Raw Food & the Circulatory System
The Circulatory System
So what exactly is the circulatory system in our bodies and what does it do? Well, like most major body systems, it keeps you alive and flowing! Also known as the cardiovascular system or the vascular system, it is an organ based system that permits blood to circulate and transport nutrients (such as amino acids and electrolytes), oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones, and blood cells to and from the cells in the body to provide nourishment and help in fighting diseases, stabilize temperature and pH levels.
Based on this beautiful system we have in our bodies, you can imagine what we are going to tell you about the importance of a good diet and how it can save your life. So read on!
How It Works:
The circulatory system is comprised of the Cardiovascular System, which distributes blood, and the lymphatic system, which circulates “lymph.” The passage of lymph takes much longer than that of blood to circulate, so when the lymphatic system is working well, it creates all kinds of health problems in our bodies.
What is Blood Made Of?
That may seem obvious, but many people really have no idea what it is or how it keeps us alive! Blood is a fluid consisting of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets that are circulated by the heart through the vertebrate vascular system. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients TO and waste materials AWAY FROM all body tissues.
Lymph is essentially recycled excess blood plasma, after it has been filtered from the interstitial fluid (between cells) and returned to the lymphatic system. The term “cardiovascular” is Latin for “heart” and “vessel.” This system comprises the blood, heart, and blood vessels working together. The lymph (plasma), lymph nodes, and lymph vessels form the lymphatic system, which returns filtered blood plasma from the interstitial fluid (between cells) as lymph.
Did You Know?
An average adult contains five to six quarts of blood in their bodies, accounting for approximately 7% of their total body weight! Also, our cardiovascular system is known as a “closed network,” meaning that the blood never leaves the network of blood vessels, so a proper diet is key for good health.
Systems Affected by The Cardiovascular System:
The systems directly affected are the heart, brain, kidneys and even the lungs. When you study the intricacies of this beautiful system, you can appreciate how easy it is for something to go wrong, especially if we aren’t taking care of our bodies. Every single one of these body parts and systems keep you alive and pumping. When you ignore your body’s need for proper nutrition and care, you strain the entire system and even the entire body! Without a brain to think, a heart to pump, kidneys to filter, or lungs to breathe, you are a goner! You were given this one beautiful body to live in. Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to take care of it?
How Do The Lungs Fit Into the Equation:
The circulatory system of the lungs is the portion of the cardiovascular system where oxygen-depleted blood is pumped AWAY from the heart, via the Pulmonary Artery, TO the lungs and returned, oxygenated, TO the heart via the Pulmonary Vein.
Oxygen deprived blood enters the right “atrium” of the heart and flows through the “tricuspid” valve into the right ventricle, where it’s then pumped through the Pulmonary Semilunar valve into the Pulmonary artery to the lungs. Gas exchange occurs in the lungs, whereby CO2 is released from the blood, and oxygen is absorbed. The pulmonary vein returns the now oxygen-rich blood to the left atrium.
A separate system known as the bronchial circulation supplies blood to the tissue of the larger airways of the lung.
Top Circulatory System Foods
This particular food item is a really unique healer. Did you know? Research has shown that antioxidants in raisins fight the growth of a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease. People with gum disease—which affects up to 50 percent of American adults—are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems. So, dealing with one can help people avoid the other. Last summer, a major heart journal and a major periodontal journal simultaneously published a consensus paper that outlines the link between the two diseases: inflammation. As a result, choosing certain foods, such as raisins, may help you protect both your gums and your heart.
Whole Grains / Fiber:
People who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t. This is probably because whole grains contain antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols that are protective against coronary disease.
The fiber in whole grains also has its benefits: various studies link a high-fiber diet with a lower risk of heart disease. In a Harvard study of female health professionals, people who ate a high-fiber diet had a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate a low-fiber diet. Aim to include plenty of foods that are rich in soluble fiber, which, studies show, can help lower “bad” LDL. Soluble fiber binds bile acid, a key component in fat digestion that our bodies make from cholesterol. We can’t digest fiber, so when bile acids are bound to it, they get ushered out of the body as waste. This causes the body to convert more cholesterol into bile acids, which ultimately has the effect of lowering circulating cholesterol levels. Foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, barley, beans, okra and eggplant, and citrus fruit, such as oranges.
Eating beans regularly is good for your heart, and you don’t need to eat a lot of them to benefit. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests having just 1/2 cup of cooked pinto beans daily might lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber is a key reason why, says Philip Ades, M.D., author of the EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (The Countryman Press, 2008). “Like all foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber, beans help bind cholesterol and keep it from being absorbed in the gut,” he explains. And, as the fiber is fermented, it produces changes in short-chain fatty acids that can inhibit cholesterol formation. (By-products of this same fermentation process are what cause the gas so often associated with eating beans.) Other components in beans also may be responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect. Beans contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including flavonoids, compounds also found in wine, berries and chocolate, that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, which can help lower risk for heart attack and strokes.
Nuts are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. Research suggests that people who eat nuts—walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts (which actually are legumes)—two to four days or more per week have a lower incidence of heart disease than people who eat them less often.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E which is shown to help keep blood clots from forming. They are great at helping improve circulation. Likewise so are foods such as olives, nuts and pumpkin seeds,
An excellent source of vitamin C, plus vitamin A, potassium and fiber, tomatoes are high in lycopene, which works with other vitamins and minerals to aid in disease prevention. Research suggests that the combination of nutrients in tomatoes may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Cooking may actually increase the health benefits of this lush fruit because although cooked tomatoes have less vitamin C, their lycopene is more available and antioxidant activity is undiminished by cooking.
Garlic has many uses and one of them is it cleanses the blood and helps prevent plaque build-up. Other foods in the bulb group such as radishes, onions and leeks are also good at stimulating blood flow.
Cayenne is available as a fresh pepper or dried spice and has been associated with increasing metabolic rate and strengthening arteries and blood vessels. Cayenne pepper is best eaten raw in salads or juiced.
Apples were associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has been tracking 34,000-plus women for nearly 20 years. Finnish researchers studying dietary data collected over 28 years from 9,208 men and women found that frequent apple eaters had the lowest risk of suffering strokes compared with nonapple eaters. What explains the hearty benefits? Researchers suggest that the strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds found in apples—quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol and other polysyllabic wonders—play a key role by preventing “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and triggering a series of events that result in the buildup of plaque in arteries, as well as inhibiting inflammation. Apples are also rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol, and they provide a decent amount of vitamin C, another antioxidant.
Oranges and other citrus fruits high vitamin C are natural blood thinners and are said to strengthen capillary walls and prevent plaque build-up which leads to poor circulation.
Eating just under a cup of mixed berries daily for eight weeks was associated with increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure, two positives when it comes to heart health, according to a study of 72 middle-age people published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Included in the mix were strawberries, red raspberries and bilberries—similar to blueberries—as well as other berries more common in Finland (where the research was conducted): black currants, lingonberries and chokeberries. The diverse range of polyphenols—a broad class of health-promoting plant compounds that includes anthocyanins and ellagic acid—provided by the mix of berries is likely responsible for the observed benefits. Polyphenols may increase levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that produces a number of heart-healthy effects. One is helping to relax blood vessels, which subsequently results in lowered blood pressure. Goji berries are fantastic for vibrant health and can be found in natural health stores and look similar to raisins. They are high in fiber to help boost the immune system as well as increasing blood circulation.
Watermelons are rich in lycopene which is a natural antioxidant linked to improving circulation. Lycopene is a natural pigment which gives certain foods their reddish colour. Cooked tomatoes, pink grapefruit and apricots also contain lycopene.
Studies have shown that the fruit may help to reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries and lower blood pressure. Experts believe that pomegranate’s benefits come from its powerful punch of polyphenols—including anthocyanins (found in blue, purple and deep-red foods) and tannins (also found in wine and tea). In a 2008 study, researchers found that compared with other antioxidant-rich beverages including blueberry juice, cranberry juice and red wine, “pomegranate [juice] naturally has the highest antioxidant capacity,” reports David Heber, M.D. Ph.D., study collaborator and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
One banana nearly 500 mg of potassium, about 12 percent of your recommended daily dose. The potassium in bananas helps maintain normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in the body. Potassium helps the kidneys excrete excess sodium, thereby contributing to healthy blood pressure. This mineral is especially important for people taking diuretics for heart disease, which combat sodium and water retention but also strip potassium from the body in the process. Other good sources include sweet potatoes (694 mg for one medium), nonfat yogurt (579 mg for 1 cup) and spinach (419 mg for 1/2 cup, cooked).
Some of the strongest evidence of tea’s health benefits comes from studies of heart disease. Scientists have found that those who drink 12 ounces or more of tea a day are about half as likely to have a heart attack as nontea drinkers.
Scientists also reported in 2009 that Japanese men who drank a daily cup of green tea significantly lowered their risk of developing gum disease—the more tea, the lower the risk. The researchers believe antioxidants called catechins in green tea are the key. Catechins hamper the body’s inflammatory response to the bacteria that cause gum disease. People with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems.
Ginger is so great for the body on a number of levels. It’s therapeutic properties are known for helping many things, including nausea and digestion problems, increasing blood circulation, and enhancing lung health. Ginger can be eaten raw or added to foods. One of the greatest things you can consume is ginger tea! Add some honey and your favorite citrus for health and flavor.
Avocados get such a bad rap for being fattening or bad for you. Nothing could be further from the truth! Avocados contain heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which research has shown to support the cardiovascular system and increase blood circulation. Additionally these are healthy fats that burn off much easier and more efficiently than saturated fats. Eaten in moderation, avocados are a fantastic food source. Add them to salads, side dishes or eat one as a meal with seasonings. They are very good for you. Avocados are also a great rejuvenator for the body and skin. You can even add avocados to homemade desserts as a non-dairy solution!
Researchers have discovered that eating moderate amounts of flavanol-rich dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, which can benefit cardiovascular health, and it may also boost the immune system by reducing inflammation. Many people around the globe drink beverages with generous proportions of cocoa, which can be very high in flavanol and help preserve healthy function of blood vessels. Maintaining youthful blood vessels lowers risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. Cocoa contains flavonoids which is naturally found in plants and fruits and has been well linked to improving blood circulation. A study published in the Circulation Journal showed that dark chocolate rich in natural flavonoids improved blood circulation when compared with white chocolate with no flavonoids.
Some research also suggests cocoa may help lower blood pressure. It appears that a compound in cocoa, called Epicatechin, boosts nitric oxide, a substance that has been shown to be crucial to healthy blood vessels. Plentiful levels of nitric oxide help keep blood pressure from climbing.
Keep in mind, we are NOT talking about buying cheap chocolate bars for good health from your local market! This means the real product – rich dark chocolate, usually has a slight bitter tone to the flavor. Be sure to choose dark chocolate, ideally one that’s 70 percent cocoa solids. Note that milk chocolate lacks significant levels of epicatechin (sorry to tell you!) so it’s the true dark chocolate you’re after.
One of the world’s oldest surviving tree species, Ginkgo biloba dilates blood vessels and in doing so increases blood flow. It is also thought to increase blood flow to the brain.
For vegetarians, research shows that much like raisins, yogurt may protect against gum disease. Left unchecked, gum disease may elevate a person’s risk for heart disease. Probiotics are live active cultures used to ferment foods, such as yogurt and kefir (fermented milk), and studies suggest that they may improve digestion and boost immunity too. Remember, yogurt is not a vegan product. It contains milk, so some vegans and those who are lactose intolerant may not wish to eat it.
Salmon / Various Fish:
For those who are not vegan or vegetarian, you may consider fish as a healthy solution. Consuming two or more servings of fish per week is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease over the long term, studies show. Fish—especially “oily” kinds, such as salmon and tuna—contain omega-3 fats, which lower levels of triglycerides in the blood that may contribute to blood clotting. Omega-3s also lower blood pressure slightly and can help prevent irregular heart rhythms. No common fish delivers more of the omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. Flaxseed oil, canola oil and walnuts also contain omega-3 fats.
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