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5 foods to promote vascular health

The vascular system, also known as the circulatory system, is comprised of arteries, veins and vessels that carry blood throughout the body. Diet can play a role in the health of the vascular system.  It can keep your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check, it can also fight against the build-up of plaque in the arteries which can lead to disease. We asked Jillian Reece, RD from the Weight and Wellness Center at Tufts MC to tell us more about these healthy foods.

Here are five foods that promote a healthy vascular system: 

Cooked salmonSalmon
Rich in unsaturated, Omega 3 fatty acids, salmon is a great choice for many health reasons. Research suggests that consuming these types of fats may play a vital role in maintaining vascular and heart health due to their anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Consuming Omega 3 fats in a food such as salmon may help to reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death. For maximum benefit, aim to include a 3 ounce serving fatty fish such as salmon two times per week.

A bowl of olive oilOlive Oil
Olive oil may be high in fat and calories if consumed in large portions, but in moderation it’s a wonderful source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil and monounsaturated fatty acids have a number of vascular benefits, including the reduction of total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which helps to keep arteries clear. Choose liquid oils such as olive oil in place of fats like butter which are solid at room temperature. Additionally, look for expeller pressed, extra virgin oil and use on salads, cooked vegetables, and lean proteins. 

A pile of oatsOats
Oats are a good source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps to reduce constipation and maintain bowel health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, helps to keep us full, and is in important part of maintaining a healthy weight. Specifically, oats contain a soluble fiber (dissolves in water) called beta-glucan which helps to bind stool together in the gut, and can reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Choose steel cut oats or try oat bran for a high fiber, heart healthy breakfast option!

A bunch of spinachSpinach
Choose spinach (and other dark leafy greens) for a variety of vascular benefits! Spinach is rich in Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium which are important components for the regulation of our blood pressure. Additionally, spinach contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E which help to reduce oxidative stress in the body and maintain good vascular health. Spinach also contains leutin which helps to reduce inflammation in the body. Specifically, one study found an inverse relationship between higher levels of lutein consumption and atherosclerosis – a condition where arteries harden due to a buildup of plaque.

BlueberriesBlueberries
Eat more blueberries! Blueberries are a great source of fiber and Vitamin C, are free of saturated fats, and are packed with antioxidants which may help combat free radicals in the body and the potential for disease. Blueberries may help to lower LDL cholesterol as well as blood pressure, keeping arteries clear, which makes them a great choice for both your heart and brain. Additionally, blueberries contain anthocyanins, a type of flavanoid which may help to reduce oxidative stress. Anthocyanins are also responsible for giving the fruit its blue coloring.