Foods and Diet Tips for Venous Insufficiency

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If you have spider veins or varicose veins, you may wonder what you can do to improve your vein health. Although some factors may be out of your control, following a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms, prevent additional venous issues and reduce your risks of developing dangerous health conditions.

In general, our vein specialists recommend achieving or maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and moving around frequently throughout the day. They also would like for you to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet for venous insufficiency

Below, we discuss venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease. We also cover some of the best foods for vein health, along with what foods to avoid for varicose veins. Keep in mind eating a diet for venous insufficiency will not make your varicose veins or spider veins disappear.

To look into your available treatment options, consult a vein specialist.

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What Is Vein Disease?

Varicose and spider veins are signs of underlying vein disease or venous insufficiency. This condition develops when your veins are placed under strain, causing damage to tiny vein valves. When the valves malfunction, they are unable to efficiently circulate blood back to your heart. This can cause blood to pool in different regions of the body.

Most often, venous insufficiency impacts the lower extremities: the legs, ankles, and feet. For some people, the ability to stand up or comfortably move around can be affected, leading to a diminished quality of life. Others may feel self-conscious about the unsightly appearance of visible veins. Because of this, they may avoid wearing shorts or skirts.

If you have vein disease, you may experience mild, moderate, or severe pain and discomfort in your lower extremities.

Symptoms of vein disease can vary and include:

  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Difficulty standing for long periods
  • Burning in the calf or thigh
  • Non-healing wounds on your legs

Although there are things that you can do to reduce your risks for vein disease, other factors are out of your control. Risk factors for vein disease include genetics, obesity, inactivity, age, pregnancy, and having a job that requires long periods of standing or sitting.

You should also know that vein disease is usually progressive, so symptoms worsen over time. When left untreated, vein disease can place you at risk for serious health issues such as blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds).

Early intervention is best to alleviate symptoms, prevent disease progression, and improve quality of life.

How Food and Diet Can Impact Vein Health

Eating a healthy diet for venous insufficiency can potentially improve your vein health in several ways. First, it can help you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of the ratio of body fat based on a person’s height and weight. An elevated BMI can place undue strain on your veins, leading to venous insufficiency.

Healthy foods for vein health can also boost your energy, helping you to remain active. Regular exercise, along with moving around often throughout the day, can bring relief to venous symptoms like leg swelling and cramping.

Finally, eating certain foods for vein health can improve your overall blood circulation. Better blood circulation can help prevent blood from pooling and varicose veins from developing in the first place.

Foods to Eat for Varicose Veins

diet for venous insufficiency

There are many delicious foods out there that can help improve the health of your veins. Below, we discuss some of the best foods for vein health.

If you need help making dietary changes, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietician. They can help you plan a personalized diet for venous insufficiency.

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that help boost blood circulation. They also contain anti-inflammatory properties, so may reduce venous leg swelling and other symptoms. We suggest eating a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. You should also aim to vary their preparation between raw and cooked.

Some of our favorite foods for vein health include:

  • Broccoli, kale, and spinach: Leafy greens pack a nutritional punch and are high in fiber.
  • Brussels sprouts: Try roasting them with a touch of olive oil as part of your diet for varicose veins.
  • Bell peppers: These colorful items make great snacks.
  • Onions: You can eat raw in sandwiches and salads or cook them as part of healthy entrees.
  • Garlic: Sauté it in olive oil. Active compounds in garlic can lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
  • Citrus fruits: Vitamin C helps to keep the walls of veins strong and supple, which can help prevent varicose veins from forming.
  • Strawberries and other berries: These delicious, low-calorie treats make a tasty dessert.
  • Tropical fruits: Build up your antioxidant levels and benefit your veins with mangoes and papaya. Make sure to eat these in moderation if you have underlying health conditions like diabetes.
  • Apples, cherries, apricots, and figs: These foods for venous insufficiency contain bioflavonoid rutin, which helps to reinforce vascular walls. This keeps the veins from bulging and helps blood move along properly instead of pooling in the lower extremities.

If you are prone to heartburn issues, you may have concerns about some of the above fruits and vegetables, despite being some of the best foods for vein health. To avoid potential discomfort, you can:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks
  • Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime or lying down
  • Sleep with your head raised 6-8 inches
  • Wear loose, non-constrictive clothing, especially around your abdomen

FIBER-RICH FOODS

Eating foods rich in fiber aids digestion, which can benefit your vein health. Constipation places pressure on veins and leads to vein valve damage.

Fiber-rich foods can also help you manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which also impact the health of your veins. According to the CDC, you should aim for between 22 and 34 grams of fiber daily, depending on your age and sex[1].

Good sources of fiber include:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Eat up when it comes to leafy greens, avocado, apples, and sweet potatoes. Of course, many other types of fruits and vegetables also contain fiber.
  • Whole grains: These important foods for vein health include whole wheat, oatmeal, barley, and brown rice. Try air-popped popcorn if you’re looking for a crunchy, fiber-rich snack.
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Chia seeds, lentils, and walnuts are all excellent fiber sources.

Although eating fiber is beneficial to your digestive system and can aid your vein health, make sure not to eat more than the directed amount as that can cause other health issues.

FOODS RICH IN VITAMIN E

Vitamin E helps promote proper blood flow. It may also aid in preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious type of blood clot that develops in the deep venous system.

Vitamin E can be found in:

  • Nuts: Your diet for venous insufficiency should include nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and brazil nuts.
  • Seeds: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are excellent foods to eat for varicose veins.
  • Avocados: Try mashing half an avocado on whole-wheat toast for a delicious start to the day filled with potassium.
  • Olive oil: Besides being rich in Vitamin E, olive oil is a good source of healthy fat and an excellent choice of food for vein health.
  • Pumpkin: For your convenience, you can buy non-perishable cans of this fall favorite to use all year round. Plus, who doesn’t love pumpkin spice season?
  • Mangos: Enjoy a tropical experience as you reduce potentially dangerous venous insufficiency.
  • Dark leafy greens: Reach for spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, Bok choy, or collard greens to add this important nutrient to your diet for venous insufficiency.
  • Fish: Along with boosting your Vitamin E intake, you can reduce or eliminate saturated fats by eating fish like salmon and trout.

FOODS WITH OMEGA-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for stimulating blood flow. They can also help prevent blood platelets from clumping together to form clots.

Look for Omega-3 in the following foods:

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
  • Nuts and seeds: Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts
  • Plant-based oils: Canola, soybean, flaxseed
  • Fortified foods: Eggs, yogurt, juice, milk, soy beverages

FOODS CONTAINING VITAMIN B3

Vitamin B3, or niacin, helps promote healthy circulation and is another valuable nutrient to protect your veins.

Try including these foods in your diet for venous insufficiency:

  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

OTHER FOODS AND DRINKS

Along with the above foods to eat for varicose veins, you may wish to include:

  • Chocolate: Most people are happy to learn that chocolate is a good food for vein health. Just be sure to eat it in moderation and choose dark chocolate, which has less sugar.
  • Water and other fluids: Along with eating the right foods for vein health, proper hydration is essential. Drinking enough fluids helps to thin the blood and keep it moving efficiently throughout your body. Water also fends off constipation. Dehydration, on the other hand, can cause your blood to thicken and lead to potentially dangerous blood clots.

The exact amount of water your body requires is determined by your age, weight, activity level, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and other factors.

If you have trouble drinking enough water, try some of the following tips:

  • Fill a couple of 32-ounce water bottles each morning to drink throughout the day
  • Start your day with a glass of water
  • Drink water with every meal
  • Rehydrate during and after exercise
  • Try sparkling water or herbal tea for variety
  • Add fruit slices for fun, natural flavoring

Foods to Avoid for Varicose Veins

foods to avoid for healthy veins

Along with eating the best foods for vein health, it may be just as important to avoid others. A poor diet can cause additional damage to your veins and make your symptoms worse.

We recommend avoiding:

SODIUM

Although sodium is an important nutrient, ingesting too much sodium can cause vein damage and should be avoided in a healthy diet for venous insufficiency. Excess sodium often results in fluid retention and higher blood pressure, increasing pressure on veins.

For most Americans, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day[2]. This is the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt. For comparison, most Americans eat about 3,400 mg each day.

You should be aware that sodium resides in more places than just your salt shaker. It can be hidden in surprising sources. Be sure to read the nutritional labels on bread, pizza, lunch meats, soup, highly processed foods, and snack foods. This will help ensure that you are not unintentionally eating more than you should.

SUGAR

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans eat around 77 grams of sugar per day. However, these amounts do not include natural sugars found in foods like fruit. For added sugar, they recommend limiting added sugars to no more than 6 percent of calories each day[3]
. For women, this means no more than 100 calories per day, which is about 6 teaspoons of sugar. Men should limit themselves to no more than 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons.

As with many other health conditions, eating too much sugar is asking for trouble when it comes to your veins. Sugar and sugary foods contribute to weight gain, which places stress on veins. Also, eating excess sugar can raise blood sugar levels leading to diabetes, another known risk factor for vein disease.

Like sodium, it is easy to eat more sugar than you should. You’ll find it in all the obvious places like sodas, candy, and cookies. However, there are also many hidden sources. Before buying packaged products, check the labels on items like pasta sauces, salad dressings, and even flour tortillas. You may be surprised by just how much sugar you are eating in your daily diet.

If you are craving something sweet, skip items with added sugar and instead enjoy a serving of fresh fruit. After all, fresh fruit is one of our top choice foods for vein health.

UNHEALTHY FATS

Since we are often asked what foods to avoid for varicose veins, we understand that the topic of dietary fats can be confusing. While healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil, salmon, nuts, or avocado are fine, watch out for unhealthy ones. These include animal-based saturated fats like those in red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. You should also avoid trans fats or those that are partially hydrogenated.

Still not sure which fats are okay to eat? Here’s a helpful tip: most saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature, like butter, coconut oil, and shortening. Healthy ones, such as olive and canola oil, remain in liquid form.

ALCOHOL

Drinking alcohol can affect your veins by causing your heart to pump faster. Unlike an increased heart rate due to exercise, this situation does not promote better blood circulation. Instead, it places strain on your veins which can worsen venous insufficiency.

Alcohol consumption also affects liver function, which can thicken your blood or keep your liver from removing bad cholesterol from your system. It can also cause dehydration. All these factors are known to worsen vein symptoms like leg pain, swelling, and cramping. In other words, steer clear of alcohol as much as possible when following a diet for venous insufficiency.

CAFFEINE

If you love your morning cup of coffee, you may have to consider eliminating or reducing your caffeine intake for the sake of your veins. Large doses of caffeine can negatively impact your vein health. Ask your doctor about safe amounts of caffeine, along with the benefits of limiting caffeine consumption.

FRIED FOODS

Fried foods are generally prepared in large amounts of unhealthy oils, making them off-limit foods for vein health. They can contribute to weight gain and constipation and place unnecessary stress on your veins.

FAST FOOD AND PIZZA

If you’re looking for foods to eat for varicose veins prevention, fast food and pizza should not be considered. Fast food is high in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats, making it a triple whammy for your veins. It is also chock-full of calories, making it difficult to maintain a healthy BMI.

For similar reasons, pizza is another food that should be eaten in moderation for those with vein disease. If you need to order drive-thru or delivery, choose a salad topped with lean protein and skip menu items with a lot of added salt and sugar, such as fries and shakes.

CANNED GOODS, FROZEN MEALS, AND PROCESSED MEATS

Highly processed foods are often packed with sodium and sugar, making them a bad choice in your diet for venous insufficiency. Fortunately, nutrition labels make it easy to spot the worst offenders. Be sure to do your research when stocking your pantry and adhere to dietary guidelines on these potentially harmful substances.

If you must eat these types of foods, we suggest looking for low sodium and low sugar varieties. Better choices include vegetable products in place of carbohydrates, such as those with cauliflower pizza crusts or zucchini noodles.

RESTAURANT FOODS

Like fast food establishments, many restaurants are overly generous with sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. In addition, restaurant portions tend to be larger than the recommended portion size. If you decide to eat out, choose these foods to eat for varicose veins: grilled menu items with lots of veggies. Then, pass on alcoholic drinks and decadent desserts.

FOODS THAT CAUSE CONSTIPATION

If you struggle with digestive issues, you may want to avoid certain foods like dairy products and red meat. These items are known to worsen constipation, which can lead to malfunctioning veins.

Other Ways to Improve Your Vein Health

Eating the right food for healthy veins is important, but there are additional things you can do to improve your vein health. If you are at risk for vein disease, we recommend that you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
  • Manage other health conditions
  • Ask your doctor about wearing compression socks
  • Quit smoking
  • Consider available vein treatment options

Even people who generally follow a healthy lifestyle can develop venous insufficiency. Eating from our list of best foods for vein health, along with following our advice on what foods to avoid for varicose veins, can help reduce your risk of varicose veins and other venous issues.

Minimally Invasive Vein Treatment

While a healthy diet for venous insufficiency can improve your vein health, it is also important to understand that changing your diet alone may not be enough to avoid problems. If you have varicose veins or spider veins, our vein specialists are available to help. Minimally invasive, office-based vein treatment can help alleviate painful venous symptoms and prevent the progression of vein disease. It can also reduce your risk of developing several serious health conditions.

Our vein specialists offer a range of nonsurgical treatments performed in state-of-the-art IAC Accredited clinics. Your vein specialist will work with you to address your symptoms and develop a personalized treatment plan. All of our treatments are outpatient procedures, allowing you to return to your daily routine quickly.

Our vein treatments include:

  • Endovenous Laser Therapy (EVLT)
  • ClariVein®
  • Varithena Foam Treatment
  • Sclerotherapy

No matter which treatment is recommended, they all have a similar goal: to close off diseased veins and divert blood flow to healthy, surrounding ones instead.

Schedule a Consultation at USA Vein Clinics

At USA Vein Clinics, we want to help you improve your vein health. We can recommend a diet for venous insufficiency, suggest other beneficial lifestyle improvements, and provide minimally invasive vein treatment for varicose veins, spider veins, and other venous issues.

If you have any questions related to your vein health, our experts are happy to meet with you and answer them. You can schedule an initial consultation online or call us at 888.768.3467. For your safety and convenience, we also offer telemedicine appointments.

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[1] “Fiber: The CARB That Helps You Manage Diabetes,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 20, 2022), https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/role-of-fiber.html.

[2] “Why Should I Limit Sodium? – American Heart Association,” accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/health-topics/answers-by-heart/why-should-i-limit-sodium.pdf?la=en.

[3] “Added Sugars,” www.heart.org, July 22, 2022, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars.

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