5 Foods That Are A+ For Better Blood Flow, From A Vascular Biologist
You might associate better blood flow with exercise—understandable, as movement quite literally gets your heart pumping and helps deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Or massage might come to mind, as physically kneading the skin can help stimulate circulation.
But did you know you can eat certain foods for better blood flow?
It's true: As William Li, M.D., physician, vascular biologist, and author of Eat To Beat Disease, explains on the mindbodygreen podcast, "There are foods that can light up your circulation and help improve fluid flow." Below, his go-to menu for top-notch circulation:
"Green tea [can] actually protect your endothelial lining, or the lining of blood vessels," notes Li. Research backs this up, too, as studies have found green tea had an acute beneficial effect on endothelial function—which may have an effect on cardiovascular risk down the line. Perhaps that's why green tea consumption is associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease1, as another study recounts.
Black tea earns worthy praise, too, as a study published in the journal Circulation found that black tea can improve blood vessel health. "There's something in black tea, probably one of the catechins, that actually can help keep the blood vessels healthy," notes Li.
"Healthy omega-3 fatty acids are really helpful for protecting your blood vessel linings," Li explains. Think walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, as well as fatty fish like salmon and sardines—these can all help keep your blood vessels nice and supple. In terms of research, studies have found omega-3s can reduce platelet aggregation (or clumping), which may reduce the risk of clots. "If you want to keep that lining nice and smooth, having a healthy, good diet is helpful," Li adds.
Cruciferous veggies have the lion's share of health benefits (see 'em all here!), including blood vessel health. "Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, arugula, those actually treat the lining of the blood vessels really well," Li says.
Spinach receives honorable mention, here: When you eat the leafy greens, they release nitric oxide2, which can help improve blood flow, relax blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure (read: all great things for vascular health). That said, make sure you chew your spinach completely—that's what releases the healthy compound.
"When you chew your spinach, you are allowing the gut bacteria in your tongue and in your mouth to change the nitrates that are in your spinach," says Li. "You swallow those, and then it turns it into a chemical form that dilates your blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and makes your blood vessels healthier."
Beets have tons of natural nitrates, too. In fact, one randomized controlled trial found that drinking just 16 ounces of fresh beet juice a day significantly reduced blood pressure in healthy participants. Plus, they're super versatile: You can fold them into a number of healthy recipes, even sweet breakfasts (don't knock it till you try these beet red velvet pancakes).
Consider Li another expert to sing the praises of dark chocolate—and we're certainly not mad about it. "Cacao not only has fiber that's good for your gut bacteria, but dark chocolate also has these polyphenols that mobilize your stem cells and improve your circulation3," he explains.
Dark chocolate also helps release nitric oxide: According to one study, those who ate 30 grams of dark chocolate per day increased nitric oxide levels and decreased blood pressure after just 15 days4.
Good news: The best foods for better blood flow might already have a place in your kitchen. Li's selects have tons of other health benefits to boot—but blood circulation is definitely an added perk.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.