Flu germs are believed to spread through droplets from the mouth and nose. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands straight away. If there’s no tissue handy, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
It can be tough to get kids to practice these habits as well. The Boston Children’s Museum recommends a cute way to turn this into a game for kids: Turn a sock into a “Germ Eating Monster” by cutting off the rounded toe part of the sock and decorating the tube that’s left. Slide the decorated tube onto their arm and have them “feed” the germ-loving monster by coughing into its face.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
According to the CDC, flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. That’s why it’s so easy to pick up flu germs without knowing it. You can get infected if you touch an infected doorknob or light switch and then rub your eyes or bite your nails. Learning to keep your hands away from your face can be tough, especially for children. Remind them often, as well as yourself.
3. Wash your hands often
All hand washing is not equal. For it to be effective, make sure you and your family follow these steps:
Run warm water over your hands.
Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Rinse and dry.
You can stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizers for areas where sinks aren’t available or when you’re out and about. Store them out of the reach of young children and ensure children have adult supervision when using them. Make sure your hand sanitizers are at least 60 percent alcohol, and remember that they’re not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and warm water — they don’t tackle all germs, and don’t work on visibly dirty hands.
You’ll need to remind kids to wash up:
each time they use the bathroom
before they eat
after they come home from school or a play date
You can print out hand washing reminders to put up by your sinks as visual reminders for children (and forgetful adults). It can also help to set up a hand sanitizer station by your door, as a first line of defense against outside germs.
4. Limit contact with family members who are ill
If someone in your family does get the flu, take these steps to prevent the flu from spreading:
Keep the sick person at home.
Limit close contact between the sick person and other family members as much as you can while they’re contagious. In general, this is up to a week after they show symptoms.
Change sleeping arrangements, if possible.
You should also avoid sharing the following items from the sick person:
5. Clean your home
Flu germs and viruses love to lurk on items you touch every day. Here are some hot spots for germs:
Clean and disinfect these hot spots regularly. You can microwave your kitchen sponge for one minute on a high setting to zap germs. Better yet, throw it out.
If someone in your household has the flu, take special care when washing their things. Wash dishes and silverware thoroughly by hand or in the dishwasher. You don’t have to do a sick person’s laundry separately, but try to avoid scooping up an armload of items and holding them close before washing them. Use laundry soap and dry on a hot setting. Always wash your hands immediately after handling dirty laundry.
6. Practice healthy habits
Don’t forget the power of a healthy lifestyle to fight off sickness. The following tips can go far in keeping your immune system healthy and your family well this flu season.
Get plenty of sleep.
Eat well, with lots of vegetables and fruits.
Drink lots of fluids.
Manage your stress.
Healthy personal hygiene habits and frequent housecleaning go a long way to help keep the flu away. If someone in your household does get the flu, keep the person at home, disinfect and clean your home well, and limit close contact with that person whenever possible.
In fact, they’re one of the best foods for keeping you full for hours (28, 29, 30).
Regular egg consumption may also reduce your heart disease risk in several ways.
Eggs decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, increase your “good” HDL cholesterol levels and modify the size and shape of your “bad” LDL cholesterol (31, 32, 33, 34).
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 2 eggs daily as part of a high-protein diet had improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar levels (35).
In addition, eggs are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect the eyes from disease (36, 37).
Just be sure to eat whole eggs. The benefits of eggs are primarily due to nutrients found in the yolk rather than the white.
BOTTOM LINE:Eggs improve risk factors for heart disease, promote good blood sugar control, protect eye health and keep you feeling full.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a wonderful food for people with diabetes.
They’re extremely high in fiber, yet low in digestible carbs.
In fact, 11 of the 12 grams of carbs in a 28-gram (1-oz) serving of chia seeds are fiber, which doesn’t raise blood sugar.
The viscous fiber in chia seeds can actually lower your blood sugar levels by slowing down the rate at which food moves through your gut and is absorbed (38, 39, 40).
Chia seeds may help you achieve a healthy weight because fiber reduces hunger and makes you feel full. In addition, fiber can decrease the amount of calories you absorb from other foods eaten at the same meal (41, 42).
Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammatory markers (43).
BOTTOM LINE:Chia seeds contain high amounts of fiber, are low in digestible carbs and may decrease blood pressure and inflammation.
Turmeric is a spice with powerful health benefits.
Its active ingredient, curcumin, can lower inflammation and blood sugar levels, while reducing heart disease risk (44, 45, 46, 47).
What’s more, curcumin appears to benefit kidney health in diabetics. This is important, as diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease (48, 49, 50, 51, 52).
Unfortunately, curcumin isn’t absorbed that well on its own. Be sure to consume turmeric with piperine (found in black pepper) in order to boost absorption by as much as 2,000% (53).
BOTTOM LINE:Turmeric contains curcumin, which may reduce blood sugar levels and inflammation, while protecting against heart and kidney disease.
What’s more, Greek yogurt contains only 6–8 grams of carbs per serving, which is lower than conventional yogurt. It’s also higher in protein, which promotes weight loss by reducing appetite and decreasing calorie intake (61).
BOTTOM LINE:Greek yogurt promotes healthy blood sugar levels, reduces risk factors for heart disease and may help with weight management.
Nuts are delicious and nutritious.
All types of nuts contain fiber and are low in digestible carbs, although some have more than others.
Here are the amounts of digestible carbs per 1-oz (28-gram) serving of nuts:
Almonds: 2.6 grams
Brazil nuts: 1.4 grams
Cashews: 7.7 grams
Hazelnuts: 2 grams
Macadamia: 1.5 grams
Pecans: 1.2 grams
Pistachios: 5 grams
Walnuts: 2 grams
Research on a variety of different nuts has shown that regular consumption may reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar, HbA1c and LDL levels (62, 63, 64, 65).
In one study, people with diabetes who included 30 grams of walnuts in their daily diet for one year lost weight, had improvements in body composition and experienced a significant reduction in insulin levels (66).
This finding is important because people with type 2 diabetes often have elevated levels of insulin, which are linked to obesity.
In addition, some researchers believe chronically high insulin levels increase the risk of other serious diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (67, 68).
BOTTOM LINE:Nuts are a healthy addition to a diabetic diet. They’re low in digestible carbs and help reduce blood sugar, insulin and LDL levels.
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables around.
A half cup of cooked broccoli contains only 27 calories and 3 grams of digestible carbs, along with important nutrients like vitamin C and magnesium.
Studies in diabetics have found that broccoli may help lower insulin levels and protect cells from harmful free radicals produced during metabolism (69, 70).
What’s more, broccoli is another good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These important antioxidants help prevent eye diseases (71).
BOTTOM LINE:Broccoli is a low-calorie, low-carb food with high nutrient value. It is loaded with healthy plant compounds that can protect against various diseases.
It contains oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that has been shown to improve triglycerides and HDL, which are often at unhealthy levels in type 2 diabetes.
It may also increase the fullness hormone GLP-1 (72, 73).
In a large analysis of 32 studies looking at different types of fat, olive oil was the only one shown to reduce heart disease risk (74).
Olive oil also contains antioxidants called polyphenols. They reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels, keep your LDL cholesterol from becoming damaged by oxidation and decrease blood pressure (75, 76, 77).
Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and retains the antioxidants and other properties that make it so healthy. Be sure to choose extra-virgin olive oil from a reputable source, since many olive oils are mixed with cheaper oils like corn and soy (78).
BOTTOM LINE:Extra-virgin olive oil contains healthy oleic acid. It has benefits for blood pressure and heart health.
Although it’s made from apples, the sugar in the fruit is fermented into acetic acid, and the resulting product contains less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon.
Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting blood sugar levels. It may also reduce blood sugar response by as much as 20% when consumed with meals containing carbs (85, 86, 87, 88).
In one study, people with poorly controlled diabetes had a 6% reduction in fasting blood sugar when they took 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed (88).
Apple cider vinegar may also slow stomach emptying and keep you feeling full.
However, this can be a problem for people who have gastroparesis, a condition of delayed stomach emptying that is common in diabetes, particularly type 1 (89).
To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, begin with 1 teaspoon mixed in a glass of water each day. Increase to a maximum of 2 tablespoons per day.
BOTTOM LINE:Apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. It may also help you feel full for longer.
Strawberries are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat.
They’re high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give them their red color.
Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce cholesterol and insulin levels after a meal. They also improve blood sugar and heart disease risk factors in type 2 diabetes (90, 91, 92).
A one-cup serving of strawberries contains 49 calories and 11 grams of carbs, three of which are fiber.
This serving also provides more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C, which provides additional anti-inflammatory benefits for heart health (11).
BOTTOM LINE:Strawberries are low-sugar fruits that have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce heart disease risk.
Garlic is a delicious herb with impressive health benefits.
Several studies have shown it can reduce inflammation, blood sugar and LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes (93, 94, 95).
It may also be very effective at reducing blood pressure (96, 97).
In one study, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure who took aged garlic for 12 weeks averaged a 10-point decrease in blood pressure (97).
One clove of raw garlic contains only 4 calories and 1 gram of carbs.
BOTTOM LINE:Garlic helps lower blood sugar, inflammation, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure in people with diabetes.
Squash is one of the healthiest vegetables around.
Winter varieties have a hard shell and include acorn, pumpkin and butternut.
Summer squash has a soft peel that can be eaten. The most common types are zucchini and Italian squash.
Like most vegetables, squash contains beneficial antioxidants. Many types of winter squash are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
Animal studies using squash extract have also reported reductions in obesity and insulin levels (98, 99).
Although there’s very little research on humans, one study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took an extract of the winter squash Cucurbita ficifolia experienced a significant decrease in blood sugar levels (100).
However, winter squash is higher in carbs than summer squash.
For example, 1 cup of cooked pumpkin contains 9 grams of digestible carbs, while 1 cup of cooked zucchini contains only 3 grams of digestible carbs.
BOTTOM LINE:Summer and winter squash contain beneficial antioxidants and may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
16. Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles are wonderful for diabetes and weight control.
These noodles are high in the fiber glucomannan, which is extracted from konjac root.
This plant is grown in Japan and processed into the shape of noodles or rice known as shirataki.
Glucomannan is a type of viscous fiber, which makes you feel full and satisfied. It also lowers levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin (101).
What’s more, it’s been shown to reduce blood sugar levels after eating and improve heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome (102, 103, 104, 105).
A 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving of shirataki noodles also contains less than one gram of digestible carbs and just two calories per serving.
However, these noodles are typically packaged with a liquid that has a fishy odor and you need to rinse them very well before use. Then, to ensure a noodle-like texture, cook the noodles for several minutes in a skillet over high heat without added fat.
BOTTOM LINE:The glucomannan in shirataki noodles promotes feelings of fullness and can improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.
Take Home Message
Uncontrolled diabetes increases your risk of several serious diseases.
However, eating foods that help keep blood sugar, insulin and inflammation under control can dramatically reduce your risk of developing complications.
The health authorities have identified one of their top concerns as they wage war on diabetes: white rice. It is even more potent than sweet soda drinks in causing the disease.
Sharing his battle plan to reduce the risk of diabetes, Health Promotion Board chief executive Zee Yoong Kang said that obesity and sugary drinks are the major causes of the condition in the West.
But Asians are more predisposed to diabetes than Caucasians, so people do not have to be obese to be at risk. Starchy white rice can overload their bodies with blood sugar and heighten their risk of diabetes.
Mr Zee is armed with data. A meta- analysis of four major studies, involving more than 350,000 people followed for four to 20 years, by the Harvard School of Public Health – published in the British Medical Journal – threw up some sobering findings.
One, it showed each plate of white rice eaten in a day – on a regular basis – raises the risk of diabetes by 11 percent in the overall population.
Two, it showed that while Asians, like the Chinese, had four servings a day of cooked rice, Americans and Australians ate just five a week.
But Mr Zee does not plan to ask Singaporeans to stop eating rice, a popular feature of meals here. What he would like is to see more people turn to healthier varieties.
Long grain white rice is also better than short grain when it comes to how it spikes blood sugar – a rise in sugar levels causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, and frequent spikes can lead to diabetes.
He would also like people to try adding 20 percent of brown rice to their white rice. This amount is enough to reduce the risk of diabetes by 16 percent.”There is no need to fully replace what they now eat. Just increase the quantity of whole grain and brown rice.”
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said last month that this disease is already costing the country more than $1 billion a year. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations in Singapore.
Dr Stanley Liew, a diabetes expert at Raffles Hospital, advised people to eat less rice. He added that most junk food and sodas are just as bad and should be discouraged.
Studies have shown that wearing socks to bed can help you fall asleep faster!
If you’re one of those people who has trouble falling asleep, listen up. You might fall asleep 15 minutes earlier and wake up far less during the night if you put on a pair of socks at bedtime.
To understand why, you first need to grasp the relationship between core body temperature and sleep. During daylight hours, the human body hums along at an average temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). But at night, your core body temperature dips as much as 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) over the course of six or seven hours of sleep.
This gradual decrease in core body temperature, it turns out, is a key part of the complicated neurobiological dance of falling asleep and staying asleep. And the faster you can lower the core body temperature, the faster you will fall asleep.
One of the ways that your body regulates its temperature is through blood vessels in your skin. If the brain decides the body is too hot, it will dilate (widen) blood vessels (vasodilation), redistributing warmer blood from the body’s core through the rest of the body to cool it down. If the body is too cold, the brain signals the opposite reaction, restricting the flow of blood to the surface (vasoconstriction).
This is where your feet come in. The palms of your hands and soles of your feet are the body’s most efficient heat exchangers, since they are hairless and less insulated than other skin surfaces. Researchers have shown that warming the feet before going to sleep using a warm foot bath or by wearing socks promotes vasodilation, which in turn lowers the body’s core temperature faster than going to sleep with cold, bare feet.
It turns out that the temperature difference between the surface skin of your extremities and your abdomen (known by sleep geeks as the distal-proximal skin temperature gradient or DPG) is the strongest indicator of your likelihood of falling asleep faster. Stronger even than hypnosis or popping a melatonin supplement before bed.
But there’s more! Scientists hypothesize that socked feet have a neurological effect as well. The brain’s “thermostat” is located in a region called the preoptic/anterior hypothalamus (PO/AH). Inside the PO/AH is a type of neuron called a warm-sensitive neuron (WSN) that increases its firing rate when there’s a temperature difference between the body’s core and extremities like the feet.
It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg situation, but research has shown that WSN firing rates go way up on the onset of slow wave or “deep” sleep and gradually decrease prior to waking up. So WSNs may play a role in generating the sensation of sleepiness that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. And if that’s the case, warming up the feet before bedtime gives WSNs an extra boost.
In a small study, Korean researchers found that wearing a pair of special “sleeping socks” — which are apparently a thing in South Korea — not only sped up the onset of sleep, but increased overall sleep time by an average of 30 minutes and cut nighttime waking episodes in half.
If you’re worried about becoming too warm while wearing socks in bed, look for ones made of natural breathable fibers.
It appears that the response to eating whole eggs depends on the individual.
In 70% of people, eggs had no effect on total or “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, in 30% of people — called hyper-responders — these markers do go up slightly (24).
Although eating a few eggs per day may raise blood cholesterol in some people, they change the “bad” LDL particles from small and dense to large (12, 25).
People who have predominantly large LDL particles have a lower risk of heart disease. So even if eggs cause mild increases in total and LDL cholesterol levels, it’s not a cause for concern (26, 27, 28).
The science is clear that up to 3 whole eggs per day are perfectly safe for healthy people.
SUMMARYEggs consistently raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. For 70% of people, there is no increase in total or LDL cholesterol. Some people may experience a mild increase in a benign subtype of LDL.
Eggs and Heart Disease
Multiple studies have examined egg consumption and heart disease risk.
Many of these are observational studies in which large groups of people are followed for many years.
Researchers then use statistical methods to determine whether certain habits — like diet, smoking or exercise — are linked to either a decreased or increased risk of certain diseases.
These studies — some of which include hundreds of thousands of people — consistently show that people who eat whole eggs are no more likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t.
Some of the studies even show a reduced risk of stroke (29, 30, 31).
However, this research suggests that people who have type 2 diabetes and eat a lot of eggs have an increased risk of heart disease (32).
One controlled study in people with type 2 diabetes found that eating two eggs per day, six days a week, for three months did not significantly affect blood lipid levels (33).
Poor circulation is a common problem caused by a number of conditions.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD), diabetes, obesity, smoking and Raynaud’s disease are some of the many causes of poor circulation (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Reduced blood flow can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as pain, muscle cramps, numbness, digestive issues and coldness in the hands or feet.
In addition to those with poor circulation, athletes and active individuals may want to increase blood flow in order to improve exercise performance and recovery.
Although circulatory issues are often treated with medications, eating certain foods can also improve blood flow.
Here are the 14 best foods to optimize blood flow.
1. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper gets its spicy flavor from a phytochemical called capsaicin.
Capsaicin promotes blood flow to tissues by lowering blood pressure and stimulating the release of nitric oxide and other vasodilators — or compounds that help expand your blood vessels (6).
Vasodilators allow blood to flow more easily through your veins and arteries by relaxing the tiny muscles found in blood vessel walls.
Research indicates that ingesting cayenne pepper increases circulation, improves blood vessel strength and reduces plaque buildup in your arteries (7).
What’s more, these spicy peppers are frequently included in pain-relieving creams because they can encourage blood flow to the affected area (8).
Pomegranates are juicy, sweet fruits that are particularly high in polyphenol antioxidants and nitrates, which are potent vasodilators.
Consuming pomegranate — as juice, raw fruit or supplement — may improve blood flow and oxygenation of muscle tissue, which could especially aid active individuals.
A study in 19 active people, found that ingesting 1,000 mg of pomegranate extract 30 minutes before working out increased blood flow, blood vessel diameter and exercise performance (9).
Another study demonstrated that daily consumption of 17 ounces (500 ml) of pomegranate juice during or before weight training reduced soreness, muscle damage and inflammation in elite weightlifters (10).
Onions are an excellent source of flavonoid antioxidants, which benefit heart health.
This vegetable improves circulation by helping your arteries and veins widen when blood flow increases.
In a 30-day study in 23 men, taking 4.3 grams of onion extract daily significantly improved blood flow and artery dilation after meals (11).
Onions also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can boost blood flow and heart health by reducing inflammation in veins and arteries (12).
Cinnamon is a warming spice that has many health benefits — including increased blood flow.
In animal studies, cinnamon improved blood vessel dilation and blood flow in the coronary artery, which supplies blood to the heart.
Rats fed 91 mg per pound (200 mg per kg) of body weight of cinnamon bark extract daily for eight weeks exhibited better heart performance and coronary artery blood flow after exhaustive exercise compared to rats in the control group (13).
Plus, research shows that cinnamon can effectively reduce blood pressure in humans by relaxing your blood vessels. This improves circulation and keeps your heart healthy (14).
In a study in 59 people with type 2 diabetes, 1,200 mg of cinnamon per day reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) by an average of 3.4 mmHg after 12 weeks (15).
Garlic is well known for its beneficial impact on circulation and heart health.
Studies suggest that garlic — specifically, its sulfur compounds, which include allicin — can increase tissue blood flow and lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.
In fact, diets high in garlic are associated with better flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD), an indicator of blood flow efficiency.
In a study in 42 people with coronary artery disease, those who consumed garlic powder tablets containing 1,200 mg of allicin twice daily for three months experienced a 50% improvement in blood flow through the upper arm artery compared to a placebo group (16).
6. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
These fats are especially beneficial for circulation because they promote the release of nitric oxide, which dilates your blood vessels and increases blood flow (17).
Omega-3 fats also help inhibit the clumping of platelets in your blood, a process that can lead to blood clot formation (18).
What’s more, fish oil supplements are linked to reduced high blood pressure and improved blood flow in skeletal muscle during and after exercise.
For example, in a study in 10 healthy men, high doses of fish oil — 4.2 grams daily for four weeks — significantly improved blood flow to the legs after exercise (19).
Many athletes supplement with beet juice or beet powder to help improve performance.
This is because beets are high in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow to muscle tissue.
Beet juice supplements improve oxygen flow in muscle tissue, stimulate blood flow and increase nitric oxide levels — all of which can boost performance (20).
Aside from assisting athletes, beets improve blood flow in older adults with circulatory issues.
In a study in 12 older adults, those who drank 5 ounces (140 ml) of nitrate-rich beet juice per day experienced significant decreases in blood pressure, clotting time and blood vessel inflammation than those who consumed a placebo (21).
Increased blood flow is one of turmeric’s many health benefits.
In fact, both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine have utilized turmeric since ancient times to open blood vessels and improve blood circulation (22).
Research suggests that a compound found in turmeric called curcumin helps increase nitric oxide production, reduce oxidative stress and decrease inflammation.
In a study in 39 people, taking 2,000 mg of curcumin daily for 12 weeks led to a 37% increase in forearm blood flow and a 36% increase in upper arm blood flow (23).
9. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach and collard greens are high in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator.
Eating nitrate-rich foods may help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels, allowing your blood to flow more easily.
In a 27-person study, those consuming high-nitrate (845 mg) spinach daily for seven days experienced significant improvements in blood pressure and blood flow compared to a control group (24).
What’s more, research has observed that people following a traditional Chinese diet high in nitrate-rich vegetables like Chinese cabbage have lower blood pressure and a significantly decreased risk of heart disease than those who consume a typical Western diet (25).
10. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit are packed with antioxidants, including flavonoids.
Consuming flavonoid-rich citrus fruits may decrease inflammation in your body, which can reduce blood pressure and stiffness in your arteries while improving blood flow and nitric oxide production (26).
In a study in 31 people, those who drank 17 ounces (500 ml) of blood orange juice per day for one week had significant improvements in artery dilation and large reductions in markers of inflammation such as IL-6 and CRP compared to a control group (27).
Additionally, regular consumption of citrus fruits, such as lemon and grapefruit, has been associated with reduced blood pressure and a decreased risk of stroke (28, 29).
Walnuts are loaded with beneficial compounds, such as l-arginine, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and vitamin E — which all stimulate the production of nitric oxide.
Eating walnuts may reduce blood pressure, improve blood vessel function and decrease inflammation, which may be particularly helpful for those with diabetes (30).
People with diabetes often have circulation issues and high blood pressure due to blood vessel damage caused by uncontrolled blood sugar levels (31).
In a study in 24 people with diabetes, those who ate 2 ounces (56 grams) of walnuts per day for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in blood flow compared to a control group (32).
Tomatoes may help reduce the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which causes blood vessels to constrict to control blood pressure (33).
Research reveals that tomato extract works similarly to ACE-inhibiting drugs — opening up your blood vessels and improving blood flow.
Test-tube studies note that tomato extract can inhibit ACE, reduce inflammation and disrupt platelet aggregation, which can improve circulation (34, 35).
Berries are especially healthy — they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, which may have a positive impact on blood flow.
Chronic inflammation can damage blood vessels and raise your blood pressure, which can cause circulatory issues.
Research shows that eating berries can lower blood pressure, heart rate, platelet aggregation and blood levels of inflammatory markers like IL-6 while also improving artery dilation (36).
Ginger, a staple in traditional medicine in India and China for thousands of years, can likewise lower blood pressure and improve circulation (37).
In both human and animal studies, ginger has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, which negatively impacts blood flow (38).
In a study in 4,628 people, those who consumed the most ginger — 2–4 grams per day — had the lowest risk of developing high blood pressure (39).
Animal studies demonstrate that ginger works by inhibiting ACE (40).
While incorporating any of these foods into your diet may improve circulation, other lifestyle changes may have a larger impact.
Here are some other lifestyle modifications that can optimize blood flow:
Quit smoking: Smoking is a risk factor for many chronic diseases — such as cancer — and can negatively impact circulation (41).
Increase physical activity: Exercise stimulates blood flow and helps improve vasodilation. Plus, regular exercise decreases your risk of heart disease (42).
Lose weight: Being overweight or obese negatively impacts blood flow and can lead to dangerous complications, such as plaque buildup in your arteries (43).
Follow a healthy diet: Instead of simply stocking up on particular foods, try switching to a diet rich in healthy, whole foods — such as vegetables, healthy fats and fiber-rich foods — which can improve circulatory health.
Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is critical to all aspects of health, including circulation. Dehydration can damage endothelial cells and promote inflammation in your body, restricting blood flow (44).
Reduce stress: Research proves that stress levels can significantly impact blood pressure. Manage your stress through yoga, meditation, gardening or spending time in nature (45).
SUMMARYFollowing a healthy diet, exercising, losing weight, quitting smoking, staying hydrated and reducing stress are natural ways to improve circulation.
The Bottom Line
There are many natural ways to improve circulation, including choosing foods that stimulate blood flow.
The antioxidants, nitrates, vitamins and other substances contained in the foods above can have a positive impact on your circulation.
We follow rules in areas of our lives where we are successful— and we need them around food and exercise, too, to stay fit, strong, and at our ideal weight.
“What can I eat?” This is a question I hear often. So many of us want someone else to tell us what foods we can and can’t eat. At first thought, that seems to make life so much easier. The problem is that human nature is such that when we are given rules from outside ourselves our instinct is to rebel. However, this does not mean that we can lose weight and get healthy without an eating plan; obviously, the opposite is true.
MAKE YOUR OWN RULES
For PERMANENT change, you must follow rules. But to get the results you want, you must make your own rules, and these rules need to make sense for you. What foods are you going to eat and what foods aren’t you going to eat? You have rules in other areas of your life where you are successful—you need them around food and exercise, too.
In fact, the reason you struggle weight and/or health is not because there is something innately deficient in your life. It’s not because you are an out of control person, weak-willed, or had a more difficult childhood than everybody else (although, please give yourself compassion for all the challenges you have faced).
The great news is you have followed rules for success in other areas of your life, so you know how to do it! These are areas where you base your actions on the results you want—not on transient feelings.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK-WILLED
If you want to understand how fit people stay that way, realize that they are simply doing what you do naturally in areas of your life where you are successful.
Does she have some super inner power that you don’t have? Of course, not!
You will learn to do the same once you tune into the reality that it’s not about dieting, it’s about following food and lifestyle rules that work for you, while reprogramming your subconscious.
Before you get too down on yourself and call yourself weak for living so long without following food rules, realize that this is most likely because following food rules wasn’t modeled to you. In the same way, people who break social rules do so because treating others with respect failed to be instilled in them as a pattern of behavior.
NOW IS THE TIME
It’s never too late to create rules for yourself. The first step is believing that they are necessary. To do that, take a moment and think about what makes you successful in other areas of your life. Instead of seeing willpower as something that you don’t possess, take a moment to reflect on the amazing amount of strength and courage you have within. If you can’t see strength and courage inside yourself, take a moment to acknowledge the incredible hardship it is to carry around excess weight and still lead a productive life. Now, let’s turn your strong will into a tool that will allow you to be happy, healthy, and live at your ideal weight.
In every area of your life where you are getting the results you want, you have rules. Do you blurt out your every thought? Unlikely! You have rules about the way you treat people and about what you do and don’t say to others. You have rules about how you care for your children and pets, and you follow them—whether you feel like it or not.
Create rules with food that will lead you to be successful. Rules are not predicated on whether you feel like adhering to them in any given moment. Rules are rules because they lead to specific outcomes that are desirable.
Let’s take a look at some good examples of rules to pick from. Think about what makes sense for you and your lifestyle. Remember that, ultimately, you must make your own rules.
Rule #1: What foods do you eat?
“I eat clean food, from the earth, in as natural a state as possible, as unprocessed as possible. Example: If I am going to eat bread, it will only be made from whole wheat flour, water, and sea salt.” This rule alone would limit your bread intake due to convenience, and yet you wouldn’t be deprived because you could always go buy a loaf of natural wheat bread at a bakery and keep it in your freezer, having a small slice at a time if you feel that you need bread in your diet/eating regime. Or, “I can eliminate bread all together because I see it as a trigger food that puts fat on my body.”
Rule #2: Eat with Balance in Mind
“If I do eat a carb/starch like a whole grain cracker, I ONLY eat it with a protein food (chicken, fish, meat) and a vegetable so my blood sugar stays balanced. I never just sit and eat a box of crackers plain.”
Rule #3: Enjoy the Healthy Foods You Select
“I make sure to have protein and vegetables (fresh) with every meal, with only a small amount of complex carbs (like a whole grain or root vegetable) and healthy fat (such as extra virgin olive oil, or a little cheese or nuts) to make the food taste good.” The key is to enjoy everything that you do eat so you don’t feel deprived or like you are dieting; however, have only JUST enough “fattening food” to make it taste good.
Rule #4: Stick with the Basics
“I continuously eat a group of foods that are healthy and appeal to my tastes.” Studies show that the less variety in your food choices, the more likely you are to be at your ideal weight. Know what foods you do and don’t eat and stick to the plan (without ever thinking that you are on a diet).
Rule #5: Get Rid of Trigger Foods
“I eliminate the foods that are triggers for me. I know they are triggers because when I eat them, I eat too much in general, or I crave more of that specific food.” Get rid of trigger foods and leave the area when they are being served if possible, especially in the early stages of your weight loss/healthy eating quest.
Rule #6: Don’t Let Yourself Get TOO Hungry
Eat healthy treats that aren’t trigger foods when you are physically hungry. You may enjoy almond butter, cheese, avocado with healthy crackers, or other “treats” that don’t create fuel the compulsion to consume too much food. This is what “everything in moderation” means.
The more balanced and healthy you are, the easier it is to have small amounts of healthy treats without reaching a “tipping point”— that place where you are overeating or binge eating.
Rule #7: Don’t Starve Yourself
Eat only when you are physically hungry and eat just enough to satisfy your physical hunger. Make sure that you aren’t too hungry because when your blood sugar dips, you often can’t think straight enough to make healthy choices.
Rule #8: Plan Ahead
Make sure you have plenty of healthy food available at all times. I never leave the house without a healthy snack in my bag. If you go to a restaurant, plan what you are going to order ahead of time. If you’ll be on the go all day, pack enough food with you so you won’t find yourself starving with no good food choices to make. A new mother doesn’t leave the house without a diaper bag. You need to treat yourself like a baby who needs your care.
Rule #9: Honor Your Emotions
Let yourself feel your feelings, but don’t let them dictate your behavior. Express them, if that is the wise thing to do, or write them down. Burn them off by taking a walk or going for a swim. NEVER eat just because you are feeling a certain way. Let your emotions pass like the weather.
Rule #10: Stay Focused on Your Goal
Have a plan to eat healthy and move your body every day. Not because you have to but because you want to! If ever you feel weak, just think of the alternative to healthy living and know that it’s not an option for you. See and feel yourself as if you’ve already achieved your ideal weight. Practice meditation or self-hypnosis every day and imagine yourself healthy and strong.