Are there any foods or diets that are good for veins and vascular health?
As quoted by the famous author, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “You are what you eat,” the health of your body reflects what you’re putting into it. In other words, diet plays a critical role in maintaining the health of all your body systems, including but not limited to the heart, brain, and blood vessels. An imbalanced nutrition can lead to long-standing low-grade inflammation in your body. This, in turn, causes plaque buildup not only in the arteries supplying your heart but also the blood vessels carrying blood from your legs. Hence, adding foods and nutrients into your dietary regime could be beneficial for the health of your vessels.
Foods that are good for vascular health
1. Foods high in vitamin C
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Oxidative damage to the arteries is a major factor contributing to peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Moreover, it appears that people with PAD have low levels of vitamin C. This is because vitamin C is the first antioxidant to be used up against free radical damage. Lack of this water-soluble vitamin can cause your immune cells to release inflammatory substances. The ensuing inflammation and oxidative damage will then drive plaque buildup in your arteries.
Thus, taking foods that are abundant in vitamin C, can keep oxidative stress and subsequent blood vessel damage at bay. Vitamin C-rich foods can limit inflammation of the blood vessels and damage to their lining as well as tone them up by fostering their lining.
The Rotterdam study conducted in the year 2001 supported the protective effects of vitamin C-containing foods against PAD.
To keep your blood vessels healthy, work out the following vitamin C-rich foods into in your diet:
- Bell peppers and chili peppers
- Pomegranates (not citrus but high in vitamin C)
2. Fish and fish oil
Being enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, fish can boost vascular health. The healthy fats in this seafood are known for their ability to reduce inflammation. Their role in defending against PAD has also been a subject of great interest. The omega-3s compete with their counterparts called omega-6 fatty acids for a place within your cell membranes. You get most of the omega-6 from the Western fast foods.
As opposed to the omega-3s, the Ω-6s promote inflammation. By kicking the Ω-6s out, the omega- 3 fatty acids minimize inflammation, which in turn, supports your vascular health.
The Ω-3’s ability to thwart or reduce the buildup of fatty deposits is also well-recognized. If formed, the plaques can still be stabilized by the addition of omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Besides, these healthy fats can control other factors that could otherwise trigger PAD such as:
- Raising good cholesterol levels
- Reducing triglyceride (TG) levels: TG is also an unhealthy dietary fat present in your blood
- Helping you lose weight
- Keeping your blood sugar levels under control
To reap the most benefits and prevent inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries, try to consume fish at least twice per week.
3. Leafy greens
Leafy green veggies are the richest source of folic acid. These vegetables and folic acid per se benefit many aspects of vascular health.
Our body requires folic acid to convert an amino acid called homocysteine into another amino acid named methionine. If there’s a hindrance in this conversion reaction, homocysteine (Hcy) will accumulate in your blood. High levels of this Hcy damage the inner lining of your blood vessels and cause them to clog. That is why foods rich in folic acid are necessary to help keep Hcy levels in control protect your blood vessels against damage.
Leafy greens are also high in fiber, which can increase the good cholesterol levels in your blood and help you drop some extra pounds — both of which preclude the formation of fatty deposits within your arteries.
The best sources of leafy greens that can benefit your vascular health include:
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, and kale
- Swiss chard
4. Beta-carotene-containing foods
Another potent antioxidant studied for its positive impact on the health of blood vessels is beta-carotene. This carotenoid imparts a red-orange pigment to some colorful vegetables and fruits (see below). Our body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A.
By scavenging the free radicals generated in our body due to environmental factors, beta-carotene rich foods can help ward off vascular disease.
The richest sources of beta-carotene are:
- Sweet potatoes
- Red and yellow peppers
- Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach
Avocados are a rich source of vitamin E, C, and folate—the three nutrients that protect your blood vessels from clogging. This green-colored fruit also contains some omega-3 fats and beta-carotene, both of which (as discussed above) are also helpful for the health of your blood vessels.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, omega-3 fats, and antioxidant minerals like magnesium, copper, and selenium.
Grab a handful of nuts every day to keep vascular disease away.
7. Whole grains, beans, and legumes
Whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley are fiber-rich and so can help maintain optimal vascular health. They are usually a component of the Mediterranean diet, which according to experts is ideal for cardiac and vascular health.
In addition, taking a fiber-rich diet carries its unique advantages. Fiber can improve your blood cholesterol and blood sugar readings, as well as fight obesity—all of which can help protect your blood vessels.
These tiny seeds carry huge vascular benefits within them. They are abundant in omega-3 and thus combat inflammation and plaque formation in your arteries. They are a great source of fiber, which in turn, works to improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce body weight. Owing to their antioxidant capabilities, they can also counteract the free radical-induced damage to the blood vessel lining. Moreover, flaxseeds contain vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin known for its ability to prevent PAD.
All in all, flaxseeds are profoundly beneficial for your vascular system. To get the most benefits, consider consuming flaxseeds in grounded or milled form as these contain both the soluble and insoluble fiber.
9. Dark chocolate
Loaded with flavonoids (antioxidants), dark chocolate can help counter the damaging effects of free radical on your blood vessels. It may also help widen the narrowed blood vessels. In fact, a delicious yet healthy dark chocolate treat may even improve the walking distance in people with PAD.
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This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider.