10 Foods To Improve Blood Flow & Circulation For Brain Health

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Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Foods That Increase Blood Flow to The Brain

Breathe in. Breathe out. With every lungful of air, you supply the cells of your body with vital oxygen, allowing every system to carry out its work in perfect harmony. Oxygen is biological currency — without it, our cells would be unable to unleash the energy stored in the food that we eat.

Poor blood circulation causes your cells a myriad of problems, and your brain cells are not immune to this. Optimal brain health depends greatly upon a constant, abundant supply of incoming oxygen and blood flow.  

Exercise is one factor that increases blood flow in the brain, but choosing the right foods is another important factor. 

Is your diet in need of a tune-up? We’re revealing some of our favorite foods to improve circulation in the brain listed below. 

Foods That Increase Blood Flow To The Brain: Everything You Need to Know

Whether you’re already active and healthy or are hoping to make a positive change this New Year, there are plenty of ways that you can improve your cardiovascular health for the sake of your brain. One of these ways is through your diet. 

The right daily menu might be able to help you prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, and stave off other forms of heart disease and damage to support a healthier brain.

Here are our favorite foods for healthy blood flow and for your brain health:

  1. Beet Juice
  2. Capsaicin-Producing Peppers
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Alliums Like Onion and Garlic
  5. Salmon, and Other Fish Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  6. Turmeric (With a Pinch of Black Pepper!)
  7. Cabbage, and Other Vegetables High in Nitric Oxide
  8. Berries and Pomegranates 
  9. Ginger
  10. Dark Chocolate

Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a step back. What causes reduced blood flow in the brain in the first place? More importantly: why should you care?

What Causes Poor Blood Flow?

Cerebral vascular insufficiency puts you at risk of stroke and other forms of neurological damage[1]

When our brains are deprived of oxygen, we experience vertigo-like symptoms such as headache, double vision, memory loss, and difficulty thinking clearly. Maintaining blood flow in your brain keeps you sharp, alert, and operating at peak capacity.

There are many conditions and lifestyle choices[2] that may result in poor circulation to the brain:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol levels and coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease
  • Damaged blood vessel walls
  • Dysfunction of the endothelial cells, the inner lining of the blood vessels that facilitates the exchange of oxygen[3] between the blood cells and the tissues that it carries oxygen to
  • Inflammation of the heart and blood vessels
  • Blood clots
  • Some spinal conditions

Some of these factors are completely in your control, while others are not. In either case, here’s what you should be eating to boost blood flow to the most important part of your body – the brain.

The Best Foods to Boost Blood Flow to the Brain

You don’t necessarily need to subscribe to an all-raw superfood diet in order to improve blood flow and boost your brain health… In fact, you might find that several of the food items on this list are already familiar favorites.

Beet Juice

Studies find that nitrates derived from vegetables[4] may be able to improve cognitive ability. This improvement has been shown to come directly as a result of improved blood flow and endothelial function. We explained the importance of these cells previously.

In one study, researchers asked trial participants to drink beet juice before performing a series of mental tasks. This simple trick was enough to boost performance significantly against the study’s control group.

Capsaicin-Producing Peppers

Capsaicin-rich peppers include paprika peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and the infamous ghost pepper. If you love spicy food, you might be pleased to hear that your favorite hot sauce might be improving your brain’s blood flow.

Capsaicin was shown to reduce the risk of stroke and support better blood flow in the brain in this poignant animal study[5]. Even a topical application of this compound stimulates blood flow[6] in the treated area.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been proven effective[7] for lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients. There is also a clear link[8] between poor blood circulation in the brain and high blood pressure.

A sprinkle or two of cinnamon on your morning oatmeal may result in reduced blood pressure and better brain blood circulation. You’ll be focused and on-point throughout the morning, at least until lunchtime rolls around. No complaints here.

Alliums Like Onion and Garlic

One study[9] conducted on cattle demonstrated that a regular garlic supplement was able to significantly increase the resting blood circulation and the plasma levels of the calves tested. 

While the underlying secret behind the allium’s ability to improve circulation is still disputed, they still appear to work[10].  Not only are they delicious, but your brain will thank you for eating them.

Salmon, and Other Fish Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids are already known as one of the most important compounds when it comes to brain health and cognitive function. There are many reasons for this; one important reason is an apparent vasodilation effect[11] on blood vessel health, the endothelial cells mentioned previously.

Other foods and fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, sardines, herring, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax. No matter how you prefer to get your fix, incorporating this versatile healthy fat into your diet is beyond easy.

Turmeric (With a Pinch of Black Pepper!)

Turmeric may be the key to unlocking the potential of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with cognitive performance and memory. Its active compound, curcumin, has been shown to ease endothelial dysfunction and increase brain oxygenation in both male and female trial participants[12].

Turmeric consumption in any form should always come alongside a few cracks of black pepper. The combination of turmeric and black pepper took together makes the curcumin much more bioavailable to your body. This essentially means it is absorbed better and therefore maximizes the cognitive benefits that you stand to gain.

Cabbage, and Other Vegetables High in Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide, a compound that keeps your blood vessels clear and free-flowing, is yet another powerful chemical agent[13] for lowering blood pressure. Vegetables high in nitric oxide include cabbage, spinach, and other dark leafy greens. Eat more of these vegetables as another great way to improve circulation at the dinner table.

Berries and Pomegranates 

Berries and pomegranates (including pomegranate juice) are both high in antioxidants. Much like nitric oxide, antioxidants restore balance to the neurovascular system[14], improving blood circulation and increasing the oxygen saturation, how much oxygen the membrane is receiving, of the surrounding tissue.

Deeply-pigmented berries and fruits like pomegranates are all abundant sources of antioxidants. A mixed berry smoothie is a perfect snack to choose whenever you feel yourself fading in the afternoon.

Ginger

This homeopathic powerhouse has been used for thousands of years in the far east as a natural anti-inflammatory cure-all. It might even be able to help reverse some of the long-term consequences[15] of dementia.

Ginger’s potency[16] when it comes to blood flow can be attributed mainly to the diverse roster of healthy plant compounds, called polyphenols, that it contains. These polyphenols are anti-viral, detoxifying, and extremely effective[17] against free radicals, harmful chemicals in the environment that may be reducing blood flow to your neurons.

Dark Chocolate

Finally, the moment that we’ve all been waiting for. Yes, it’s true: the flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to help blood flow more freely in the brain[18]

If you’ve been waiting for a reason to include more chocolate in your daily routine, this is it. A square or two of dark chocolate when you’re feeling down is the perfect pick-me-up for instant focus. Stick to this portion size to prevent blowing your calorie budget.

Food for Thought: Better Blood Flow and Improved Mental Clarity

A brain-healthy diet is your first line of defense against neurodegenerative disease later on in life. Your future self will certainly thank you for making good food choices, and your current self will be feeling the immediate difference, too.

Anything that keeps us in our seats and focused on our work is surely a welcome addition to our lives. Improving your brain’s blood flow is the ticket you’ve been waiting for better mental clarity and to prevent mid-morning crashes.References


+ 18 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Medically reviewed by:

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

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