If you feel guilty about eating dark chocolate, don't. You have permission from Steven Gundry, MD, a cardiologist and director of Center for Restorative Medicine in Palms Springs and founder of Gundry MD supplements. "In moderation, dark chocolate is a fantastic addition to your diet," he says. "Dark chocolate is shown to help your body produce nitric oxide, which plays an important role in protecting your heart and veins." Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants that aid in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improve your blood flow. Dr. Grundy says to choose dark chocolate that's at least 72 percent cocoa for the best impact.
Turmeric, also known as the "Golden Spice of India," is a gem for keeping arteries unclogged and improving circulation, studies show. According to Dr. Gundry, however, turmeric is a tricky herb. "It's actually poorly absorbed on its own; unless it is mixed with bioperin, a compound found in black pepper," says Gundry. His solution: Eat curry once a week, which has both black pepper and turmeric.
You may have read that beets are great for athletes because they are rich in nitrates, which help increase blood flow and get oxygen to the muscles quicker. And drinking beet juice is an excellent way to improve circulation, even if you're not an athlete training for the Olympics. "Some studies have shown that consuming one to two cups of beet juice per day reduced blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure, and improved walking performance in patients with peripheral artery disease who experience pain in the legs during walking," says Steven Hertzler, PhD, RD, chief scientific officer at Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition. Check out these foods that help lower blood pressure.
Salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, or mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which your body doesn't make on its own, yet are essential for overall health. How to improve blood circulation by eating fish? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends two servings per week. Research shows an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency results in poor circulation. Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN of reversage.com says that omega-3 rich salmon contains natural blood-thinning properties and anticoagulant effects. "This allows for an improvement in circulation for your entire body." Alpert advises choosing wild-caught salmon whenever possible.
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Studies show that when some people like it hot, it benefits circulation. "Cayenne pepper helps to strengthen arteries and blood vessels, which allows the blood to circulate more efficiently around the body," says nutritionist Jolene Goring. Though cayenne pepper is traditionally used in meat and savory dishes, Goring suggests adding a pinch of cayenne to a fruit smoothie. "The spiciness of the cayenne pepper upgrades any sweet dish for a gourmet spicy sweet flavor." Check out more spicy health benefits of cayenne pepper.
It's easy to pass by radishes when you're shopping for veggies: they are famously bitter and often thought of as only a topping. If you want to improve poor blood circulation, give these bright red beauties another look. "Radishes are rich in minerals, including potassium that helps to normalize blood pressure and increase blood circulation," says Jacqueline Arnett Elnahar, a registered dietitian at teladietian.com. Each half cup of sliced radishes contain 135 mg of blood pressure-lowering potassium. Here are other potassium-rich foods.
Meet the radishes' cousin, Maca. "The heart-shaped root vegetable, maca, has a unique fatty acid composition that improves blood circulation, reduces inflammation in the body, and accelerates wound healing," says Arnett Elnahar. Using maca powder for smoothies may be an easier solution if you want to improve circulation. It has a pleasant earthy flavor with a hint of butterscotch. Start with a tablespoon and monitor how you feel. Since it is an energy booster, be mindful of going overboard. Speak to your doctor before adding it to your diet; pregnant women should avoid it entirely.
If mild green bell peppers are as spicy as you get, you may want to train your taste buds to like a little more heat. "Chili peppers give a kick to the blood increasing the circulation around the body," says Arnett Elnahar. Research from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences observed the diets of nearly half a million men and women over a seven-year span and found that people who ate spicy foods like chili peppers several days a week had a 14 percent lower risk of death from heart and respiratory diseases and cancer. Take baby steps and add a little diced chili peppers to stir fries or chili or squirt a drop or two of sriracha sauce on your eggs.
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If you haven't heard enough about kale, here's another reason to add the superfood to your diet: It could help improve circulation. "Kale is exceptional at replenishing red blood cells and increases the blood's ability to transport more oxygen around the body," says Arnett Elnahar. It is also rich in chlorophyll, which as you may remember from science class is a green pigment in plants that assists in catching the light from the sun to help make its own food for growth. What does that have to do with circulation? The molecular structure is similar to that of hemoglobin which is an essential part of human blood. Here are some creative ways to cook with kale.
Time to wake up and smell the coffee—and improve circulation at the same time. The AHA says moderate coffee drinking (one to two cups a day) isn't harmful. In fact, a study showed that drinking a cup of joe had a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period compared to those who stuck to decaf. Check out the truth behind these eight coffee myths.
Acai berries are another superfood that lives up to its hype. According to Arnett Elnahar, these little wonders have powerful plant sterols (a naturally occurring substance in grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and legumes) that relax blood vessels and improve blood circulation. They're also rich in vitamins A, E, and C and rich in calcium, iron, and potassium. Find out how to make these superfoods even healthier.
Wakame seaweed is branching out from sushi restaurants and is quickly becoming a favorite snack food. "According to a 1998 study of the hypotensive effects of Wakame, Japanese researchers found 4 weeks of eating several grams of dried Wakame reduced blood pressure in humans," says David Nico, PhD, of drhealthnut.com. When shopping for wakame, Dr. Nico suggests choosing high-quality varieties that aren't contaminated with heavy metals or other impurities.
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Brussels sprouts and other foods high in vitamin C, including broccoli, guava, oranges, and berries, all help with circulation issues. "In terms of circulation, vitamin C acts an antioxidant on the lining cells of our arteries to assist in dilation and therefore blood flow," says Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, board-certified physician in family and integrative medicine and author of the upcoming Bodywise: Discovering Your Body's Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing.
You may have to buy more mouthwash, but it could be worth it to improve circulation. Your blood needs to freely circulate throughout the vessels without running into plaque formation or clogged arteries. Studies show that consuming garlic cloves can help prevent clogged arteries. "Two to three cloves daily is ideal," says Carlton Abrams. You'll get the most benefits from garlic cloves if you smash or press them prior to cooking.