Your diet can help improve your vascular health. In this blog I’m sharing some important and applicable information to help you improve circulation and overall vascular health. A right-to-the-point list is presented below, and explanations for each food follow.
In no specific order, here are foods that will benefit your circulation and heart, and possibly improve the quality of your life. These suggestions are just a start -- do some research of your own and make positive changes whenever possible.
- Cold water fish (cod, salmon)
- Nuts and beets
- Blueberries, grapes, and red wine
- Cayenne pepper
- Strawberries, pineapple, oranges, lemons, bell peppers and broccoli
- Dark chocolate
Other foods to consider: watermelon, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, ginger, cinnamon, tomatoes, blackberries, green leafy vegetables.
Cold water fish (Salmon, Cod for example):
Rich in omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids reduce inflammation and reduce the viscosity (“stickiness”) of blood as it travels through vessels. This is true whether the vessels are arterial or venous. Inflammation within arterial walls is what leads to plaque formation, atherosclerosis, and blockages. Over time, the result may be heart attack, stroke, or peripheral arterial disease/critical limb ischemia. Omega fatty acids are the type of fats your body needs to thrive.
These fats are especially beneficial for circulation because they promote the release of nitric oxide, which dilates your blood vessels and increases blood flow
Omega 3 fatty acids also help inhibit the clumping of platelets in your blood, a process that can lead to blood clot formation.
Nuts and Beets:
Nitric oxide results from the metabolism of L-arginine, an amino acid. Nitric oxide dilates (expands) blood vessels, including smaller vessels involved in microcirculation. Dilation of arteries (also referred to vasodilation) makes it easier for blood cells to travel through vessels and deliver oxygen to targeted cells.
Magnesium is a nutrient that allows for muscle relaxation within artery walls, allowing for more efficient expansion and contraction. Nuts provide an excellent source of both L-arginine and magnesium.
Beets help improve circulation because they are rich in nitrate. In the body, nitrate is converted into nitric oxide, assisting arteries in vasodilation.
Beets are also full of health-supporting antioxidants, vitamins (A, C, and K and folate), and minerals like potassium, copper, and manganese. Vitamin A and C are also important in wound healing in that they are involved in new collagen synthesis. The greens of the beet contain phytochemicals such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids, and may have benefits in eye and skin health.
Blueberries, Grapes, Red Wine:
Powerful antioxidants reduce inflammation and blood viscosity. Flavonoids are the key component responsible for the magic contained in each of these foods. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants, which means they help stop free radical activity and prevent inflammatory process from occurring.
Resveratrol is a substance found in among others, the skin of grapes, blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts. Red wine is fermented longer than white wine, so the concentration of resveratrol that is present is red wine is higher than in white wine. Research on resveratrol is inconclusive, but it may be linked to lowering the risk of inflammation and blood clotting. Red wine is included here because some of you consider wine to be a food category of its own. Do not substitute wine for solid food, especially if you are counting calories. One glass of red wine (5 ounces) per day is a safe level for consumption.
Garlic has been recommended by many cardiologists as way to help lower blood pressure. It is believed that a component of garlic, allicin, helps arteries dilate. The only issue is that allicin is quickly degraded by heat, so to receive true benefits from garlic, it must be consumed in its raw form. If you must cook it, use low heat, and try not to have it in the pan any longer than necessary.
Onions are an excellent source of flavonoid antioxidants and have vasodilatory properties. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can boost blood flow and heart health by reducing inflammation in arteries and veins.
Capsaicin promotes blood flow to tissues by lowering blood pressure and stimulating the release of nitric oxide and other vasodilators — or compounds that help expand your blood vessels.
Vasodilators allow blood to flow more easily through your veins and arteries by relaxing the tiny muscles found in blood vessel walls.
Research indicates that ingesting cayenne pepper increases circulation, improves blood vessel strength, and reduces plaque buildup in your arteries.
Enhancing blood flow is one of turmeric’s benefits.
Research suggests that a compound found in turmeric called curcumin helps increase nitric oxide production, reduce oxidative stress, and decreases inflammation.
The benefits of avocados seem to be increasing on a regular basis. Avocados are rich in Vitamin C and E. Vitamin E is particularly beneficial for your cardiovascular system as it helps to minimize cholesterol oxidization which is recognized as a contributing factor in stroke and heart attack. Having high levels of vitamin E in your diet is also good for your skin’s moisture balance and helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles. They also contain the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotenoids that may have benefits in eye and skin health.
Strawberries, Pineapple, Oranges, Lemons, Bell Peppers and Broccoli:
These foods are rich in Vitamin C, one of the building blocks of collagen. Collagen is the foundation of skin and connective tissue throughout the body. Vitamin C then, plays an important role in wound healing and microcapillary formation. Microcapillaries are the small vessels that deliver blood and oxygen. Vitamin C can be found in foods that are widely consumed. Oranges, lemons, bell peppers, broccoli, pineapple, and strawberries (to name a few) will all give you the same benefits.
Strawberries and broccoli are also especially rich in antioxidative properties and therefore are anti-inflammatory.
Saving desert for last, dark chocolate is full of nutrients that improve circulation and blood flow—specifically, flavonoids.
Just be sure to stick with dark chocolate and the higher the percentage of cacao, the better. It is OK to indulge, just try not to over-indulge by limiting yourself to 1 or 2 small pieces. Enjoy!
-Dr. Desmond Bell