Even though you’re young, you want to eat right to keep your blood flowing smoothly. Your blood vessels get damaged and plaque accumulates in your arteries from those drive-through meals or unhealthy midnight snacks. While you might not feel the negative effects now, the damage builds up overtime putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, you can easily tweak your diet to increase your intake of nutrients that promote healthy blood circulation and prevent damage to your arteries and blood vessels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eat the right kind of fat to keep your blood flowing smoothly. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that you need to get through food. They prevent plaque from building up in your arteries and blood clots, both of which keep blood sailing smoothly throughout your body. Omega-3s also cut down on inflammation which protects your blood vessels from damage. Fish is the most prominent source of this nutrient, but it’s also found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soybeans, soybean oil, walnuts and canola oil.
You can promote healthy blood circulation by indulging in a delicious marinara sauce. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange and red hues. Lycopene reduces inflammation and prevents blood clots. Dr. Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, recommends getting 10,000 micrograms of lycopene per day to keep your blood flowing smoothly. Tomatoes, including tomato paste, tomato juice, ketchup, sun-dried tomatoes and salsa give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to lycopene, but grapefruit and watermelon are two other sources of this nutrient.
Vitamin C is easy to include in your diet and promotes good blood flow. Your body produces free radicals during metabolism and in reaction to external factors, such as pollution. Overtime, free radicals damage your cells. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and protects your arterial cells, which circulate blood throughout your body, from damage. The endothelium is the inner layer of your arteries that produces nitric oxide, a chemical needed to dilate your blood vessels and keep them smooth. Vitamin C improves nitric oxide production and vasodilation and prevents plaque from building up in your arteries. You find vitamin C in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cantaloupe.
Chocolate lovers rejoice -- dark chocolate lovers that is. The cacao bean contains flavonoids, a chemical that enhances blood circulation. Dark chocolate helps to widen your blood vessels and keep blood vessel linings smooth. If you smoke, the flavonoids in cocoa help to reverse damage done to your blood vessels. Harvard Medical School also states dark chocolate reduces platelet activation, a step in blood clot formation. Dark chocolate is very high in flavonoids, but fruits, like cherries and apples, contain them too and without the fat and calories of dark chocolate.
- Mayo Clinic: Omega-3 in Fish: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart
- Harvard Medical School: Lycopene-rich Tomatoes Linked to Lower Stroke Risk
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Harvard Medical School: The Health Benefits of that Heart-Shaped Box of Dark Chocolate, from Harvard Men's Health Watch
Michelle Fisk began writing professionally in 2011. She has been published in the "Physician and Sports Medicine Journal." Her expertise lies in the fields of exercise physiology and nutrition. Fisk holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from Marywood University.