To improve circulation and boost heart health, doctors recommend eating these amazing superfoods.

You probably already know what not to eat when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. But what about the things that can help keep your watch ticking away? Cambridge, Massachusetts researcher William Li, MD has spent more than 30 years studying angiogenesis – the process of how the body develops blood vessels and keeps them healthy.

“In fact, this is the beating heart of the cardiovascular system,” explains Dr. Li. After all, our bodies have over 60,000 miles of vessels that pump oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, including to and from the heart. “What we eat is vitally important for the function of these vessels and for the heart itself,” says Dr. Li, whose book Eat to beat the disease is based on the most recent research in this field.

Here, some of the latest findings, including Dr. I read about the best foods to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Foods That Improve Circulation

“It’s crucial to eat foods that can stimulate or help maintain good blood vessel growth in the heart and the rest of the body,” says Dr. Li. Angiogenesis not only keeps blood circulating throughout the body, it also kicks in if there is a threat to circulation, such as a blockage in a blood vessel with atherosclerosis or a narrowing of the coronary vessels or carotid arteries. In fact, writes Dr. Li, people can live for years or even decades with coronary heart disease or carotid disease if the angiogenesis defense system does its job. These foods can help stimulate blood vessel growth and improve the way blood flows throughout your body.

Tariff example: Apples (including skin), capers, sesame seeds, cranberries

Foods that activate stem cells

“We know from research that humans regenerate from the inside out using our own body’s stem cells,” says Dr. Li. These cells have a wide range of functions, including helping to protect and rebuild the heart after an injury, such as a heart attack. They also help protect blood vessels throughout the body, including those lining the heart. Research showed that individuals with the highest levels of stem cell factor (a blood marker essential for healthy stem cell functions) had a 50% lower risk of heart failure and a 34% lower risk of stroke – as well as a 32% lower risk of death from any cause – over a 19-year period.

Tariff example: Green tea, red wine, dark chocolate, mango

Foods that Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation plays an important role in helping our immune system do its job, such as attacking unwanted invaders like bacteria or viruses. But chronic inflammation is problematic for a number of health issues, including the heart. Inflammation plays a key role in the development of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque inside the arteries). “Almost all of us have some plaque in our blood vessels,” says Dr. Li. “If they rupture and rupture, they can form a clot that can block blood flow, causing a heart attack or stroke.” Anti-inflammatory foods can help lower the chronic inflammation that can trigger this immune response.

Tariff example: Dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, green tea, garlic

Foods that Improve the Microbiome

Your heart and gut have a surprisingly close relationship. “We have about 39 trillion bacteria that make up their own ecosystem in the gut known as the microbiome,” explains Dr. Li. “These bacteria help lower inflammation, reduce the amount of lipids in the body, and control blood pressure.” Eating foods that nourish your microbiome can also help your cardiovascular system.

Tariff example: Prebiotics (which feed the bacteria that live in the gut), including lentils, nuts and mushrooms Probiotic foods (rich in bacteria), including yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and cheeses like Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano


Want to lower your risk of heart disease while making your stomach happy? These foods (and drinks) can play an especially important role in keeping you healthy.

Dark chocolate

As if we needed one more reason to love chocolate, it’s good for your heart thanks to its rich source of natural polyphenols, which help protect blood vessels and also boost overall heart function. It also helps stimulate the production of stem cells – a University of California San Francisco study among individuals with heart disease found that those who drank hot chocolate made with extra-potent dark chocolate twice a day had twice the number of cells -stem into your bloodstream, as well as improved blood flow, after 30 days. Dark chocolate also has a positive effect on the gut microbiota, says Dr. Li.

Green Tea

Regular on lists of the world’s healthiest foods, it helps reduce chronic inflammation, encourage the growth of new blood vessels, feed the microbiome, and support stem cell growth. Green tea is especially rich in the polyphenol EGCG, which reduces harmful angiogenesis, lowers blood pressure, improves blood lipids, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


Believe it or not, brewski has its own health benefits, thanks to the bioactive compounds that float into the beer during the fermentation process. One of these, xanthohumol, is a polyphenol that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, says Dr. Li. “Drinking a moderate amount of beer — one glass or bottle a day — may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” he notes. The emphasis here, of course, is on moderation – too much alcohol is harmful to your overall health, and those liquid calories can add up.


Your morning eye opener contains a huge number of natural chemicals, including chlorogenic acid, which helps blood vessels stay dilated and protects the heart, says Dr. Li. “It can also help stop harmful blood vessels from turning into plaque, fueling their growth, which can cause them to rupture.” Studies have found that people who drink two to three cups of coffee a day may have a lower risk of heart disease.

Chicken thigh

Chicken dark meat contains high levels of vitamin K2, or menaquinone, a naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamin. Research has shown that people who eat the most K2-rich foods had more than a 57% reduction in the chance of dying from heart disease and a 52% reduction in the risk of severe hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup, says Dr. Li.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, The Complete Guide to Heart Health, in 2019.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, female world.

To improve circulation and boost heart health, doctors recommend eating these amazing superfoods.

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