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The circulatory system, or the cardiovascular system, is a complex network of organs and blood vessels that transports blood, oxygen, nutrients, and waste products (1) throughout the body. In this article, Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, discusses the 12 foods that will improve your circulation.

The Importance of Good Circulation

The primary components of the circulatory system include the heart, blood vessels, and blood itself. Good circulation is crucial for the following reasons:

  • Cell Function: Efficient circulation ensures all cells have enough oxygen and nutrients to operate correctly.
  • Heart Health: Proper circulation reduces the strain on the heart, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (2) like heart attacks and strokes.
  • Temperature Regulation: Circulation helps regulate body temperature by distributing heat evenly.
  • Wound Healing: Adequate blood flow to injured areas promotes faster healing and tissue repair.
  • Detoxification: Efficient circulation supports the body’s natural detoxification by removing waste and toxins.
  • Muscle Function: Muscles require a steady blood supply to function correctly, making circulation essential for physical performance.

What are the signs of poor circulation?

Recognizing the signs of poor circulation is essential for early intervention and preventing potential complications. Common symptoms include:

  • Cold Extremities: Persistent cold hands and feet can indicate restricted blood flow to these areas.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Reduced circulation may cause a tingling sensation or numbness (pins and needles).
  • Swelling: Swollen ankles and legs may result from poor circulation, as blood and fluid accumulate in the lower extremities.
  • Fatigue: Reduced oxygen supply to cells can lead to unexplained fatigue and weakness.
  • Slow Healing: You might have wounds, cuts, or bruises that take longer than usual to heal.
  • Skin Changes: Skin discoloration, such as pale or bluish skin.
  • Varicose Veins: Sometimes, your veins can be enlarged and visible, particularly in the legs.

The Role of Diet in Improving Circulation

Certain foods can help enhance blood flow, reduce inflammation, and support cardiovascular health. Here are 12 foods that can improve circulation:

#1 Berries

Strawberries, cherries, blackberries, mulberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids. This can enhance circulation by lowering inflammation and oxidative stress (3) in blood vessels. They also increase nitric oxide synthesis, a chemical that relaxes blood arteries and improves blood flow.

#2 Fatty Fish

Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, can decrease blood pressure and minimize the risk of blood clots.

#3 Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, naartjies, limes, lemons, and grapefruits, are abundant in vitamin C (4), which helps blood vessels work correctly.

#4 Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of nitrates, which can enhance blood flow by relaxing blood vessels and improving arterial elasticity. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals that support overall cardiovascular health.

#5 Garlic

Garlic has been known for its medicinal properties for centuries. It contains allicin (5), a compound that can help relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, leading to improved circulation and a reduced risk of heart disease.

#6 Nuts

Almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, and walnuts are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, contributing to better cardiovascular health. Unsaturated fats in nuts can also help reduce harmful cholesterol levels (6) and improve blood vessel function.

#7 Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70% or more) contains flavonoids (7) that can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.

#8 Beets

Beets contain a high concentration of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide (8). This substance relaxes blood arteries while increasing blood flow.

#9 Turmeric

Turmeric (9) contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient that can help decrease inflammation and enhance blood vessel function.

#10 Ginger

Ginger has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, including its ability to improve circulation. It can help reduce blood pressure, relax blood vessels, and reduce inflammation.

#11 Watermelon

Watermelon is high in citrulline, an amino acid. Citrulline (11) can increase nitric oxide synthesis, which improves blood flow and circulation.

#12 Green Tea

Green tea contains catechins, which have been demonstrated to enhance blood vessel function and lower the risk of blood clots (12).

References

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/cardiovascular-system
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224418307398#:~:text=Allicin%20is%20an%20organosulfur%20compound,future%20research%20on%20pharmaceutical%20formulations.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542294/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7697716/#:~:text=Flavonoids%20are%20phytochemical%20compounds%20present,%2Dinflammatory%2C%20and%20antiviral%20properties.
  8. https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/blood-clots
  9. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/turmeric-benefits
  10. https://www.verywellhealth.com/citrulline-4774848
  11. https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/blood-clots

About the author

Murray Hewlett is the CEO of Affinity Health, South Africa’s leading health coverage provider.

 

Murray Hewlett

Murray Hewlett

Murray Hewlett is the founding CEO of Affinity Enterprises. His vision is to make South Africans healthier and enhance the quality of their lives. Affinity Enterprises exists in response to an ever-growing need for affordable health services. He serves on the Executive Committees and Board of Directors of many for-profit and non-profit organisations.  He obtained his MBA from Charles Sturt University in Australia in 2008. He is currently a Doctoral candidate at the University of Liverpool and earned a B.Sc. degree from Wits University in 1996. Murray lives in Johannesburg and is a father to two daughters and two sons. He enjoys travelling, the ocean, motorsports, technology and wellness.

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