13 Foods That Can Help Improve Your Circulation
Think of your body’s circulatory system like an Uber carrying blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body. Clogged arteries and plaque cause ‘traffic jams,’ delaying blood from getting to your organs. You may feel tingling, numbness, or muscle cramps as a result. Loading up on these foods and spices can help circulation and stave off those symptoms.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Have you been wondering how to improve circulation? Time to stop feeling guilty about eating chocolate. You have permission from Steven Gundry, MD, a cardiologist who is the director and founder of the International Heart & Lung Institute as well as the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, California. “In moderation, dark chocolate is a fantastic addition to your diet,” he says. “Dark chocolate is shown to help your body produce nitric oxide, which plays an important role in protecting your heart and veins.” Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants that aid in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improving blood flow. Dr. Grundy advises choosing dark chocolate that’s at least 72 percent cocoa.
Turmeric, also known as “the golden spice of India,” is a gem for keeping arteries unclogged and improving circulation, thanks to the chemical curcumin that gives it its color. According to Dr. Gundry, however, turmeric is a tricky spice: “It’s actually poorly absorbed on its own unless it is mixed with bioperine, a compound found in black pepper.” His solution: Eat curry once a week, which contains both black pepper and turmeric. Try these other 20 foods that can help unclog your arteries.
Salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for overall health. The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings per week. Research shows an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency results in poor circulation, according to the National Institutes of Health. Salmon, which is high in omega-3s, contains natural blood-thinning and anticoagulant properties, says Brooke Alpert, RD, dietitian and founder of B Nutritious in New York City. “This allows for an improvement in circulation for your entire body,” she says. Alpert advises choosing wild-caught salmon whenever possible.
You may have read that beets are great for athletes because they increase levels of nitric acid, which helps increase blood flow and gets oxygen to the muscles more quickly. Drinking beet juice is an excellent way to improve circulation, even if you’re not an athlete. “Some studies have shown that consuming one to two cups of beet juice per day reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure and improved walking performance in patients with peripheral artery disease who experience pain in the legs during walking,” says Steven Hertzler, PhD, RD, senior scientist for clinical research in global science and medical affairs at Abbott Nutrition in Abbott Park, Illinois. Check out these other 23 foods that help lower blood pressure.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient that gives cayenne pepper its heat. “There is some evidence that this compound can affect blood pressure and improve blood flow,” says Ginger Hultin, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition, based in Seattle. Other types of peppers that contain capsaicin include green and red chilies, jalapeño peppers, and tabasco peppers. She suggests stirring cayenne into eggs, sauces, and salad dressings and using it to flavor seafood and chicken. “You can even use it to spice up treats like brownies, muffins, cookies, and cakes,” she says. One caution: “Capsaicin is known to mildly thin the blood, so it shouldn’t be used with other blood-thinning medications or supplements.” Watch out for these silent signs you have clogged arteries.
It’s easy to pass by radishes when you’re shopping for veggies: Some people think they taste a bit bitter, and they’re often thought of as only a topping. But if you’ve been wondering how to improve circulation, give these bright red beauties another look. “Radishes are rich in minerals, including potassium, that help normalize blood pressure and increase blood circulation,” says dietitian Jackie Arnett Elnahar, RD, co-founder and CEO of TelaDietitian, based in Syosset, New York. Each half cup of sliced radishes contains 135 mg of blood pressure-lowering potassium. If poor circulation is making you cold, here’s how to warm up cold hands and feet.
If mild green bell peppers are as spicy as you get, you may want to train your taste buds to like a little more heat. “Chili peppers give a kick to the blood, increasing the circulation around the body,” says Arnett Elnahar. Research published in the BMJ observed the diets of nearly half a million men and women over a seven-year span and found that people who ate spicy foods like chili peppers several days a week had a 14 percent lower risk of death—including from heart disease and cancer. Take baby steps by adding a little diced chili pepper to stir-fries or chili, or squirt a drop or two of Sriracha sauce on your eggs.
If you haven’t heard enough about kale, here’s another reason to add the superfood to your diet: It could help improve circulation. “Kale is exceptional at replenishing red blood cells and increases the blood’s ability to transport more oxygen around the body,” says Arnett Elnahar. Bonus: Kale is rich in folate, which may help lower high blood pressure. Watch out for these 11 silent signs of heart trouble you shouldn’t ignore.
Time to wake up and smell the coffee—and improve circulation at the same time. The American Heart Association says moderate coffee drinking (one to two cups a day) isn’t harmful. In fact, a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2013 showed that those who drank a regular cup of joe had a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period compared to those who stuck to decaf. Find out more about what happens to your body when you drink coffee every day.
Alexander Ruiz Acevedo/Shutterstock
Açaí berries are another superfood that lives up to its hype. According to Arnett Elnahar, these little wonders have powerful plant sterols (a naturally occurring substance in grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and legumes) that relax blood vessels and improve circulation. They’re also rich in vitamin A and potassium. Find out about some delicious ways to use acai berries.
Wakame seaweed is branching out from sushi restaurants and quickly becoming a favorite snack food. “According to a 1998 study of the hypotensive effects of wakame, Japanese researchers found four weeks of eating several grams of dried wakame reduced blood pressure in humans,” says David Nico, PhD, of drhealthnut.com.Even more recent research, such as one in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, has found benefits in terms of lowering blood pressure. Nico suggests choosing high-quality varieties that aren’t contaminated with heavy metals or other impurities. You’ll want to avoid these 13 foods cardiologists try never to eat.
Brussels sprouts and other foods high in vitamin C—including broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, and berries—all help with circulation. “Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant on the lining cells of our arteries to assist in dilation and therefore blood flow,” says Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, a physician specializing in in family and integrative medicine in Santa Cruz, California, and author of BodyWise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing.
You may have to buy more mouthwash if you eat more garlic, but it could be worth it if you’re serious about improving circulation. Studies, such as this one in the Journal of Nutrition, show that consuming garlic cloves can help prevent clogged arteries. “Two to three cloves daily is ideal,” says Dr. Carlton Abrams. You’ll get the most benefits from garlic cloves if you smash or press them prior to cooking. Next, learn the best foods to eat if you want to avoid clogged arteries.
- Steven Gundry, MD, cardiologist and director and founder, International Heart & Lung Institute and Center for Restorative Medicine, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, California.
- International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research: “Turmeric: The Golden Spice of Life.”
- American Heart Association: “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”
- National Institutes of Health: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids”
- Brooke Alpert, RD, CDN, dietitian and founder, B Nutritious, New York City.
- Steven Hertzler, PhD, RD, senior scientist for clinical research in global science and medical affairs, Abbott Nutrition, Abbott Park, Illinois.
- Ginger Hultin, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner, ChampagneNutrition, Seattle, Washington.
- Jackie Arnett Elnahar, RD, co-founder and CEO, TeleDietitian, Syosset, New York.
- The BMJ: “Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study.”
- American Heart Association: “Caffeine and Heart Disease.”
- American Heart Association: “Coffee may help perk up your blood vessels.”
- Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: “Clinical Effects of Brown Seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida (wakame), on Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Subjects.”
- Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, family and integrative medicine physician, Santa Cruz, California.
- The Journal of Nutrition: “Garlic and Heart Disease.”