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Nutrition has a primary influence on health and cardiovascular function by regulating levels of inflammation in the vascular system. Whole foods that are rich in nutrients provide food components that eliminate inflammation and improve the blood vessels ability to dilate and produce nitric oxide.

This is one reason that the Mediterranean diet and other ancestral diets appear to have a cardioprotective effect compared to modern diets high in processed foods or skewed towards one macronutrient, such as refined carbohydrates.

Scientists have always zeroed in on cholesterol levels and dietary fat as the main reason for heart disease, but more recent research has shown that this nearsighted approach is backfiring. Fat doesn’t cause heart disease and saturated fat, which supplies dietary cholesterol, is having no negative effect on cardiovascular function.

Interestingly, polyunsaturated fat, which comes from nuts, seeds, and fish, is protective for the heart, however, this type of fat is easily oxidized or damaged. It’s extremely important that you avoid consuming oxidized polyunsaturated fat because these molecules damage arteries and causes inflammation in the blood vessels walls.

Just as you want to avoid foods that cause inflammation, you want to eat foods that have a protective anti-inflammatory effect. Many plant foods contain phytonutrients (also known as antioxidants) that neutralize oxidized fat and other things that damage cardiovascular function.

Protective phytonutrient-rich foods include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, leafy greens, olives, peppers, avocados, tree nuts, coffee, and a range of spices including cinnamon and turmeric.

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