The holidays and healthy eating seem to be at odds with each other. But you can still enjoy the tastes of the season while improving vein and heart health.
Holiday staples like cinnamon, walnuts, even red wine and chocolate, can work to relax veins, improve circulation, and ultimately make the season a little easier on your heart.
Cinnamon is a signature spice that may help keep your veins healthy. Research has shown it can relax blood vessels to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure.
One study found that 1,200 mg per day reduced systolic blood pressure in people with type-2 diabetes by an average of 3.5 mmHG after 12 weeks.
You won’t hit that dose if you’re sprinkling cinnamon in your oats or coffee, but even a little may boost the nutritional value of a healthy snack.
Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon to roasted walnuts can make for a very vein-healthy holiday snack. Walnuts are packed with compounds like l-arginine, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamin E, which can help stimulate nitric oxide production.
Nitric oxide allows veins to relax and dilate, so blood flows through more efficiently. There are studies to show that eating walnuts may reduce blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and limit inflammation to contribute to healthy veins.
It’s even possible that small amounts of red wine and dark chocolate can positively impact vein health. Both of these holiday foods feature polyphenols that are associated with vascular health and improved blood flow—to a point.
Although red wine may offer a slight benefit to heart and blood vessel health, it can quickly reverse course and become damaging. One study found that a single glass can improve blood vessel function, but a second counteracts any beneficial effects.
Pairing that glass with a small piece of dark chocolate, however, may be a great holiday treat to sit back and enjoy the tastes of the season. Research suggests that cocoa may improve cardiovascular health and blood flow.
To get the benefit from chocolate, it must be dark chocolate with at least 85 percent cocoa. Further, the dose needs to be relatively small—we’re talking about a 40 gram (1.5 ounces) serving size.
It’s still nice to know that you can enjoy some seasonal flavors and help your heart, veins, and circulatory system.
When you’re pressed with the decision of holiday baking or sweets, take a moment and think about these alternatives. It might be worth putting off the shortbread cookie for a glass of wine and a square of chocolate a little later.