You no doubt already know proper circulation is another key to maintaining your optimal health. When blood and oxygen continuously flow throughout our bodies, every organ can function as best as possible. Good blood circulation also helps us heal wounds faster, keeps our minds sharp, our hearts healthy, and even helps our complexions have a healthy natural flush. Circulation and how well it performs may also affect our immune systems, as specific blood cells, carried by the bloodstream, help us fight infection. During cold and flu season, especially during COVID-19, it's essential to ensure your circulation is doing its best. Of course, certain conditions, chronic illnesses, and diseases can make maintaining proper circulation more complicated. Those who suffer from peripheral artery disease, obesity, anemia, untreated blood clots, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, Raynaud's disease, and smoking or tobacco use can all cause people to suffer from poor circulation. Luckily, there are ways to boost your system along with medications that may help improve blood circulation! Along with exercise, did you know there are raw foods for assisting blood circulation you can add to your daily diet?
Cayenne Pepper and CapsaicinFor example, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, poblano peppers, serrano peppers, tobacco peppers, Thai peppers, and habanero peppers are all peppers with capsaicin, each at different levels of SHU. SHU stands for Scoville Heat Units that measure their hotness or how spicy they taste depending on how much capsaicin content the food holds. Capsaicin is not in every pepper, however. Bell peppers, for example, do not have any, while all peppers that are considered chili peppers do. While capsaicin is responsible for making a pepper or food taste hot and spicy, it may improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.(1) Research presented to the American Heart Association conference in 2020 states that consuming chili peppers may reduce all-cause mortality. Previous studies also show eating chili peppers has an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulating effect, all due to capsaicin. Capsaicin promotes blood flow to tissues due to its blood-pressure-lowering effect. It can stimulate the release of nitric oxide and other vasodilators (medications or natural compounds that can open (dilate) blood vessels.)
BeetsMany athletes swear by beet juice, beet supplements, or beet powders to help improve performance, and for good reasons. Nitrates, present in roughly 80% of vegetables, are much higher within beets. Our bodies convert nitrates into nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow to muscle tissue. Beet juice supplements can improve the oxygen flow in muscle tissues, stimulate better blood flow, and increase nitric oxide levels, boosting our body's performance.
TurmericIncreased blood circulation is just one of turmeric's many health benefits. In Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric has opened blood vessels and improved circulation since ancient times. Research suggests the curcumin compound, found in turmeric, helps increase nitric oxide production, reduces oxidative stress, and decreases inflammations. A study in 2017 showed that in 39 people taking 2,000 mg of curcumin daily for 12 weeks led to a 37% increase in forearm blood flow and a 36% increase in upper arm blood flow.(2) Meanwhile, a study published in September 2021 concluded that turmeric root extract and supplementation improved the pre-frontal cortex (a part of the brain located at the front of the frontal lobe, responsible for complex behaviors) and increased blood volume in older males and females.(3)
Leafy GreensYou knew it was coming, didn't you? Leafy greens are one of the powerhouse superfoods packed full of beneficial health-boosting nutrients for our entire bodies. For just a tiny example, Spinach and collard greens are high in nitrates which, as you've learned, is converted into nitric oxide that becomes a potent vasodilator. Nitrate Rich Leafy Greens also include:
- Arugula (or Rocket)
- Chinese cabbage
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
Citrus FruitsOranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are stuffed full of antioxidants and flavonoids. Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in citrus fruits, offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties discovered to modulate leukocyte gene expression, showing a nutri-genomic effect (how food can affect a person's genes and how a person's genes affect the way the body responds to food.)(4) Hesperidin can boost recovery and improve oxidative and inflammatory status. Additionally, preclinical studies have demonstrated that there may be neuroprotective (protecting nerve cells against damage, degeneration, or impairment of function) potential to citrus flavonoids and may also influence blood-brain barrier function and integrity--possibly offering a neurological benefit on top of a blood circulation benefits.(5) Of course, eating these raw foods to improve blood circulation is just one of many steps you should consider doing to help increase blood flow. To make sure your body can benefit the most from these powerful nutrients and foods, here are some things to help circulation.
- Get moving. Walking, running, whatever you like to do that gets your body moving. Exercise encourages healthy blood flow.
- Make sure you drink enough water!
- If you suffer from varicose vein disease or sit for extended periods, elevate your legs for 20 minutes a day. Sitting or standing in place for a long time can cause the blood to pool, which leads to swelling, cramping, pain, restlessness, itching, and fatigue. Try and elevate your feet to improve circulation to relieve these symptoms.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco products. Smoking and tobacco use is a risk factor for many chronic diseases like cancer and negatively impacts circulation.
- Learn ways in which you can reduce and manage your stress. Many studies and research have proven that high-stress levels can significantly impact your blood pressure. There's no shame in learning how to take care of yourself and lowering stress levels.