You want clean and unblocked blood vessels. Just as a traffic jam can bring a city to a standstill, a gridlock in your blood vessels can do a lot of damage to your body. If your blood has trouble moving through your arteries, you’re at a much greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, varicose veins, and a variety of other diseases. Fortunately, you can improve your circulation naturally with good nutrition.
Avoid sugar and “enriched” grains
The sugar you eat is not what Mother Nature provided. There is natural sugar in beets, sugar cane, and honey. If you eat those foods in their natural state, the sugar is relatively healthy. The sugar in naturally sweet foods is a complex carbohydrate, so it’s usually fine.
However, food manufacturers found that natural sugars were too hard to process. Food manufacturers found that it’s much easier to work with refined sugar, a simple carbohydrate that has other natural ingredients removed. That’s what we consume in virtually all processed food products.
Refined sugar has calories but virtually no nutrition. That means you get empty calories when eating foods with refined sugar.
Refined sugar causes inflammation. If you have read our other articles about preventing heart disease, then you know that inflammation wounds our arteries and the wounding has to be “patched” with cholesterol that can become hard and calcified. Calcified arteries can lead to blockage and a heart attack.
An alphabetical listing of good nutritional practices
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
The best nutritional practice is eating three meals a day. If you don’t eat breakfast, you’re body will get very hungry and you will eat more for lunch and dinner than you would have with a good breakfast.
If you’d like to cut your heart attack risk by up to 30% (according to recent studies) you should have breakfast every day. AND include a cup of whole grain cereal in your breakfast or eat whole grain bread.
Fruits and vegetables
Eat 9 colorful servings a day. They come with a lot of nutrition and fiber. If you don’t eat that much now, you shouldn’t increase to that amount all at once or people won’t stay in the same room with you! But you’ll adjust in 2 to 6 weeks.
Make sure you wash fresh produce carefully and thoroughly. There are farmers’ markets all over the country now. If you try fresh locally grown veggies prepared well, you’ll be amazed at how good they taste.
Garlic and onions
Eat them daily. These members of the allium family improve circulation while adding flavor to meals. The sulfur compounds in garlic and onions keep your platelets from getting sticky and clumping together. Choose yellow or red onions for the most health benefits.
Garlic is a blood thinner. One clove of garlic a day will help to avoid clots in your arteries, but check with your doctor first if you’re taking warfarin or other blood-thinning medication. You must guard against food-drug interactions.
Those who eat garlic will have an odor. It will come out through your mouth and your skin. If the smell is too much for those around you, take a deodorized supplement.
Grapes and drink grape juice
Grapes contain a substance called resveratrol that seems to have health benefits. While red wine has been recommended in the past (which is made from red grapes) current research questions the benefits of alcohol consumption. So eat your grapes and enjoy purple grape juice.
Nuts and seeds
Eat an ounce of nuts and seeds a day. Nuts and seeds raise HDL good cholesterol and decrease inflammation. But they have a heart benefit independent of those too. We’re not sure why.
Nuts have healthy omega-3 fatty acids, healthy protein and some fiber. And this tip is easy to do! Nuts that are raw, fresh and unsalted have the most benefit. You can develop a taste for them if you give them a chance.
Eat plenty of small fish (small fish have less mercury content than large ones) for their protein and omega-3 fatty acids. When it comes to animals, you want lean meat that has been fed naturally. For example, cattle were meant to eat grass, not grains and hormones.
Saturated and trans fats
Eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat a day and as little trans fat as possible. Saturated fat and Trans fats lead to inflammation in the arteries. A cinnamon roll may have 7 grams of saturated fat. A 4-ounce slice of road port tenderloin has about 4 grams. Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), found in many processed and baked foods are probably at least as bad as saturated fats, and maybe a little worse.
Sugar is to be avoided
Read labels and throw out all food that has sugar in the first five ingredients. If you are trying to cut down on fat intake, don’t be fooled by foods that are low in fat but may be high in sugar. The sugar causes inflammation.
If you eat more sugar than you need, it gets morphed into omentum (belly) fat, that dangerous fat around the belly. For a while in the 1990’s many people used “low fat” salad dressings that turned out to be loaded with calorie-laden sugar. And those dressings didn’t contain any good fats like olive oil, which are beneficial. Healthy fats are better than empty sugar calories.
Eat 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce a week.
This is one of our favorite tips. Tomato sauce is loaded with blood-pressure-slashing potassium. We’re not talking about salty, fatty sauces, or serving with a huge portion of pasta. Keep it simple and healthy and get a great benefit.
Watch out for food-drug interactions
If your goal is to keep your blood flowing and you take any kind of medication for thinning your blood in order to avoid thick blood and/or clots, don’t overdo it by also taking foods and or supplements that also thin your blood. Vitamin K also thins your blood, as does garlic, ginkgo, Vitamin E, and Papain, a compound found in papaya.
Alcohol can cause your body to process blood thinners more rapidly. An occasional drink shouldn’t be a problem, but heavy drinking could be a problem in the event you are one blood thinning medication. Aspirin serves that purpose as does warfarin, acetaminophen and antibiotics.
Whole grains reduce internal inflammation.
Cutting calories helps people lose weight, but doing so by filling up on whole grains may be particularly heart-healthy, new research suggests. In a study of obese adults at risk of heart disease, researchers found that those who trimmed calories and increased their whole-grain intake shed more belly fat and lowered their blood levels of C-reactive protein or CRP.
CRP is a marker of chronic, low-level inflammation in the blood vessels, and CRP is linked to heart attack and stroke.
In contrast, dieters in the study who mainly ate refined grains, like white bread, were able to lose weight, but they trimmed less fat from the middle and showed no change in CRP.
The findings offer yet more incentive for Americans to opt for whole grains over highly processed versions, according to the researchers.
In general, experts recommend eating whole grains — such as oatmeal, brown rice and barley — rather than refined grains, like white bread and other products made from white flour. Whole-grain foods retain more of the nutrients and fiber components of the grain. Refiners remove many of the nutrients because they found we have a taste for refined grains.
How do you get enough whole grains in your diet? Read labels! Many things out there try to disguise themselves as whole grain and are NOT! You want to look for items containing 4 or more grams of dietary to get the most benefit.
When you buy bread, make sure it’s really whole grain. Most whole grain breads will have 3 or more grams of fiber per slice.
There are plenty of good healthy snacks that contain plenty of dietary fiber. Two options are SoyJoy bars (3 g of dietary fiber) and Kashi Honey Almond Flax granola bars (4 grams of fiber). One of each per day gives you 7 g of fiber. Kashi products are good because they contain a lot of whole grains. They make cereal, granola bars, crackers and other good stuff and can usually be found in any store that carries organic products.
Also, if you have one near you, support your local Food Co-Op. They usually carry a good variety of whole grain foods and organic locally grown produce.
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