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Circulation Is Key

Blood is like your body’s superhighway. It carries nutrients and oxygen to everything from your heart and brain to your muscles and skin.

A healthy diet is one way to optimize your circulation, or blood flow. Combined with exercise, hydration, weight management, and not smoking, some foods can help improve circulation. Next time you head to the grocery store, consider including these items in your shopping cart.

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Cayenne Pepper

This bright red pepper does more than just spice up your food. Thanks to a compound called capsaicin, cayenne pepper can help your arteries work well. It can also help relax the muscles in your blood vessels so blood can flow easily. And that’s good for your blood pressure.

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Beets

This root vegetable is rich in nitrate, which your body can convert to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to naturally loosen up your blood vessels and improve the flow of blood to your tissues and organs. Researchers have found that beet juice can lower your systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading), too.

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Berries

They’re rich in antioxidants, including one that’s particularly good for your blood vessels: anthocyanin. It’s the compound that gives red and purple produce that deep-colored hue. Anthocyanin can help protect the walls of your arteries from damage and keep them from becoming stiff. Plus, anthocyanin spurs the release of nitric oxide, which helps to lower your blood pressure.

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Fatty Fish

If you’ve always wondered why fish is good for your heart, here’s one reason. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and halibut are full of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that these compounds are good for your circulation. Eating fish not only lowers your resting blood pressure; it can help keep your arteries clear and unclogged, too. 

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Pomegranates

The tiny juicy red seeds inside a pomegranate are packed with nutrients, in particular antioxidants and nitrates. These can boost your circulation. And they widen (dilate) your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. That means that more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your muscles and other tissues. And for active people, greater blood flow may bring along a performance boost, too.

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Garlic

Garlic is good for more than keeping vampires away. It contains a sulfur compound called allicin that helps your blood vessels relax. Studies show that in people who eat a diet rich in garlic, blood flows more efficiently. That means the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to move blood throughout the body, which helps keep your blood pressure down.

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Walnuts

Go nuts for nuts, especially walnuts. These crinkly-skinned nuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, which may help blood move smoothly. A study found that eating walnuts regularly for 8 weeks improved blood vessel health, helped those vessels stay elastic, and brought down blood pressure.

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Grapes

They’ll help keep your arteries healthy and improve blood flow -- all well tasting naturally sweet. A study found that the antioxidants in grapes encouraged blood vessels to relax and work more efficiently. Plus, grapes curb inflammatory and other molecules in the blood that could make blood sticky, which can get in the way of circulation.

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Turmeric

The golden yellow spice is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks largely to curcumin, a compound found in turmeric. Studies suggest that curcumin may boost production of nitric oxide, which can help make your blood vessels wider. That, in turn, makes it easier for blood to flow and get to your muscles and other tissues.

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Spinach

Nitrate-rich foods like spinach may improve your circulation. These compounds help enlarge your blood vessels and create more room for blood to move through. Also, a study found that a diet rich in spinach helped keep arteries flexible and helped lower blood pressure.

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Citrus Fruit

Vitamin C isn’t the only reason to make citrus fruit part of your diet. The antioxidants found in the fruit may help lower inflammation, prevent blood clots, and improve blood circulation. And if you’re an orange juice fan, you’re in luck. A study found that regularly drinking OJ lowered blood pressure.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/18/2020 Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on March 18, 2020

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SOURCES:

Go Red For Women, American Heart Association: “Exercise to Prevent Heart Disease.”

PLoS One: “Elevated Sodium and Dehydration Stimulate Inflammatory Signaling in Endothelial Cells and Promote Atherosclerosis.”

Canadian Journal of Cardiology: “Obesity and Atherosclerosis: Mechanistic Insights.”

Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: “Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease: Mechanisms of Endothelial Dysfunction and Early Atherogenesis.”

Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: “Capsaicinoids Modulating Cardiometabolic Syndrome Risk Factors: Current Perspectives.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”

Food & Nutrition Research: “Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits.”

Nutrients: “The Effect of Anthocyanin-Rich Foods or Extracts on Vascular Function in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.”

Circulation: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Heart Health.”

European Journal of Sport Science: “Effects of pomegranate extract on blood flow and vessel diameter after high-intensity exercise in young, healthy adults.”

Pharmacological Research: “Effects of pomegranate juice on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.”

The Anatolian Journal of Cardiology: “Effects of garlic on brachial endothelial function and capacity of plasma to mediate cholesterol efflux in patients with coronary artery disease.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials.”

Diabetes Care: “Effects of Walnut Consumption on Endothelial Function in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects: A randomized controlled crossover trial.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Grape Polyphenols Reduce Blood Pressure and Increase Flow-Mediated Vasodilation in Men with Metabolic Syndrome.”

Aging: “Curcumin supplementation improves vascular endothelial function in healthy middle-aged and older adults by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and reducing oxidative stress.”

Clinical Nutrition Research: “Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults.”

Food Chemistry: “Citrus flavonoids: Molecular structure, biological activity and nutritional properties: A review.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Hesperidin contributes to the vascular protective effects of orange juice: a randomized crossover study in healthy volunteers.”

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on March 18, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.