You need a healthy set of blood vessels to keep running the complex biological machinery within your body. These blood vessels — divided into veins, arteries, and capillaries — connect all parts of your body, helping them function harmoniously. In a healthy state, arteries supply oxygenated blood to all the cells of your body cells and muscles, while veins take away deoxygenated blood to the lungs and waste products to the kidneys and liver.
Despite their importance, vein care is not something that is on everyone’s mind. They come up when they fail to function properly and lead to conditions like varicose veins.
Vein problems are common in the U.S. — affecting more than 23% of adults.1 Issues such as varicose veins cause significant pain, and if left untreated, they can escalate to other conditions.
Fortunately, some lifestyle and dietary changes can help keep your vein problems away. This article discusses the importance of healthy veins and your diet’s role in preventing spider veins and varicose veins.
Importance of Healthy Veins
Veins are responsible for transporting deoxygenated blood from the body cells back to the heart. Within their internal structure, veins have valves that prevent the blood from flowing back. Healthy veins, with functioning valves, are important in keeping your blood circulation and blood pressure optimal.
With age or because of underlying conditions, the valves in your veins may lose their ability to prevent blood from flowing back. Your veins — especially those in your legs — may lose their ability to transport blood back to your heart.
You may eventually start noticing symptoms like swelling, aching, and cramping from varicose veins — which are usually painful, and if not treated in time, could develop into conditions like ulcers.
Diet and Vein Health
When food reaches your gut, your blood vessels absorb all the nutrients and other substances into your blood and transport this blood to various organs for further processing or absorption. So, your gut health can indirectly determine your vein health.
If your daily diet has much more calories than the recommended amount, you may become overweight or obese.2 This also means that your upper body weight will be much more than your legs are designed to handle. This can exert excessive pressure on your legs, eventually weakening the valves in the veins of your leg.
Eating high-fat foods — especially those rich in low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and triglycerides — often increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can end up clogging your veins.3 This can cause the size of your veins’ width to decrease, which can increase their internal pressure and weaken their valves.
On the other hand, some nutrients such as vitamin C and E can have a positive effect on your veins — improving blood flow and reducing the risks of getting vein problems.
Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Veins
The right eating habits go a long way in preventing varicose veins and other vein problems. Bearing that in mind, here are some recommendations of foods you should include in your diet for healthy veins.
Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
When you have digestive problems, blockages in your gut lead to pressure build-up, which may, in turn, restrict blood flow to your veins.
Fiber-rich foods should become an essential part of your diet because fiber keeps your digestive system in top working condition — it helps your food move along your gut freely.4 Also, soluble fiber reduces blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Some foods that are rich in fiber include whole grains, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes, and you can increase your fiber intake by:
- Eating whole-grain products and brown rice instead of bread, white rice, and pasta
- Replacing fruit juices with whole fruits
- Snacking on raw vegetables instead of junk foods like crackers, chips, or chocolate bars
- Going for breakfast cereals with whole grain as their first ingredient
- Replacing meat with beans or legumes when making soups and chili two to three times each week
Include Colorful Bioflavonoids (Vitamin P)
Bioflavonoids are part of the pigments that give fruits and flowers their color. Their main contribution to healthy veins is their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities — they help prevent varicose veins by strengthening the connective tissue, called collagen, within the vein walls and reducing swelling.
The top sources of bioflavonoids in your diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, including:
- Citrus fruits
- Red bell or sweet pepper
- Brussels sprout
It’s recommended that you consume these vitamin-rich foods in their raw form. So, when shopping, go for fresh fruits and vegetables rather than canned or processed ones.
Avoid Foods Rich in Sodium
Sodium is osmotically active — too much of it will cause the body to retain excess fluids. When these fluids build up in your blood vessels, they increase the pressure in your veins, which eventually damages them. You should therefore look for ways to reduce your sodium consumption while increasing your water intake.
Common sources of sodium include canned foods, salad dressings, deli meats, fast foods, frozen entrees, and sauces. Look at the labels carefully and eliminate products with high sodium content from your diet.
Drink More Water
Water is also an important part of your diet, keeping your digestive system hydrated and functioning smoothly. You should drink lots of water especially if your diet is comprised of fiber. It helps in flushing out your system to prevent bloating and cramping.
Signs of Varicose Veins
Like most other conditions, the earlier you treat varicose veins, the higher the chances of success. As soon as you notice the first signs of vein-related issues, see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. These signs may include:
- Veins that appear bulging or twisted
- Blue or dark purple veins
- Swelling, burning, muscle cramping, and throbbing in lower legs
- A heavy, achy feeling in the legs that worsens after sitting or standing for a long time
- Itching around one or more veins
Healthy veins are a sign of a healthy body. While dietary recommendations may not treat conditions like varicose veins, they’ll help you stop them from occurring and make it easier to live with. By adopting the nutrition for healthy veins recommended above, you’ll go a long way in keeping your feet healthy and fully functional.
Looking for a Vein Specialist in Your Area?
If you’d like to find a specialist in your area, who can guide you further about your nutrition and vein health and diagnose any vein issues you may have, try My Vein Treatment’s specialist locator tool today!
- Circulation: “ Varicose Veins.”
- NHS: “ What should my daily intake of calories be?“
- InformedMed.org: “ What is cholesterol and how does arteriosclerosis develop?”
- The Nutrition Source: “ Fiber.”