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The 20 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation



One morning, you wake up with a tingling sensation in your fingers. It’s not your dog, it’s not bugs, it’s your fingers.


The possible culprit? Poor circulation.


Poor circulation is a health issue faced by many people on a global scale. It can be attributed to a myriad number of causes including peripheral artery disease (PAD), diabetes, obesity, smoking, and Raynaud’s disease, among many others. Or sometimes, you could have just slept on your arm the entire night.


Whatever the case, poor circulation must not be taken lightly since it could result in different scales of severity ranging from tingling in your extremities (fingers and toes) to numbness, digestive issues, muscle cramps, and even pain. Cures and solutions to this health problem vary as well, with treatments including traditional medicine, physical therapy, and holistic approaches, among many others.


However, improving blood flow should not just be limited to individuals suffering from poor circulation. Everyone can improve their circulation. Athletes and active individuals will also benefit from proper movement, and using certain ingredients in their dishes that boost blood flow.


A lot of my clients ask me what can they eat to improve blood flow, well, I did some research, and here are 20 Blood Flow Foods (BFFs) that will help improve your body’s circulation:



1. Cayenne Pepper

Image of cayenne powder
Reference: Healthline: The 14 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation



The kick of Cayenne is from one of its components called capsaicin. Say it with me- capsaicin.


As difficult as it is to pronounce, this is what enables Cayenne to ease blood pressure, expand blood vessels, and relax the tiny muscles in blood vessel walls, allowing blood to flow more easily through our veins and arteries.


Studies have shown that eating cayenne pepper has helped individuals increase circulation, improve blood vessel strength, and reduce plaque buildup in arteries. Cayenne has even been used as an active ingredient in pain-relieving creams since it encourages blood flow in affected areas. Just make sure to avoid the eyes.


2. Pomegranate


Not only do you get a sweet, juicy, and healthy snack with pomegranate, you also get a shot of polyphenol antioxidants and nitrates- potent vasodilators or blood vessel looseners. A pomegranate a day is also a super fruit for active individuals since it aids in the oxygenation of muscle tissues.


In fact, one study conducted among 19 active people found that consuming 1,000 mg of pomegranate extract half an hour before hitting the gym enhanced blood flow, blood vessel diameter, and exercise performance. A similar study was conducted with elite weightlifters, wherein the daily ingestion of around 17 oz. (500 ml) of pomegranate juice, prior to or during a training session was able to alleviate soreness, muscle damage, and inflammation.

3. Onions


Apart from being an excellent source of flavor, onions also provide a whole lot of flavonoid antioxidants which boost heart health and widen blood flow passageways for better circulation. The super vegetable doesn’t just make for interesting conversation, as it also acts as an effective anti-inflammatory.

A 30-day study conducted among 23 men showed that a daily intake of 4.3 grams of onions significantly improved blood flow and artery dilation after meals.

4. Cinnamon


Cinnamon is a warming spice that provides many health benefits including better circulation.


A (humane) study in animals was able to show that cinnamon helped boost blood vessel dilation and flow in the artery which supplies blood to the heart. Mice were fed with minimal amounts of cinnamon bark each day for eight weeks, and exhibited improved heart performance and coronary artery blood flow after exercise versus the mice in the control group.


Research has also shown that cinnamon can effectively reduce blood pressure in humans by relaxing blood vessels, improving circulation, and keeping the heart-healthy. Similarly. A study among 59 Type 2 diabetics showed that a daily consumption of 1,200 mg of cinnamon reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 3.4 mmHg after 12 weeks.

Image of garlic cloves
Reference: Healthline: The 14 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation

5. Garlic




Garlic is best known for its aroma. It is also a well-known booster of circulation and heart health. Garlic, through its sulfur compounds like allicin, enables better tissue blood flow and lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. In fact, a garlic-rich diet is usually associated with better blood flow efficiency and more breath mints.


A study conducted among 42 people with coronary artery disease resulted in a 50% improvement (vs the placebo group) in blood flow by consuming garlic powder tablets containing 1,200 mg of allicin twice daily for three months.

6. Fatty Fish


Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel can be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat is especially beneficial for blood flow since they promote the release of nitric oxide, which dilates your blood vessels and increases blood flow. Omega-3 fats can also lessen the clumping of platelets in the blood, one of the precursors to blood clot formation.


Moreover, fish oil can also lessen high blood pressure, and improve blood flow in skeletal muscles during and post-activity. This was evident in a study among 10 healthy men, in which high doses of fish oil — 4.2 grams daily for four weeks — was able to improve blood flow to the legs after exercise.

7. Beets


This is one of my favorites. Beet juice or beet powder is a very popular natural supplement among athletes to help them improve performance and circulation. Beet supplements aid in oxygen flow in muscle tissue, stimulate blood flow, and increase nitric oxide levels — boosting the performance of athletes.


Since beets are rich in nitrates, which are converted by the body into nitric oxide, consuming the vegetable helps relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to muscle tissue. Aside from functioning as a natural supplement for athletes, beets have also shown a positive impact on older adults with circulatory issues.


A study conducted with 12 older adults, showed that those who ingested 5 oz (140 ml) of nitrate-rich beet juice per day experienced significant decreases in blood pressure, clotting time, and blood vessel inflammation than those who consumed a placebo.

8. Turmeric


Turmeric or yellow ginger is another wonder spice that has shown a significant positive impact on blood flow. Historically, Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine have been utilizing turmeric since ancient times as means of treating poor blood circulation.


According to research, a compound called curcumin is the key component in turmeric which helps increase the production of nitric oxide, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease inflammation. This is further backed by a study among 39 people, who took 2,000 mg of curcumin each day for 3 months and experienced a 37% increase in forearm blood flow, and a 36% increase in upper arm blood flow.


* Here is a comprehensive guide on how to grow turmeric at home. https://happydiyhome.com/turmeric-plant/


9. Leafy Greens


Contrary to Popeye’s swollen arms, leafy greens like spinach are high in nitrates which help blood flow through vessels.


A study showed that the daily consumption of high-nitrate (845 mg) for a week significantly improved the blood pressure and blood flow of 27 individuals compared to a control group. Even more promising, research has shown that people following a traditional Chinese diet high in nitrate-rich vegetables have lower blood pressure and a significantly decreased risk of heart disease than those who consume a typical Western diet.

10. Citrus Fruits


Fruits that are sour are very good vasodilators! Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are packed to the skin with antioxidants, including flavonoids.

Flavonoid-rich citrus fruits can help decrease inflammation in your body, reduce blood pressure and stiffness in your arteries, and improve blood flow and nitric oxide production.


Based on a study among 31 people, drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of blood orange juice per day for a week, helped improve artery dilation and reduced inflammation compared to a control group (27). This is on top of reduced blood pressure, and a decreased risk of stroke- just some of the other benefits of citrus fruits.

11. Walnuts


Leave the beer- take the walnuts. Walnuts are packed with beneficial compounds like vitamin E which can stimulate the production of nitric oxide and reduce blood pressure. Apart from this, these wonder nuts have also shown benefits in reducing inflammation.


Individuals with diabetes often have issues in their body’s circulation and high blood pressure due to blood vessel damage caused by uncontrolled blood sugar levels. In a study with 24 people with diabetes, those who ate 2 ounces (56 grams) of walnuts per day for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in blood flow compared to a control group.

12. Celery


Add Celery to your smoothies, soups, salads, or eat it raw and topped with hummus, peanut butter, or salsa! Why? Because Celery is an excellent source of Vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting and healthy blood flow.

Celery is also a natural diuretic and high in electrolytes because it is low in calories, high in several vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

13. Berries



image of a little girl eating raspberries
Reference: Healthline: The 14 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation


Berries are especially healthy — they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, which may have a positive impact on blood flow. Chronic inflammation can damage blood vessels and raise your blood pressure, which can cause circulatory issues. Research shows that eating berries can lower blood pressure, heart rate, platelet aggregation, and blood levels of inflammatory markers like IL-6 while also improving artery dilation.

14. Ginger


Ginger, a staple in traditional medicine in India and China for thousands of years, can likewise lower blood pressure and improve circulation.


In both human and animal studies, ginger has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, which negatively impacts blood flow. In a study of 4,628 people, those who consumed the most ginger — 2–4 grams per day — had the lowest risk of developing high blood pressure. Animal studies demonstrate that ginger works by inhibiting ACE.

15. Bananas


Bananas are a good go-to treat! It is packed with potassium which helps lower blood pressure by improving the flow of blood. Potassium is responsible for helping our kidneys flush out excess sodium from our bodies, especially for people who consume a high sodium diet. With the excess sodium flushed through the urine, our blood vessels are able to relax, helping improve blood flow.

16. Dark Chocolate


Are you a chocolate lover? Give thanks to Cocoa, the key ingredient of dark chocolate, consuming a bit every day may help keep inflammation at bay.

According to a study published in the Journal of American Heart Association,


Polyphenol, a compound found in Cocoa, can help improve vascular health by increasing blood flow. A study conducted with 40 participants saw one half of the group receiving dark chocolate, while the other half was given milk chocolate. Participants were then asked to walk, and the group who had received dark chocolate walked 11% farther than team milk chocolate.


They were probably happier too since cocoa is also a well-known mood enhancer. However, make sure you buy dark chocolate, the less sugar the better, right?

17. Green Tea


You can skip the coffee and go with tea to boost your circulation! Just a cup of tea will already help improve the health of delicate cells lining blood vessels, as well as lower the risk of heart disease.


Researchers writing in the latest issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation have found that people who drink green tea have better blood vessel function just 30 minutes later. Specifically, green tea improves the function of endothelial cells. Endothelial cell dysfunction plays a key role in the development of clogged arteries, a process called atherosclerosis.

18. Watermelon


Did you know that Watermelon may help lower inflammation and oxidative damage? This is because it’s rich in the anti-inflammatory antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C.


In an earlier study, it showed that when an individual consumes lycopene-rich tomato juice with added vitamin C, overall inflammation markers go down and antioxidants go up. Watermelon has both lycopene and vitamin C which can be an alternative to tomato juice. As an antioxidant, lycopene may also benefit brain health. For example, it may help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

19. Tomatoes


FUN Fact: I love tomatoes and I can eat a tomato like I would an apple 😋😋

Tomatoes, not ketchup, helps reduce the activity of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which causes blood vessels to constrict to control blood pressure.


Did you know that a single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily vitamin C requirement? Other good things about tomatoes are that it also contains vitamin A, potassium, and iron that is essential for maintaining normal blood health. It also has vitamin K, which controls bleeding and blood clotting.

The lycopene in tomatoes can protect you against cardiovascular diseases. Consuming tomatoes regularly will help decrease the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood, reducing the deposition of fats in the blood vessels.


20. Sunflower Seeds


Sunflower seeds are rich in ‘healthy’ fats, including polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. A three-fourths cup serving of sunflower seeds contains 14 grams of fat. Studies found that consumption of seeds — including sunflower seeds — was linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.


Seeds are very good for those with short-term or chronic inflammation, sunflower seeds, in particular, can offer anti-inflammatory benefits. It contains vitamin E, flavonoids, and other plant compounds that can reduce inflammation.

It is recommended (and proven) to consume sunflower seeds and other seeds five times or more each week to help lower levels of inflammation, which can also lower risk factors for several chronic diseases.






* Information provided on this site is not intended as a substitute for appropriate medical care. This article is based on my research and not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.






 

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References:

Kubala, J. (2018, November 7). The 14 Best Foods to Increase Blood Flow and Circulation. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-increase-blood-flow#section16.

(2020, April 09). 24 Best Foods for Blood. MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/best_foods_for_blood_circulation/article.htm

Aubre, A. (2014, July 2). How Dark Chocolate, Not Milk Chocolate, May Help Blood Flow. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/07/02/327775106/how-dark-chocolate-not-milk-chocolate-may-help-blood-flow

Jennings, K. (2018, August 09). Top 9 Health Benefits of Eating Watermelon. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/watermelon-health-benefits

Brennan, M.D. (2020, September 18). Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-sunflower-seeds#1


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