Eating a balanced diet helps to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Certain nutrients help to relax and dilate the vascular system -- your arteries, veins and capillaries. The American Heart Association advises that eating foods that have this beneficial effect on your blood vessels may reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Berries and other fruits that are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols may help to dilate your arteries. An animal study published in 2009 in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" reported that cranberry juice had relaxing effects on the arteries similar to those of red wine. Another study from 2005 noted that blueberries helped improve the elasticity of arteries in rats. The antioxidants found in these foods may have health benefits, but further clinical studies are needed to determine whether they have similar effects on people and the dosage required to relax blood vessels.
Foods With Potassium
Research published in the "American Journal of Physiology" in 2007 found that high-potassium diets may help dilate blood vessels and reduce your risk of stroke. Although the results are not conclusive and further study is needed, it is important to get adequate potassium in your diet. Adults should get 4.7 grams per day, while pregnant women require 5.1 grams of potassium per day. Good sources of this mineral include bananas, potatoes, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, lima beans, salmon, cod, chicken and orange juice.
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Cranberry Juice Induces Nitric Oxide-Dependent Vasodilation In Vitro and Its Infusion Transiently Reduces Blood Pressure in Anesthetized Rats
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Wild Blueberry-Rich Diets Affect the Contractile Machinery of the Vascular Smooth Muscle in the Sprague–Dawley Rat
- American Journal of Physiology: A High-Potassium Diet Reduces Infarct Size and Improves Vascular Structure in Hypertensive Rats
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- Circulation Research -- American Heart Association: Potassium Ions as Vasodilators: Role of Inward Rectifier Potassium Channels