Would you like to discover a food combination you can take today to protect and strengthen your heart? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide – but it is largely preventable. One factor that plays a central role in heart health is blood pressure (BP). Cardiovascular disease risk is strongly associated with an increase in BP, even when BP is still within normal range. Today, we present a three-food combo that improves blood flow, and helps reduce blood pressure, boost exercise performance, and delay cognitive decline.
Vegetable nitrate intake, blood pressure and incident cardiovascular disease: Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study
Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function
Characterization of the Role of Nitric Oxide and Its Clinical Applications
Epicatechin ingested via cocoa products reduces blood pressure in humans: a nonlinear regression model with a Bayesian approach
Cocoa flavanols: effects on vascular nitric oxide and blood pressure
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Learn how you can consume these three foods daily as part of your healthy routine for a stronger heart! As always, this video is educational and does not constitute medical advice, we are not doctors.
First, here is the three food protocol to boost blood circulation:
- Eat nitrate-rich vegetables. Aim for 6.4 to 12.8 mg of nitrates per kilogram of body weight per day (2.9 to 5.8 mg per pound per day), either over several meals or in one sitting a couple of hours before exercise.
- Get your cocoa polyphenols, by eating about 30 grams of cocoa powder or 40 grams of dark chocolate with a 75% cocoa content.
- Take 3 to 6 cloves of garlic (or 600 to 1,200 mg of an aged garlic extract) over several meals.
So, how do these three foods work together to boost blood flow?
Nitrate-rich vegetables, cocoa, and garlic work synergistically to improve your cardiovascular system. Nitrates increase your blood levels of nitric oxide (NO) which improves blood flow. Cocoa helps maintain those high NO levels. Garlic enhances signaling for more NO production – so you can get your heart pumping strong!
Next, let’s look at each of these foods in detail.
Food Number 1: Nitrates.
Eating nitrate-rich foods is an effective way to increase nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in the body. This is one of the reasons why vegetables are good for you. Nitrates break down into nitrites, which circulate in the body and are turned into NO – a molecule that acts as a natural vasodilator and improves blood flow.
Elevated NO levels are associated with better circulation and lower blood pressure. Eating nitrate-containing vegetables also improves endothelial cell function – the cells that line the inside of your blood vessels. As an added bonus, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease – including peripheral artery disease, cancer, and premature death.
Nitrates are abundantly found in beetroot and leafy greens. These vegetables can be consumed whole or in liquid form (juice, smoothie, or purée) over several meals. They can also be drunk in one sitting a couple of hours before exercise.
The nitrate-rich vegetables in descending order of nitrate content are: arugula, turnip greens, dill, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips, rhubarb, beetroot, celery, mustard greens, radish, lettuce, watercress, Bok choy, kale, and parsley.
Here are six things you should know about nitrates:
- Cooking vegetables reduces nitrates by 50%, but researchers say that is still enough to promote heart health.
- Most vegetables rich in nitrates are also rich in oxalate which can increase the risk of kidney stones. The solution is to cook the vegetables; this reduces oxalates more than nitrates. “You can also choose” oxalate-poor vegetables (arugula, asparagus, carrot, radish, sweet potato, watercress, Bok choy, cabbage), or pair with calcium-rich foods to reduce oxalate absorption.
- Leafy greens are packed with vitamin K1, which helps with blood clotting, and so might reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners, especially anticoagulants. If you take a blood thinner, consult your doctor before consuming a lot of leafy greens.
- If you eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables, make sure to also get enough iodine through iodine-rich foods (such as cod, seaweed, shrimp, milk, yogurt, or cheese), iodine-fortified foods (such as iodized salt), or supplements (75 to 150 mcg per day). This is because cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogen – which disrupt thyroid hormone production by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland – if regularly consumed in high amounts.
- Nitrates in processed meats are not the same as in vegetables, because compounds in meat interact with nitrates during cooking and processing to form potentially pro-carcinogenic elements like nitrosamines.
- The bacteria in saliva activates nitrates, so avoid using anti-bacterial mouthwash too often.
Food Number 2: Cocoa.
When nitric oxide is created, it has a half-life of only a few seconds due to its highly reactive nature. This means that NO can only travel limited distances before being oxidized. This is where dark chocolate comes into play. The high concentration of flavonoids like epicatechin in this delicious treat, helps support the high NO levels you’ve achieved by eating nitrate-rich vegetables, and improve blood flow.
Several potential mechanisms are supposed to be responsible for the positive effect of cocoa; among them activation of NO production, increased bioavailability of NO as well as antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Food Number 3: Garlic.
Lastly, garlic enhances the signaling of nitric oxide. However, its blood pressure lowering effects are mostly due to another compound: hydrogen sulfide. (H2S). Whether eaten as part of a meal or supplemented, garlic is a potent food that increases hydrogen sulfide signaling in the body — and helps relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
To maximize this effect, make sure to first cut or crush the cloves, to activate their bioactive compounds before cooking them or eating them raw. If you dislike the smell or taste of garlic, or if you wish to avoid the strong breath that comes from eating the cloves, you can choose to supplement with 600 to 1,200 mg of an aged garlic extract daily for the same benefits.
In those with high cholesterol (greater than 200 mg per dL, greater than 5.5 mmol/L), the consumption of garlic for two months or more, can moderately reduce total as well as LDL cholesterol, and slightly increase HDL. Because it improves several cardiovascular parameters, garlic makes a good heart-protective food.
What happens when you eat these three foods daily?
Your heart can pump blood more efficiently without putting any strain on your body, because each ingredient in this dietary combo, complements each other to effectively dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Since these three foods are hypotensive agents – meaning they lower blood pressure – start at the low end of the consumption range and monitor your blood pressure.
The easy way to benefit from these three foods, is simply to make sure you eat them daily.
For more on NO, watch our video: Top 11 Foods to Strengthen Blood Flow.
Lastly, what are the complications of high blood pressure?
The blood vessels in the eyes may start to swell or leak.
The blood vessels in the brain may burst under pressure and cause a stroke.
The extra effort of pumping blood can cause the heart muscles to thicken, thus reducing efficiency.
The kidneys may start to regulate salt and water levels poorly.
The blood vessels may stiffen and harden, further contributing to high blood pressure.
To support a healthy blood pressure, incorporate this 3-food combo into your lifestyle today.
If you suffer from symptoms such as brain fog, hair loss, varicose veins, erectile dysfunction, tingling legs, swollen feet, and leg cramps in the night – even though you eat a “healthy diet” – you may already have poor blood circulation and high blood pressure.
Inadequate blood flow results in less oxygen and nutrients being delivered to your cells. This not only causes you to have less energy, but it also weakens your immune system and prevents your cells from functioning optimally.
In general, circulatory issues don’t happen overnight, they are usually accompanied by other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and clogged arteries. In an upcoming video, we will explore other foods and nutrients you can add to this food combo to address specific health concerns.
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