On average, your body has about 5 liters of blood continually traveling through it via the vessels of your circulatory system, according to The Franklin Institute. Your vascular system is made up of three types of vessels: arteries, which carry blood away from your heart; capillaries, which connect arteries to veins; and veins, which carry blood back to your heart. Eating certain foods can help encourage healthy activity throughout your vascular system.
Niacin, a member of the B-vitamin family, helps encourage blood-vessel efficiency by improving circulation. According to University of Pennsylvania's Perleman School of Medicine, niacin stimulates the release of a particular fat, known as prostaglandin, or PGD2, that causes blood vessels to widen. Niacin-rich food sources include beets, beef liver, salmon, tuna and sunflower seeds. Breads and cereals are typically fortified with niacin. In addition, foods such as poultry, red meat, eggs and dairy products contain tryptophan, an amino acid that your body converts into niacin.
Indulging in chocolate may give your vascular system a boost. Substances found in cocoa called flavanols are believed to improve vascular activities as well as lower blood pressure for coronary artery disease patients, according to University of California, San Francisco. UCSF interventional cardiologist Yerem Yeghiazarians says that the results of a one-month study on 16 coronary artery disease patients revealed that patients who ingested flavanol-containing cocoa showed improved blood vessel health and increased circulation of vessel-building cells. Dark chocolate contains the most benefits due to its high flavanol content. Because cocoa solids are separated during the manufacturing process, milk chocolate and white chocolate contain little or no flavanols.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods
Omega-3 fatty acid, a type of polyunsaturated fat, helps keep your blood vessels flexible and reduces excess blood clotting, according to Stanford University Medical Center. SUMC states that this beneficial effect on the vascular system may decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, walnuts, canola oil and fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines and trout.
Vitamin E-Rich Foods
Vitamin E helps widen blood vessels, which stimulates the smooth flow of blood. In addition, vitamin E helps prevent clots from forming in blood vessels. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect body tissues from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells, tissues and organs. Include vitamin E-rich foods, such as almonds, peanuts, wheat germ, spinach, broccoli, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, in your food plan to help increase your vascular health.
- The Franklin Institute: Circulatory System: The Circle of Blood
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- University of Pennsylvania Health System, Perelman School of Medicine: Penn Study Cautions Use of Drugs to Block "Niacin Flush" in Heart Patients
- University of California San Francisco: Valentine's Day Chocolates Can Be Good for Heart Health
- Stanford University Medical Center: Stanford Hospital & Clinics: Good Fats, Bad Fats
- University of Utah Health Care: What About Vitamin E Supplements?
- Drexel University, College of Medicine: Vitamin E
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Overview of the Vascular System