Foods That Strengthen Blood Vessels

A heart-healthy diet that focuses on lowering cholesterol can also help strengthen blood vessels, reports a 1998 article in "American Family Physician." This type of diet emphasizes foods such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish, monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts, and soluble fiber from beans, vegetables and whole grains. You can take this diet a step further and choose from a variety of other foods that contribute to strong blood vessels.

Avocados for sale at a market. (Image: mktordonez/iStock/Getty Images)

Blood Vessel Basics

The way to keep your blood vessels strong is to keep the endothelium healthy. The endothelium is the layer of cells that lines the inside of your blood vessels. This lining fills vital roles, from maintaining the tone of vessel walls to regulating immune and inflammatory responses. The endothelium helps modulate blood flow and forms an anticoagulant barrier, which contains blood yet allows it to flow without clotting. A damaged endothelium triggers medical problems such as hardening of the arteries.

Foods That Increase Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide relaxes muscles in blood vessel walls, which makes it easier for blood to flow and lowers your blood pressure. It also stops blood cells from sticking together. As a result, nitric oxide helps prevent blood clots and protects vessel walls by keeping them strong and flexible. You'll increase the amount of nitric oxide in your system by eating foods that contain nitrate and the amino acids arginine and citrulline because your body uses them to make nitric oxide. You'll get nitrates from beets and green leafy vegetables, while watermelon is the best choice for citrulline. Fish, lean meat, fresh vegetables, garlic and whole grains provide arginine.

Foods High in Antioxicants

Antioxidant flavonoids in blueberries improved blood vessel functioning in healthy men, reported a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in November 2013. Flavonoids in dark chocolate promote endothelial health and reduce vessel stiffness, according to a report in a study in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in February 2014. You'll get similar flavonoids from grapes, apples and other berries. Vitamin E is another antioxidant to include in your diet. It protects lipoproteins from damage by molecules called free radicals. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol through your blood and release the cholesterol when they're damaged, which harms the blood vessel. The best sources of vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, avocado, sunflower oil and safflower oil.

Foods That Decrease Homocysteine

Folate, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 have one job in common: They help reduce the amount of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid your body converts into other beneficial substances, but this only happens when these B vitamins are available. Without folate, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12, levels of homocysteine increase, which causes problems for your blood vessels. Homocysteine can damage the endothelium and increase the risk of blood clots, according to FamilyDoctor.org. You can get all three from fortified cereals and grains. Otherwise, green leafy vegetables are packed with folate, vitamin B-6 is found in bananas, potatoes and chicken, and vitamin B-12 comes from animal products.

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