Heart disease and related conditions that cause restriction of the blood vessels are a huge problem in the United States—one person dies of heart disease every 34 seconds. Because restricted blood vessels are such a health risk, it's a good idea to eat foods that keep your blood vessels open, all of which is easier than you might think.
Chemicals in the body control whether a blood vessel constricts or dilates. The primary chemical associated with blood vessel dilation is nitric oxide; more nitric oxide usually means dilation of blood vessels. One particular amino acid, arginine, is used in the production of nitric oxide, so eating foods rich in arginine can keep your blood vessels from becoming restricted.
Foods that contain high amounts of arginine include beans, salmon, walnuts and oats. As a bonus, many of these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and "good" fats that are known to reduce bad cholesterol, or LDL.
Flavonoids are antioxidant pigment compounds found in plants. These powerful agents prevent cell damage and help strengthen the blood vessels in the body. The stronger the vessels are, the easier it is for them to open and stay that way.
To get flavonoids, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, garlic, onion, cranberries, oranges and asparagus. Certain herbs, such as basil, contain high levels of flavonoids, as do most teas. If all those fruits and veggies leave you feeling deprived, treat yourself to a piece of dark chocolate, which is also dense in this antioxidant.
Eat warm or hot foods, which heat the blood; this warm blood then travels to the hypothalamus, the body's thermostat. The body "thinks" it is too warm, and consequently the message is sent to the blood vessels to dilate in order to get rid of the excess heat. This means that virtually any food can help open your blood vessels if it is eaten hot, provided that the chemical compounds in the food don't promote constriction so much that this thermal effect is overridden.
Foods to Avoid
If you don't want to counter the effects of your warm flavonoid- and arginine-rich foods, stay away from foods that have a high sodium content. Also avoid bananas, cheese, pork, turkey and foods that are pickled. These foods have other nutrients that are good for you, so don't completely ditch them, but be aware of their effect on your cardiovascular system.