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, but these foods and spices can help.
You may have to buy more mouthwash, but it could be worth it if you’re serious about learning how to improve circulation. Your blood needs to freely circulate throughout the vessels without running into plaque formation or clogged arteries. Studies 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.
Brussels sprouts and other foods high in vitamin C, including broccoli, guava, oranges, and berries, all help with circulation issues. “In terms of circulation, vitamin C acts an antioxidant on the lining cells of our arteries to assist in dilation and therefore blood flow,” says Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, board-certified physician in family and integrative medicine and author of BodyWise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing.
Wakame seaweed is branching out from sushi restaurants and is 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, Ph.D., of drhealthnut.com. He suggests choosing high-quality varieties that aren’t contaminated with heavy metals or other impurities.
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.
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 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.
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. Kale is rich in folate, which studies show might help lower high blood pressure.
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 from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences 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 and add little-diced chili pepper to stir-fries or chili, or squirt a drop or two of Sriracha sauce on your eggs.
It’s easy to pass by radishes when you’re shopping for veggies: they are famously bitter and often thought of as only a topping. 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 to normalize blood pressure and increase blood circulation,” says Jacqueline Arnett Elnahar, a registered dietitian at TelaDietitian. Each half cup of sliced radishes contains 135 mg of blood pressure-lowering potassium.
Studies show that when some people like it hot, it benefits circulation. “Cayenne pepper helps to strengthen arteries and blood vessels, which allows the blood to circulate more efficiently around the body,” says nutritionist Jolene Goring. Though cayenne pepper is traditionally used in meat and savory dishes, Goring suggests adding a pinch of cayenne to a fruit smoothie. “The spiciness of the cayenne pepper upgrades any sweet dish for a gourmet spicy-sweet flavor,” she says.
You may have read that beets are great for athletes because they are rich in nitrates, which help increase blood flow and get oxygen to the muscles quicker. Drinking beet juice is an excellent way to improve circulation, even if you’re not an athlete training for the Olympics. “Some studies have shown that consuming one to two cups of beet juice per day reduced blood pressure in persons 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, chief scientific officer at Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition.
Salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for overall health. How to improve blood circulation by eating fish? The American Heart Association recommends two servings per week. Research shows an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency results in poor circulation. Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, of Reverse Nutrition says salmon, which is famous for its omega-3s, contains natural blood-thinning properties and anticoagulant effects. “This allows for an improvement in circulation for your entire body,” she says. Alpert advises choosing wild-caught salmon whenever possible.
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, studies show. 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,” says Dr. Gundry. His solution: Eat curry once a week, which has both black pepper and turmeric.
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, and director of Center for Restorative Medicine in Palms Springs and founder of Gundry MD supplements. “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 your blood flow. Dr. Grundy says to choose dark chocolate that’s at least 72 percent cocoa for the best impact.