All of the blood vessels in our whole body are lined with endothelial cells, collectively called the endothelium. These cells act as a protective shield between the blood and the other bodily tissues. Our endothelium creates fresh blood cells and contributes to blood clotting. It also works with immune system defense cell production and utilization.
Endothelial cells produce a vitally important substance called nitric oxide (NO). NO keeps the interior of blood vessels smooth and elastic, which helps to stop platelets from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. NO also makes blood vessels dilate to maintain healthy blood flow, which helps prevent heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease.
Impaired endothelial function is seen in patients who have coronary disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Injured endothelial cells are seen as atherosclerosis develops.
Eating animal-derived foods like meat, dairy and eggs, as well as highly inflammatory processed foods like oil (yes, that includes even extra virgin olive oil) does extensive damage to the endothelium. Avoiding these foods takes a big burden off our endothelium.
By contrast, a healthy, balanced whole food plant-based no-oil diet can repair damaged endothelial cells and keep uninjured ones healthy. Foods particularly helpful for maintaining and restoring damaged endothelial cells include beets, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables like kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, arugula, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, cilantro, and asparagus.
Eating greens with a little balsamic vinegar adds acetic acid, which restores the cells responsible for making NO.
Since our blood vessels are present in every organ and system in our body, our lives actually do depend on keeping them, and our endothelium, as healthy as possible. Learn more here from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.