High blood pressure or hypertension (the formal medical term) often has no symptoms and over time if untreated, can lead to severe complications and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Hypertension is defined as blood pressure consistently above 130/80.
Prevention is the key, especially when there is a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease. Simply by eating a healthier diet with less salt and regular exercise, your body will have a lower chance of developing hypertension. By consuming more foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium you can reduce your risks for hypertension and promote good health overall.
What Foods Are Good To Lower Blood Pressure?
The following foods have all been studied for their abilities to boost overall health and wellness as well as support low (healthy) blood pressure levels. Food is medicine! Consider adding or increasing the amounts of these foods in your daily/weekly diet.
Dark leafy green vegetables are great sources of nutrition. They contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium along with calcium and have very little carbohydrate, sodium, and cholesterol. Salad greens, kale, and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and broccoli, bok choy and mustard are rich in B-vitamins. Leafy greens supply folate, a B-vitamin that promotes heart health.
Varieties of greens often available in markets include collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, spinach, romaine, arugula, and kale. These are all great in salads, wraps, soups even stir-fried, steamed or sauteed into an omelet.
Beets have high nitrate content that produces heart-healthy effects. The body converts nitrate-rich beets into nitric oxide in the body. The nitric oxide then relaxes blood vessels and therefore, lowering blood pressure.
In 2013, researchers reported that drinking red beet juice led to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Participants drank 1 cup, of the juice every day for 4 weeks. Researchers noticed some positive effects within 24 hours.
In the study, those who drank 1 cup of beet juice daily had an average drop in their blood pressure of around 8/4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). For many, this change brought their blood pressure within the normal range. On average, a single blood pressure medication reduces levels by 9/5 mm Hg.
Beets can be juiced, roasted, sauteed or even baked into chips for a healthy snacking option.
Garlic is often used to enhance the flavor of savory meals, including stir-fries, soups, and omelets. Garlic is known to be a natural antibiotic and antifungal food.
A research study reported that garlic extract reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive people. Garlic has the ability to increase the body’s production of nitric oxide, this allows the smooth muscles to relax and the blood vessels to dilate, reducing hypertension.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics(beneficial bacteria). These good bacteria play an important role in maintaining your gut health. Consuming probiotics can have a modest effect on high blood pressure, according to research.
In a study, participants consumed multiple species of probiotic bacteria containing at least 100 billion colony-forming units daily for more than 8 weeks. The probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3.56 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 2.38 mm Hg.
Some fermented foods to add to the diet include natural yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, miso, and tempeh.
Fish are a great source of lean protein. Wild-caught fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. Some great selections for fish include salmon, mackerel. Trout contains vitamin D a vitamin shown to lower blood pressure.
Fish is easy to prepare a protein-rich meal, just simply season for flavor and then it can be baked, grilled or even sauteed.
Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid. Flavonoids give fruits, vegetables, and flowers a blue, purple or deep red color and have powerful antioxidant properties. Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to relax blood vessels and support healthy blood flow.
A study conducted on more than 34,000 people with hypertension who consumed blueberries and strawberries (the berries with the highest amounts of anthocyanins) showed an 8 percent reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, compared to those with a low anthocyanin intake.
Berries are great as a snack or treat after meals, or when added to smoothies and oatmeal.
Have a sweet tooth? A Harvard study on dark chocolate, the kind that contains at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa, lowered blood pressure in all participants, but most notably in those with hypertension.
Selecting high-quality dark chocolate containing 70 percent (or more) cocoa, and consuming a single square, or a piece measuring about 1 ounce, each day is the best way to enjoy this benefit.
Oats contain beta-glucan(a type of fiber), which may reduce blood cholesterol levels. Beta-glucan may also lower blood pressure, according to some research.
This study demonstrated a 7.5 mm Hg reduction in Systolic Blood Pressure and a 5.5 mm Hg reduction in Diastolic Blood Pressure. The oats group also experienced a significant reduction in both total cholesterol (9%) and low-density lipoprotein(LDL) cholesterol (14%).
Start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal (whole grain or steel-cut), or use rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs to give texture to meat or vegetarian burger patties.
Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral that plays a vital role in managing hypertension. According to the American Heart Association, potassium reduces the effects of sodium and alleviates tension in the walls of the blood vessels.
Adults should aim to consume 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily. Other potassium-rich foods include: avocado, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, halibut,
Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tuna, and beans.
If you have kidney disease be sure to speak with your doctor about potassium, as too much can be harmful.
Ceylon cinnamon (known as true cinnamon) is very expensive, so most foods in the United States and Western Europe use the cheaper Cassia cinnamon (dried Cassia bark).
When it comes to cinnamon and high blood pressure research, one study published in the Journal of International Scholars’ Conference in 2016 showed that one gram (g) of Ceylon cinnamon powder would significantly lower blood pressure for a one-week period. Participants had an average blood pressure with a systolic reading of 145 mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 99 mmHg. After the cinnamon treatment, the average blood pressure dropped to a systolic reading of 130.67 mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 85.33 mmHg.
People with liver disease should limit their consumption of cinnamon.
Pistachio nuts have the strongest effect on reducing blood pressure in adults. In a recent review and scientific analysis of 21 clinical trials, all carried out between 1958 and 2013, pistachios significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, where mixed nuts reduced only diastolic blood pressure.
A single serving (one-third cup) of almonds, like pistachios, contains healthy monounsaturated fat which contributes to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduced arterial inflammation, which ultimately helps lower the pressure inside the arteries.
Plain pistachios or raw almonds can be tossed into salads, snacked on or blended into pestos.
Pomegranates can be enjoyed whole as you consume the seeds, but some people prefer the juice. When buying pre-packaged pomegranate juice, check to ensure that there is no added sugar. When juicing a pomegranate at home be sure to incorporate small amounts of the pulp as it does contain antioxidants but too much pulp can cause bitterness.
Drinking just 1 cup of pomegranate juice daily for 28 days can lower high blood pressure in the short term. The study suggests that the polyphenols found in pomegranate seeds and pulp are responsible for lowering the blood pressure.
Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline, which helps the body to produce nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and encourages flexibility in arteries. These effects aid the flow of blood, which can lower high blood pressure.
Research shows that adults with obesity and prehypertension or mild hypertension who took watermelon extract exhibited reduced blood pressure in the ankles and brachial (upper arm) arteries.
Watermelon is great added to salads and smoothies, or enjoy it in a chilled watermelon soup.
Eating a variety of healthy, whole foods is the best way to improve your health and reduce your blood pressure. For extra added benefit you can include some activity along with a good night sleep for optimal health benefits.