Fatty foods, like fried chicken, chili cheese fries and three-egg omelets paired with bacon, might please your palette, but their wreak havoc on your health. Eating these foods as a regular part of your diet can cause plaque to form on your artery walls, posing a serious risk to your cardiovascular health. Swapping fatty fare for healthier foods can help prevent more plaque from forming, and even reverse some of the damage to your arteries.
Cholesterol is the waxy, fatty substance in your bloodstream that can clog your arteries and put you at risk for serious health complications such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, contributes to these health risks. For example, saturated and trans fats -- the kind of fat found in meats, eggs, high-fat dairy and processed junk foods -- increase your LDL levels. At the same time, they lower the level of HDL -- the good kind of cholesterol.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats that can actually lower your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your HDL cholesterol. Food rich in healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, fish and plant-based oils derived from olives, sunflowers, corn, soybeans, flaxseed and canola. When planning your heart-healthy diet, the AHA recommends limiting your total fats to no more than 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories, and getting as much of this fat from unsaturated fats as possible
Eat several fruits and vegetables each day to fight arterial plaque. These foods contain dietary fiber -- a type of carbohydrate that can lower your cholesterol levels. They also come loaded with other nutrients that fight clogged arteries, including potassium and -- in the case of fruits and vegetables -- vitamin C. Combine these foods with with healthy fats for a heart-friendly meal -- try spinach salad topped with chopped walnuts and sliced strawberries, or oatmeal flavored with fresh blueberries and roasted almonds.
Some types of fish contain large amounts of fat, but it's of the heart-friendly unsaturated variety. Focus on fish like tuna, cod, halibut, salmon, mackerel and herring in lieu of lean meats and poultry to fight clogged arteries. Alternatively, consider getting your protein from legumes, such as beans and lentils. These foods not only contain little to no saturated fat, they contain fiber that benefits your cardiovascular health. Try using grilled salmon to make your favorite salads more filling, pairing homemade hummus with fresh vegetable sticks or tossing a handful of beans into your favorite soups or wraps.
A heart-healthy diet, coupled with regular exercise, can reduce your risk for clogged arteries and health problems associated with rising cholesterol levels. Strive for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day – if you have high cholesterol or other medical conditions, make sure to get your doctor's permission first. Finally, if you smoke, consider quitting. Tobacco use contributes to high cholesterol and other serious medical conditions.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.