39 Foods That Unclog Arteries

Did you know that in the United States, every forty seconds, someone experiences a stroke (1)? And did you know that strokes are often the result of clogged arteries (1)?

This article will cover what clogged arteries mean and how specific foods can unclog arteries naturally. Wouldn’t you like to know the best foods that clean arteries? If so, read on!

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This article was written by Chantel Alejado, Toronto Metropolitan University Nutrition Student.  Medically reviewed by Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE

Atherosclerosis

Our blood vessels are naturally elastic and flexible and this trait is an important function in regulating our blood pressure. But, they can lose this elasticity when fats and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (also known as the “bad” cholesterol) collect in our blood vessels and eventually form plaque.

Plaque can harden and clog our arteries. This condition, called atherosclerosis, can also cause cardiovascular disease. The narrowing and thickening of the blood vessels mean less blood flowing through our arteries.

This narrowing, or clogging of the arteries, may cause a blockage leading to myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, or even a stroke.

How To Manage Blocked Arteries

There are many risk factors for atherosclerosis. This list includes causes such as chronic poor sleep and mental health issues such as stress and depression (2).

Smoking and lack of physical activity are also known to increase your risk for atherosclerosis (2). It is recommended to abstain from smoking and get around 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week, such as swimming or running (2).

Another critical cause of blocked arteries is an unhealthy diet. The next section discusses the best foods that clean arteries!

Eating Well To Unclog Arteries Naturally

There is strong evidence that a diet low in added sugars, refined grains, and trans fats while incorporating plant and whole foods is essential for our hearts and overall health (2).

Let’s look into some dietary patterns known to help unclog arteries naturally and maintain health.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plants, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. It includes olive oil as your primary source of fat and recommends lowering your intake of meats and sweets.

The diet recommends red wine in low or moderate amounts and water for drinks. Along with recommending certain foods, the Mediterranean dietary pattern promotes physical activity, mindful eating, cooking meals at home, and eating your meals with others.

There is strong evidence suggesting that this diet can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk for heart disease (3).

DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches for Stopping Hypertension. Hypertension is a fancy word for high blood pressure. The DASH diet is notably low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It emphasizes eating more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, and nuts.

There is a lot of research done on the diet to show that it has excellent health benefits. The diet is connected to improving blood pressure and lowering LDL cholesterol levels, which may help improve the flexibility of your blood vessels and clean your arteries (4).

Vegetarian Diet

The vegetarian diet excludes most animal products such as meat, poultry, and seafood. This allows for a diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein such as nuts, beans, and lentils.

Recent studies have shown that vegetarian diets help lower your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and notably lower your risk for atherosclerosis (5).

Nutrients To Choose More Often

One nutrient that you should try to eat more often is soluble fiber. The body cannot digest and break down fiber.  Therefore when soluble fiber, goes through our digestive tract, it can slow or prevent the absorption of nutrients, like cholesterol and sugar, into your body. 

As a result, soluble fiber helps manage your blood sugar, but also your blood cholesterol too. Soluble fiber is found in whole-grain foods and vegetables, and fruit such as broccoli and apples.

Unsaturated fats are another nutrient you should be eating more often, specifically polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) such as Omega 3s. Omega 3s are essential nutrients.  They are classified as essential because our body cannot synthesize or make these nutrients and therefore must be supplied by food.

These nutrients are needed for our bodily functions and most importantly to help improve your heart health. Omega 3s are found in, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, flaxseed and linseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.  

Antioxidants are another vital nutrient that is important for maintaining heart health. Antioxidant rich foods clean arteries and help to protect the body from free radicals (compounds involved in the development of clogged arteries). Antioxidants are in foods in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.

Nutrients To Choose Less Often

You should try to limit your intake of saturated fats, which work to raise your LDL cholesterol in your body and increase your risk of developing heart disease. Saturated fats are found in many animal marbling and fat, also sources like butter, and lard. Palm oil is notably high in saturated fats.

Other foods that you should be wary of are processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated or trans fat. Processed foods such as chips, baked goods, and fast foods are high in these nutrients. They are called “empty calories” as they do not provide nutritional benefits except for energy or calories.

Foods to unclog arteries title with whole plant foods in the center.  Lower inflammation, curb appetite, lowers cholesterol and manages blood sugar are words that surround the picture of the whole foods.

39 Foods That Unclog Arteries Naturally

1. Garlic

It has long been known about garlic’s health-promoting effects. Indeed for centuries, it has been a medicinal asset for humans (6)!

A study showed that garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels (6). This is good because it is a food that cleans arteries and lowers our risk for hypertension or high blood pressure, which is a condition that can lead to clogged arteries.

Garlic was also shown to improve C-reactive protein (CRP) and coronary artery calcium (CAC) levels (6). CRP is linked to inflammation in our bodies. CAC is related to how much plaque buildup is in our arteries. Lowering these values indicates that garlic may reduce our risk for atherosclerosis.

This silken tofu scramble recipe is a great way to start incorporating garlic.  

2. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is needed to make other omega 3s such as your eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Omega 3s help lower your total cholesterol levels while raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. HDL is called the “good” cholesterol because it improves heart health and lowers cholesterol levels in your blood.

Chia seeds are a great and easy food to add to your meals. They can be used as toppings for baked goods, or as part of a smoothie like this pineapple weight loss smoothie. If you’re interested in learning more about chia seeds, check out this article that goes over chia seeds and hemp seeds.

3. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are another super healthy food that cleans arteries! Flaxseeds are shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This is because flaxseeds are excellent sources of soluble fiber, which help manage cholesterol and sugar levels and make you feel full longer, and prevent overeating.

You can add flaxseeds to your smoothies, oatmeal, and salad dressings. Try this flaxseed pudding done in 4 ways to give you some inspiration.

Read about the difference between flaxseed and linseed here.

4. Olive Oil

Olive oil is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. It is considered a “healthy” fat because it comprises unsaturated fat, mainly monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) such as oleic acid.  MUFAs can help lower your LDL cholesterol which is why olive oil is a food that unclog arteries naturally.

Olive oil is also rich in polyphenols, compounds commonly found in plant-based products, and are known to lower inflammation in our bodies (7). The polyphenols are shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise our HDL levels, which can help to unclog our arteries (7).

5. Green Tea

Green tea is a popular drink full of antioxidants and shows the potential to improve the health of our arteries (8). A study showed that green tea could prevent the development of atherosclerosis as it can lower inflammation and improve cholesterol levels (8).

6. Tofu

Tofu is made of soybeans that have been ground up into milk and pressed, resulting in the famous white blocks. As a result, they are rich sources of both plant protein and calcium.

Eating soy protein is linked to lowering LDL cholesterol levels (9). Soy products have a compound called isoflavones, which are antioxidants. Isoflavones are shown to decrease your risk of developing atherosclerosis (9).

If you are interested to know what tofu tastes like, read more here.

7. Salmon

Salmon is a highly recommended food for improving heart health due to its fatty content. Atlantic salmon is notably high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

It is recommended to have at least 2 servings of fish per week to maintain heart health, which provides around 500 mg of EPA and DHA.

You can eat salmon in various ways as you can fry, bake and grill it. Try this Honey Garlic Salmon as a delicious dinner option.

Read more about the difference between Atlantic vs. Pacific salmon here.

8. Sardines

Sardines are another fatty fish as it is rich in PUFA, such as your Omega 3s, and minerals such as potassium. Potassium is a crucial mineral part of the DASH diet. It helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls which improves blood pressure and lowers your risk for clogged arteries.

Sardines can be eaten right out of the can or added to salads or sandwiches. Check out this delicious and easy sardine dip recipe!

9. Anchovies

Anchovies are also considered fatty fish as they contain omega 3s, particularly EPA and DHA. 100 g of canned anchovies offer 1 g of both EPA and DHA.

Anchovies are also rich sources of selenium. Selenium is a nutrient that has various roles in our bodies. One of them is providing antioxidants. A study showed that normal selenium levels were connected to a lower risk for heart disease (10).

Anchovies can also be a highly versatile food. You can add anchovies to your salads and sandwiches. Try this Anchovy Puttanesca if you’re looking for a new way to eat more anchovies beyond your typical pizza topping!

10. Mackerel 

Mackerel is another fatty fish and one of the best foods that clean arteries. It is full of omega 3 fatty acids as 115 g of Atlantic Mackerel provides 1 g of EPA and 2 g of DHA. It can serve as one of your seafood options to meet the recommended 1-2 servings per week because of its rich fatty content.

Mackerel can also be used in similar ways as the other fish mentioned. If you’re looking for recipes to try, check out this canned mackerel pasta!

11. Turmeric

Turmeric powder comes from the rhizome plant. Turmeric is notably high in curcumin, the main compound that gives turmeric its unclogging capabilities. Curcumin can lower inflammation in the body and prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized, which are key processes in atherosclerosis (11).

You can add turmeric to your breakfast by sprinkling some to your scrambled eggs, omelet, or smoothie! Try this Tumeric Oatmeal recipe as a healthy breakfast to start your day!

12. Walnuts

Walnuts are a type of tree nuts and are great for our hearts. These nuts are full of PUFAs, fiber, minerals such as potassium and calcium, and vitamins (12).

Walnuts are particularly rich in ALA. Studies show that they can lower inflammation in the body, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease (12).

Try adding walnuts to this vegan protein oatmeal.

13. Almonds

Almonds have a high content of healthy fats, such as MUFAs and PUFAs, potassium, vitamin E and B vitamins (13).

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help prevent LDL oxidation, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and improve HDL levels (13).

Almonds are great snacks that you could bring to school or work. Try this overnight oat bran recipe with almond butter for a quick and easy breakfast.

14. Avocado Oil

You’ve probably heard of avocado toast, but have you heard of avocado oil? Avocado oils are excellent sources of healthy fats, such as MUFA and PUFA. A recent review showed that avocado oil intake led to a rise in HDL levels and helped to promote heart health (14).

Avocado oil is a fantastic substitute for olive oil.  It can be used as a dressing for your salads. It can also be used in baking and as a marinade for your vegetables.

15. Barley

Barley is a type of cereal grain and fantastic heart-healthy food. It is a rich source of beta-glucan, a kind of soluble fiber. Beta-glucan has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. It does this by absorbing water and creating a web in your gut that slows down the absorption of nutrients, like cholesterol, into your body (15).

Give this Barley and Sesame Porridge recipe a try if you’re looking for ideas on how to eat more barley!

16. Oats

Oats contain two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is essential to maintain healthy arteries because they slow digestion in our guts. This causes us to feel full longer and also allows us to manage better our blood sugar and cholesterol levels (16).

Try this Protein Baked Oats as a satisfying breakfast meal.

17. Strawberries

Strawberries are full of many nutrients such as vitamin C and, as such, have excellent antioxidant capabilities. Some studies have shown that strawberries can help fight off free radicals in LDL oxidation and lower inflammation in our bodies (17).

Daily berry consumption is recommended, whether it be strawberries or others such as blueberries. You can opt for fresh or frozen strawberries, as frozen fruit is just as healthy as fresh.

Check out this article on how to make smoothies to lower blood pressure that discusses how to add strawberries to smoothies.

18. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a legume proven to have great heart-healthy benefits. These legumes are excellent sources of protein and soluble fiber, which can help regulate your cholesterol levels and make you feel full longer.

Studies have shown that chickpeas can lower your blood’s total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (18).

Hummus, which is grounded chickpeas, is another excellent option that has proven to be heart-healthy (18). So, chickpeas and hummus present a great plant-based protein and fiber source for vegans and everyone alike!

Try a chickpea sandwich as an alternative to deli meat sandwich.

19. Lentils

Lentils are part of the pulse family, including legumes such as chickpeas. Lentils are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

Potassium and magnesium are minerals recommended by the DASH diet. They are shown to help reduce blood pressure and help clean our arteries and keep them healthy.

Try these homemade lentil muffins as a great snack option.  

20. Apples

I’m sure you may have heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and I’m here to say that it’s true. Eating apples may lower your risk for clogged arteries and stroke. The fruit is also shown to reduce fat levels in our blood and lower LDL cholesterol levels (19).

The health effects of apples are primarily due to their skin. Apple skin contains compounds called flavonoids. These antioxidants can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease (19). Apple skins also have fiber which helps to regulate your cholesterol levels (19).

Apples are great snacks but can even serve as part of a healthy breakfast meal in this apple spice-baked oats with no banana.

21. Pistachios

Pistachios are excellent sources of MUFA and PUFAs, protein, fiber, potassium, and vitamin E (20). Due to the fiber, pistachios can help better manage blood sugar levels. Pistachios are also shown to lower total cholesterol levels in the blood, lower inflammation and prevent oxidative stress due to their antioxidants (20).

Pistachios are great snack options, and you can purchase them with the shell and without the shells at grocery stores. You can also add pistachios to salads, chop them up and use them as a topping for your desserts.

22. Watermelon

Watermelons are known for their outer green shell and bright red interior. But did you know this food can clean arteries? These fruits are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as lycopene, which acts as an antioxidant and can fight against LDL oxidation (19).

Indeed, because of watermelon’s rich nutritional value, studies have shown that the fruit can lower LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL. Watermelons can also lower fat buildup in our arteries and prevent plaque formation (19).

Watermelons are a great refreshing fruit for hot and humid days. Give this watermelon weight loss smoothie recipe a try if you need a cool and fresh snack for the summer.

23. Beets

Beets or beetroot are great for unclogging arteries! They are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and A and also sources of fiber, potassium, and magnesium, which can help lower LDL oxidation and blood pressure (21).

Beetroots are known for helping to make nitric oxide, which is a compound known to improve arteries and lower plaque buildup. Regularly drinking beetroot juice may also help to lower blood pressure (21).

Beets can be eaten both raw and cooked. With raw beets, you can slice them and add them to your salads and slaw. Beets can also be boiled, roasted, and steamed. Give this beet juice recipe a crack if you’re looking for a new juice experience!

24. Asparagus

Asparagus may prove to be another heart-healthy vegetable. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and help lower your risk for hypertension and atherosclerosis (22).

Asparagus is also rich in nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C. Potassium, an essential mineral as part of the DASH diet, will help regulate blood pressure. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and can help fight off free radicals and oxidative stress (22).

You can sautée, boil, roast, and even grill your asparagus! Try this Roasted Asparagus recipe for inspiration.

25. White Potatoes

Potatoes are a nutrient-rich food and great for our health! Regular white potatoes are rich in vitamin C and can fight against free radicals. White potatoes can also lower inflammation (23).

White potatoes are also rich in fiber and potassium. This mix of nutrients allows the potato to better manage your cholesterol levels and blood pressure (23).

26. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are another great option as they are full of vitamin A, C, and E, fiber, protein, and potassium. Sweet potatoes can help manage blood sugar levels and can help manage cholesterol levels (24).

27. Red Grapes

Red grapes are rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants, and as such help to lower your risk for developing heart disease (19). This antioxidant is a polyphenol called resveratrol. These compounds can be found in grape skin and have reduced platelet aggregation and LDL oxidation, key processes in atherosclerosis.

Grapes are a great snack to have for school or work as they can be eaten whole but also can be added to salads or smoothies like this beet smoothie to lower blood pressure.

28. Ginger

Ginger is a spice grown in South Asian countries such as India and is often used in traditional medicine. Ginger has shown the potential to lower inflammation and platelet aggregation and may have antioxidant powers to it (25).

Ginger tea is a popular choice as it is easy and simple to make. All you need to do is slice your ginger, then simmer it in a pot of water, and then you have ginger tea!

Try this pineapple cucumber ginger lemon-infused water recipe.

29. Cinnamon

Cinnamon, native to Sri Lanka and India, is most famous for its heart-healthy benefits! Cinnamon can help manage sugar levels and blood pressure. It thereby may lower the risk for diabetes and hypertension, which are conditions that can increase your risk for clogged arteries (25).

There is also research showing that cinnamon can directly prevent atherosclerosis as it has the potential to lower platelet aggregation and better manage cholesterol levels in your blood (25).

Try using cinnamon in this easy microwave egg white oatmeal.

30. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are red because they contain lycopene. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their unclogging capabilities. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant and is known to help reduce blood pressure. Tomatoes themselves also can help to lower LDL cholesterol (26).

Tomatoes are that fruit that can be made into just about anything! If you’re looking for a new way to eat tomatoes, try this tomato oatmeal soup.

31. Broccoli

Broccoli contains many nutrients, specifically quercetin, a flavonoid, and antioxidant. Quercetin may lower inflammation, LDL oxidation, and LDL levels in the blood (27).

Broccoli and other green leafy vegetables such as kale and bok choy are the best foods that clean arteries and are excellent sources of calcium and folate, which help maintain health.

Broccoli is also a food that lower blood pressure

32. Onion

Onions also contain the compound quercetin, which acts as an antioxidant and can lower LDL oxidation (27). Other studies have also suggested that onions can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of developing hypertension(27).

Onions can be incorporated into so many different meals! You can add them to your burgers and sauté them in your stir-fries or omletes like this sardine omelete.

33. Sofrito

Sofrito is a famous sauce with many variations but is generally made of tomato, olive oil, onion, and garlic.

Since this dish contains many heart-healthy foods previously mentioned here, you can tell that this is one excellent dish to help unclog arteries. It contains lycopene and beta-carotene, also called vitamin A.  Sofrito contains food that unclog arteries by reducing inflammation (28).

34. Spinach

Spinach is another excellent green leafy vegetable that is great for heart health! Spinach is full of healthy nutrients such as vitamin A and C and minerals such as iron and magnesium.

Studies have shown that spinach can help your body make nitric oxide, which helps open your arteries and unclog them. Spinach has even been shown to lower blood pressure (29).

Spinach can be eaten raw as you can add them to your salads or smoothies. Try this red bean smoothie recipe for an easy and quick snack!

35. Oranges

There has been a lot of research done on the heart health benefits of oranges. Oranges are rich in beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol, popularly known as vitamin A and vitamin E, respectively.

Vitamin A and vitamin E are antioxidants and help fight against free radicals, which are compounds involved in the development of atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that orange juice can lower oxidative stress, LDL cholesterol, and risk for hypertension (19).

36. Cranberries

Cranberries are rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are compounds that give cranberries their signature red color and are present in other fruits such as blueberries. Anthocyanins help fight off free radicals and prevent LDL oxidation in arteries (30).

Cranberries can be consumed raw and whole but also added to smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and oatmeal. Give these banana lentil muffins a try for for a sweet breakfast recipe!

37. Pomegranate

Let’s also not forget about pomegranates! These vibrant, red fruits have a compound called punicalagin, which acts as an antioxidant (19). Indeed, the fruit has been shown to prevent oxidative stress and inflammation in our arteries (19).

The seeds of the pomegranate can be incorporated into various meals and snacks. You can add the seeds into salads, smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. Try freezing the seeds if you wish to save them for a more extended time.

38. Avocado

Avocados are rich in nutrients that are associated with cardiovascular benefits, such as potassium, magnesium, and soluble fiber. Avocados have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and manage blood pressure (31).

Try this yummy peanut butter avocado toast recipe to start incorperating avocados.

39. Soy Milk

Consuming soy protein, found in soy milk, has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in adults by 3-4% which is pretty significant (9, 32).

Like tofu, soy milk has a compound called isoflavones, which are antioxidants. Isoflavones are shown to decrease your risk of developing atherosclerosis (9).

This delicious avocado oat smoothie uses soy milk.

Final Thoughts On Foods That Unclog Arteries

Generally, a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein are essential for our health.

There are plenty of foods that unclog arteries and help improve heart health. I hope this article taught you more about foods that clean arteries and which foods you should definitely keep an eye out for if you’re looking for ways to keep your body and your arteries healthy!

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