We rely on our blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrients and remove waste throughout our bodies, and keep our respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems functioning well. When your vascular, or circulatory, system has been compromised by age, injury, or disease — or when you want to do all you can to maintain healthy veins and arteries — adopting a diet that supports vascular health is critical.
It’s not difficult to incorporate these important nutrients into your diet once you know what to look for:
Fiber: Dietary fiber offers a multitude of benefits, from promoting good digestive function to helping you maintain a healthy weight. Its benefits to vascular health include controlling excess blood cholesterol that contributes to the formation of plaque, which can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
To increase fiber in your diet, add more fiber-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts, seeds and legumes. Do so gradually so that your body can get used to processing more fiber.
Vitamin E: Research suggests that this antioxidant may help reduce the risk of blood clots. This nutrient works by helping to prevent platelets from sticking together, which is how clots are formed. Blood clots then stick to the walls of arteries, causing them to narrow and weaken. Vitamin E research is promising, but anyone who is on a strong blood thinner should not quit taking it. If you are considering using vitamin E as a blood thinner, you should discuss it with your physician first.
Overall, vitamin E plays an important role in immunity, and the health of our eyes and skin. You can find this fat-soluble antioxidant in a variety of foods, including green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, and sunflower. Choose dietary sources of this vitamin rather than supplements, since safe amounts of vitamin E supplements can vary greatly from person to person.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C supports vascular health by manufacturing the elastin and collagen that make arteries and veins strong and flexible. It prevents valves in veins from leaking, helps vessel walls maintain healthy pressure, and helps prevent spider veins and broken capillaries.
Some studies have shown that in addition to dietary sources, supplements may help us get an optimal amount of Vitamin C each day. Citrus may be the first thing that comes to mind, but other excellent food sources of this vitamin include cantaloupe, broccoli, green and red peppers, red cabbage, kiwi fruit, mango, pineapple, papaya, berries, and watermelon.
Niacin: Also known as vitamin B3, niacin supports the health of the nervous system, but also helps improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels and circulation. It may also help reduce stiffening of artery walls, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
To include more niacin in your diet, eat tuna and salmon, poultry, red meat, avocados, mushrooms, peanuts, enriched pasta, and fortified cereals and breads.
Flavonoids: The term may be unfamiliar, but this is a large group of important nutrients. Most well-known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics, they are also what gives rich color to many of the foods we eat, such as raspberries and blueberries. Some flavonoids have been shown to support strength and flexibility in blood vessel walls, while others help prevent conditions that can lead to blood clots.
There’s a long list of flavonoid food sources, from onions, almond, quinoa and apples, to bell peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, and oranges. Ultimately, including a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet each day will deliver the benefits of flavonoids. For maximum benefit from flavonoid-rich foods, avoid overcooking and eat fruits and vegetables as soon after picking as possible.
The same recommendations for a generally healthy diet apply to vascular health — reduce your consumption of foods with little nutritional value or those that may even compromise your health. Cut back on foods and beverages with added sugars, avoid trans-fats, reduce saturated fat consumption, keep an eye on your salt intake, and drink alcohol in moderation.
As much as possible, forego buying overly processed foods, usually found in boxes on supermarket shelves, and choose fresh, whole foods instead.
At Coastal Vein Clinic, our mission is to promote vascular health and wellness in Jacksonville. Our board-certified physicians can provide a complete vascular health screening, and offer comprehensive treatments for a number of conditions, including varicose veins, spider veins, restless leg syndrome and more.
If you’re concerned about vein health, please contact us to set up a personal consultation.