems is to prevent them. When it comes to prevention, nothing is more important than proper nutrition. The best foods to eat are those that would have been available to our distant ancestors. This diet is often referred to as Paleo or hunter-gatherer. I find that when my patients follow a Paleo diet, they get tremendous results.
Remember to always eat organic foods. If pesticides kill bugs, they can also kill us. Here are my top 10 foods to keep your arteries clean.
Grass-fed beef — Saturated fat does not increase the risk of heart disease, according to an analysis of more than 350,000 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In fact, muscle meat is a complete source of protein. Organ cuts, such as liver and kidney, are packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamins A and D. Cows are meant to eat grass, not corn, soy and wheat. Cows are meant to roam free, not be cooped up, stressed out and kept under artificial lighting. Many cultures around the world consume animal foods and enjoy incredible longevity. Get free-range, grass-fed meat into your meal plan. For the best health benefits, cook your meat medium-rare.
Kale — A dark green leafy vegetable, kale is packed with medicinal value. For starters, kale is a great source of fiber, thus improving the lipid profile. Kale contains vitamin K, an essential nutrient that keeps calcium in bones and out of arteries. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, which promotes healthy arteries and is an antioxidant. Kale contains sulforaphane, which may lower cancer risk. Eat it raw, steamed or stir-fried. Boiling leaches nutrients out of any food. It can be mixed with other salad greens. My 7-year-old son eats kale with his lunch. Start ’em young.
Beets — Beets can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease. They lower blood pressure because they contain nitrates. Just like the pharmaceutical nitroglycerin, beets open up blood vessels and improve flow. Beets reduce homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease and dementia risk, are loaded with antioxidants and naturally thin the blood by inhibiting overactive platelets. Beets even improve exercise performance. Eat them raw or cooked. Beet root powder two times per day is on my prescription list. Make sure the beets are organic, as they are a common genetically modified food.
Chlorella — This blue-green algae is one of nature’s superfoods. Chlorella cuts the risk of heart disease by reducing oxidative damage of tissues. It improves blood pressure and stroke risk. Additionally, chlorella lowers cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. It binds heavy metals; so use it daily, especially after consuming seafood. Chlorella contains chlorophyll, the energy harnessed from the sun. Good stuff. I add it to my green drink every morning.
Wild salmon — When it comes to fat, there is one type you do not want to cut back on — omega-3 fatty acids. Cut back on vegetable oil but not the quality fats only found in fish. Wild salmon is my favorite choice, but anchovies also provide plenty of omega-3s. Add them to olive oil and lemon for a salad dressing. Two crucial omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA, which lower the risk of heart disease, improve heart rhythm and also help with depression, dementia and arthritis.
Avocado — The avocado is a great source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium — elements crucial to good health. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that blocks free radical damage. Free radicals speed up the aging process. The fiber in avocado helps keep cholesterol in check and prevents colon cancer. Potassium is important because it plays a role in every single heartbeat. Without potassium, the heart would be unable to squeeze and pump blood through your body. It is also good for muscle movement, nerve and kidney function. You get all of these benefits and more from avocado.
Almonds — Multiple studies have shown that eating nuts and seeds is heart-healthy. In fact, those who eat the most of these foods have the lowest risk of heart attack or stroke. Almonds are a delicious snack and are excellent added to a salad. Almonds are high in the heart-protective antioxidant vitamin E. Most mornings I make a nut “cereal” with almonds, pecans, coconut flakes and homemade nut milk. Blend almonds and water to make the nut milk. Store it in a glass bottle in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. All nuts and seeds are great, except peanuts, which are actually a bean that wreaks havoc on your digestion and causes many allergies.
Broccoli — Broccoli is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, along with other vitamins. Phytonutrients are not as essential to the body as most vitamins but are a great way to prevent disease and keep the body working properly. The antioxidants in broccoli are its most important element. They slow down the aging process and help keep your body clean of toxic free radicals, such as tobacco smoke and radiation.
Eggs — Eggs are one of nature’s perfect foods. They contain cholesterol but do not cause heart attacks. In fact, those who eat the most eggs enjoy the best health. Eggs raise HDL to fight heart disease. Loaded with choline, they are also great for your brain. An egg is like a multivitamin — after all, it brings a chicken to life. Fry them in coconut oil on low heat or slowly boil. This superfood is truly egg-ceptional.
Olive oil — Olives and olive oil are staples of the Mediterranean diet. Those who follow this diet have a lower risk of heart disease than the standard American diet. Olive oil, particularly organic, contains high levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil also has endless anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive effects. Add it to a salad but never heat it.
Jack Wolfson, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist who uses nutrition and supplements to prevent and treat disease. After 10 years performing angiograms, pacemakers and other procedures, he started Wolfson Integrative Cardiology in 2012 in Paradise Valley, Ariz., to give patients the ultimate in heart care. WolfsonIntegrativeCardiology.com, facebook.com/thedrswolfson or 480-535-6844.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 1, February/March 2015.