Your diet affects virtually every aspect of your health, and your arteries and veins are no exception. Because the circulatory system plays a critical role in keeping us healthy — and circulation issues can have serious implications on our wellness — it’s important to follow a healthy diet. Here’s more of what you should know about vascular health and nutrition.

How Does Diet Affect Vein Health?

The circulatory system moves blood throughout the body, and veins and arteries are the passageways through which blood moves. But these vessels can become hard and narrow, and could eventually become blocked altogether. While there are several factors that contribute to vascular health, nutrition is an important one. Certain foods can cause cholesterol plaques to form, blocking the essential passageways of your circulatory system.

Which Foods Are Worst for Vein Health?

Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can have the most damaging effects on veins and arteries. That’s because they’re high in “bad” cholesterol, which creates the plaques that can block blood vessels. Both saturated and trans fats can have a negative impact on the circulatory system overall, and diets rich in these fats have been linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease.

To make matters worse, trans fats can actually lower your “good” cholesterol (the kind that absorbs cholesterol in the blood), and transport it to the liver. Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, a process that extends the shelf life of our foods. Some trans fats are found naturally in meat and dairy products, but most of the research around trans fats focuses on the additive type.

Foods with trans fats that should be limited or avoided altogether include:

  • Shortening
  • Stick margarine
  • Nondairy coffee creamers
  • Fried foods
  • Refrigerated doughs, such as biscuits
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Frozen pizza

Though saturated fats aren’t necessarily quite as dangerous as their trans fat cousins, they should still be consumed with awareness. They don’t lower your “good” cholesterol in the way that trans fats do, but there is strong evidence that they increase “bad” cholesterol. It’s best to limit saturated fats to five to six percent of your daily calories, which amounts to about 13 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Many meat and dairy products naturally contain saturated fats, including:

  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream

In addition, certain oils, such as palm and palm kernel oil, contain saturated fats, as do certain baked and fried foods.

Which Foods Are Best for Your Vascular System?

Just as certain foods can have a negative effect on your veins and arteries, there are other nutrients that can promote healthy blood flow. In general, a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and fish will deliver nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to control factors that could otherwise impede vascular health, such as hardening or narrowing of the arteries, high blood pressure, and inflammation. In particular, some foods with the greatest benefits for circulation include:

  • Walnuts
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Spinach
  • Citrus fruit
  • Pomegranates
  • Fatty fish, such as mackerel, trout, salmon, halibut, and herring
  • Beets

Dietary changes are a great start for improving vascular health, but if you have issues that are causing you discomfort or concern, turn to our specialists for expert help. To schedule an appointment, call 770- 423-0595. Our full list of locations is also available online.