The body’s circulation system is responsible for sending blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
A healthy circulation system has good blood flow through the arteries and veins, adequate oxygen and beneficial nutrients.
What is poor circulation and why should I be concerned?
Poor circulation occurs when the blood flow to a specific part of the body is reduced. Several conditions can lead to poor circulation, the most common ones being diabetes, obesity, heart conditions and arterial issues. The most common symptoms of poor circulation include: numbness, tingling, muscle cramping, vericose veins, cold feet and/or hands, and leg cramps. Untreated poor circulation can lead to serious or life-threatening conditions like gangrene, kidney failure or brain aneurisms. Vascular disease includes any condition that causes poor circulation such as varicose veins, peripheral artery disease or erectile dysfunction.
How can I improve my circulation?
Medication can treat poor circulation. However, your diet is the best and most healthy tool available to improve circulation. Some foods improve circulation, while others can make it worse.
Foods that improve circulation:
Garlic – garlic contains allicin that helps arteries to dilate. However, allicin is degraded by heat so to maximize its benefit it should be consumed raw.
Cayenne Pepper – the phytochemical capsaicin found in cayenne pepper promotes blood flow by lowering blood pressure and stimulating the release of nitric oxide to expand blood vessels.
Pomegranates – this juicy fruit contains a high amount of polyphenol antioxidants and nitrates which are potent vasodilators that increase blood flow.
Onions – these are an excellent source of flavonoid antioxidants that improve circulation by helping veins and arteries widen to increase blood flow.
Omega- 3 fatty fish – omega-3s help reduce inflammation and reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets which thins the blood to flow easier. (be sure to buy wild caught, not farm-raised fish)
Nuts – magnesium found in nuts helps arteries relax and l-arginine produces nitric oxide which helps arteries dilate. Walnuts, in particular, are loaded with beneficial compounds like alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) vitamin E and l-arginine that stimulate the production of nitric oxide.
Cinnamon – cinnamon improves blood vessel dilation and blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels.
Turmeric – the compound curcumin found in turmeric helps increase nitric oxide production and decrease inflammation for better blood flow.
Leafy Greens – collard greens and spinach are high in beneficial nitrates that convert into nitric oxide improving circulation.
Tomatoes – tomatoes may help reduce the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which reduces inflammation and improves circulation.
Ginger – this spice has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, which negatively impacts blood flow.
Foods High in Vitamin C – oranges, lemons, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, pineapple and other foods high in vitamin C include not only a powerful antioxidants, but benefits for the circulatory system through helping with the formation of collagen.
Beets – because beets are rich in nitrate which is converted into nitric oxide, they help arteries dilate, relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Beets have also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure. Many athletes supplement with beet juice/powder to help improve their endurance and enhance their exercise performance.
Dark Chocolate – this sweet treat contains an antioxidant that prevents inflammation and its flavonoids help to improve circulation and blood flow. The higher the percentage of cacao, the better. The recommended daily limit is 1 – 2 small squares.
Fluids – staying hydrated is critical to all areas of health including circulation as dehydration can restrict blood flow. A healthy goal per day is to divide your weight in half and drink that many fluid ounces of water per day.
Foods that worsen circulation:
Trans Fats – the FDA banned trans fats in foods last year. However, if you cook with oil, trans fats can be created under high heat. So sauté food instead of frying and be sure to avoid deep fried foods.
Added sugars – eating too much sugar causes the body to release high amounts of insulin which triggers inflammation. There is also a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes by eating too many foods with a high sugar content.
Salt (sodium) – too much salt can slow circulation through its effect on blood pressure. Too much sodium in your diet leads to water retention which increases your blood volume and drives up your blood pressure. Processed foods contain a high level of sodium so they should be significantly reduced or are best avoided entirely. It is recommended that everyone limit their daily salt (sodium) intake to about one teaspoon. If you keep salt on your table, reduce your usage.
Therefore, to have a healthy circulatory system, you should be aware of how what you’re eating and how many fluids that you’re consuming can affect your circulation. And for those suffering from poor circulation, they may have to drastically change their diets to improve their circulation and avoid future health complications.