In the United States, every 1 in 3 adults suffers from high blood pressure or hypertension.1 This condition is characterized by a blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher. It can increase your risk for undesirable conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness – to name just a few.2
If your blood pressure reading is 140/90 mmHG or above, you are suffering from hypertension.
Regulating your weight by staying active and eating right can go a long way in managing your hypertension. Here’s how diet can help you naturally control your blood pressure.
DASH To Lower Your Blood Pressure
The National Institutes of Health has developed an eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) designed to lower blood pressure.3
Load up on foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and natural antioxidants. Cut down on sugar and sodium.
What it essentially asks you to do is fill up on foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium and low in sodium. While sodium increases blood pressure, potassium neutralizes its effect. Magnesium and calcium both help in lowering blood pressure.
In addition to following the DASH plan, you can also reach for foods that help lower blood pressure naturally, like these:
A daily glass of beetroot juice may be all you need to keep your blood pressure in check.
If beetroots do not have a place in your diet, it is time to give them a second look. These top the list of foods that lower blood pressure quickly. A study found that blood pressure took a major plunge in healthy participants in about 3 hours after consuming 500 ml beetroot juice. The main player? Nitrate from the beetroot. Your body converts this natural chemical into nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and helps lower blood pressure.4
2. Dark Chocolate
Your body is constantly under attack from reactive free radicals that damage your cells. They also help in the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, which ultimately hinders blood flow and causes hypertension.
Dark chocolate helps produce more nitric oxide, which dilates your blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
Polyphenols (organic chemicals) found in cocoa, especially flavanols, boast powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They have been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming 100 gm flavanol-rich dark chocolate daily for just 15 days reduced hypertension.
Furthermore, it improved glucose sensitivity in people who had high blood pressure and glucose intolerance. So go ahead and indulge in some dark chocolate. It is a real treat for your heart!5
Just 2 oz pomegranate juice daily can bring down your blood pressure by 21% in a year.
This delicious fruit has wonderful medicinal properties. A study in Phytotherapy Research delved into the effects of pomegranate juice by giving people with high blood pressure a daily glass (150 ml) of pomegranate juice between lunch and dinner for 2 weeks. Pomegranate, which is rich in antioxidants and bioactive polyphenols, was found to be effective at lowering blood pressure.6
In another study, atherosclerotic patients who had high blood pressure could bring down their systolic blood pressure by 21% after a year and reduced the thickness of the carotid artery by up to 30% by drinking just 2 oz pomegranate juice daily.7
If your blood pressure is inching toward hypertension, have a bowl of oats every day to keep it in check.
If you have hypertension, a simple bowl of oats can turn things around. Research has found that soluble fiber-rich whole oats have the ability to significantly lower blood pressure. They can also reduce the level of “bad cholesterol” in your body. Talk about a power-packed breakfast that can help your heart in multiple ways.8
This juicy summer fruit is loaded with amino acids (L-citrulline) which can increase nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels and is associated with lower blood pressure.
As little as 2 g watermelon twice a day for 6 weeks can help bring down systolic blood pressure, that is the first figure in your BP reading.
A study found that when people with hypertension ate 2 g watermelon twice a day for 6 weeks, they saw a reduction in their aortic systolic blood pressure (that is, the blood pressure when your heart beats as against the pressure between beats). The experiment also observed a decrease in the stiffness in arteries, ensuring that blood can pass through with ease.9
Garlic reduces your blood pressure by inhibiting the hormone that narrows your blood vessels.
When you crush or chop garlic, an organic compound called allicin develops. This substance dilates blood vessels and inhibits angiotensin II, a hormone that causes vessels to constrict. Various studies have found that garlic can effectively reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.10So, aside from enhancing your food, this pungent bulb can take your blood pressure down a notch.
Flaxseeds are good for lowering blood pressure, probably because of their alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is a kind of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid, soluble fibers, and lignans, which are plant estrogens with antioxidant properties.
Flaxseed powder and oil can both reduce your blood pressure, with its omega-3 fat, fibers, magnesium, calcium, and helpful plant chemicals.
Moreover, just 1 tablespoonful (10.3 g) of whole seeds can meet 10% of your daily magnesium requirement and 2% each of calcium and potassium requirement.11 There’s negligible amount of sodium in these seeds, making them an ideal food for lowering blood pressure.
What form should you consume them in? Have flaxseed powder to lower your systolic blood pressure, and flaxseed oil and lignan extract to lower diastolic blood pressure. And to see best results, continue for at least 12 weeks.12
Here’s one more excuse to add these tasty berries to your fruit salads, shakes, and smoothies. The anthocyanins in them, which give them the brilliant blue color, are antioxidants responsible for good heart health.13
The anthocyanins in blueberries, which give them the color, are potent antioxidants that can reduce blood pressure and stiffness in the arteries.
Blueberries also help release more nitric oxide and thus help bring down blood pressure significantly, as in seen in a study on post-menopausal women with hypertension or pre-hypertension.14 The women were given 22g freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to 1 cup fresh blueberries) daily for 8 weeks. It was found that their systolic blood pressure came down by an average of 5.1% and diastolic blood pressure came down by 6.3% and their arteries were less stiff than at the beginning of the study.
9. Sweet Potatoes
This healthy alternative to potatoes is rich in fiber, a carbohydrate that is known to reduce high blood pressure. A study, in fact, demonstrated that individuals who consumed a high-fiber diet had a lower chance of developing high blood pressure.15
The high-fiber and carotenoid content in sweet potato can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.
Furthermore, sweet potatoes are also good sources of carotenoids, which protect the heart and reduce the risk of hypertension.16
By helping yourself to an 80g serving of boiled or baked sweet potato, you can gradually reduce high blood pressure and hypertension.
Turns out, Popeye was right all along! Spinach (and other leafy vegetables) improve heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Thanks to its high nitrate content, spinach can help manage blood pressure. Your body converts the nitrate into nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and reduces high blood pressure.17
Spinach contains nitrate, which when converted into nitric oxide by the body, reduces high blood pressure.
The potassium in spinach also balances the sodium content, in turn reducing blood pressure.
To derive its benefits, eat one cup of fresh spinach or half a cup of cooked spinach every day.
This delicious calcium-rich food is known to strengthen bones, but a lesser-known benefit of yogurt is that it maintains heart health.
Yogurt can reduce the risk of high blood pressure by 20%.
A study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology Sessions looked at the effects of yogurt on blood pressure. To understand this, the data of female participants between 25–55 years was analysed. After about 18–30 years of follow-up sessions, it was revealed that women who had consumed 5 or more servings of yogurt every week had a 20% reduced risk of high blood pressure. Interestingly, the risk was lowest in women whose diet matched that of a DASH(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.18
12. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon, sardines, and lake trouts are examples of fatty fish, which can reduce high blood pressure levels to a certain extent.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and fatty fish can show a small reduction in blood pressure.
Although it is unclear why, we do know that it has something to do with the omega-3 fatty acids. However, you’d need a large amount of fish to meet the required fatty acid content. Since 1–2 servings of fish per week is the “safe” limit, you can also obtain the required amount of n-3 fatty acids by opting for other sources like nuts.19
What To Eat
Aside from nourishing your body with fiber and protein, these foods also provide vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Opt for 4–5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Keep things interesting by focusing on a variety of colors and preparation techniques.
- Eat poultry, fish, and whole grains.
- Also eat nuts and low-fat dairy.
What Not To Eat
- Cut back on foods that are high in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
- Limit sugar intake.
- Minimize salt consumption. Aim for 1,500 mg sodium per day as recommended for hypertensive patients. This equals to less than 1 teaspoon (<6 gm) of table salt. Remember, table salt is not the only source of sodium. Everyday foods like soy sauce, baking soda, canned soup, and salad dressing are high sources of sodium. Keep tabs on your intake by carefully reading food labels.
Toning down your sodium consumption does not mean that you have to sacrifice flavor. Add onions, garlic, spices, and herbs to help your taste buds warm up to a low-sodium, heart-friendly diet.
|↑1||High Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Your Guide To Lowering Blood Pressure, National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Your Guide To Lowering Blood Pressure. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Webb, Andrew J., Nakul Patel, Stavros Loukogeorgakis, Mike Okorie, Zainab Aboud, Shivani Misra, Rahim Rashid et al. “Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite.” Hypertension 51, no. 3 (2008): 784-790.|
|↑5||Grassi, Davide, Giovambattista Desideri, Stefano Necozione, Cristina Lippi, Raffaele Casale, Giuliana Properzi, Jeffrey B. Blumberg, and Claudio Ferri. “Blood pressure is reduced and insulin sensitivity increased in glucose-intolerant, hypertensive subjects after 15 days of consuming high-polyphenol dark chocolate.” The Journal of nutrition 138, no. 9 (2008): 1671-1676.|
|↑6||Asgary, Sedigheh, Amirhossein Sahebkar, Mohammad Reza Afshani, Mahtab Keshvari, Shaghayegh Haghjooyjavanmard, and Mahmoud Rafieian‐Kopaei. “Clinical Evaluation of Blood Pressure Lowering, Endothelial Function Improving, Hypolipidemic and Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of Pomegranate Juice in Hypertensive Subjects.” Phytotherapy Research 28, no. 2 (2014): 193-199.|
|↑7||Aviram, Michael, Mira Rosenblat, Diana Gaitini, Samy Nitecki, Aaron Hoffman, Leslie Dornfeld, Nina Volkova et al. “Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation.” Clinical Nutrition 23, no. 3 (2004): 423-433.|
|↑8||Keenan, Joseph M., Joel J. Pins, Christina Frazel, Antoinette Moran, and Lisa Turnquist. “Oat ingestion reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild or borderline hypertension: a pilot trial.” The Journal of family practice 51, no. 4 (2002): 369-369.|
|↑9||Figueroa, Arturo, Marcos Angel Sanchez-Gonzalez, Florence Viicl, and Penelope Perkins-Veazie. “Watermelon supplementation reduces aortic blood pressure and wave reflection in individuals with pre-hypertension and stage 1 hypertension.” The FASEB Journal 24, no. 1 Supplement (2010): 564-4.|
|↑10||Ried, Karin, Oliver R. Frank, Nigel P. Stocks, Peter Fakler, and Thomas Sullivan. “Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC cardiovascular disorders 8, no. 1 (2008): 1.|
|↑11||Flaxseeds. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, USDA.|
|↑12||Ursoniu, Sorin, Amirhossein Sahebkar, Florina Andrica, Corina Serban, Maciej Banach, and Lipid and Blood Pressure Meta-analysis Collaboration. “Effects of flaxseed supplements on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trial.” Clinical Nutrition 35, no. 3 (2016): 615-625.|
|↑13||Wallace, Taylor C. “Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 2, no. 1 (2011): 1-7.|
|↑14||Johnson, Sarah A., Arturo Figueroa, Negin Navaei, Alexei Wong, Roy Kalfon, Lauren T. Ormsbee, Rafaela G. Feresin et al. “Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre-and stage 1-hypertension: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 115, no. 3 (2015): 369-377.|
|↑15||Wright, Angela, P. G. Burstyn, and M. J. Gibney. “Dietary fibre and blood pressure.” Br Med J 2, no. 6204 (1979): 1541-1543.|
|↑16||Hozawa, Atsushi, David R. Jacobs Jr, Michael W. Steffes, Myron D. Gross, Lyn M. Steffen, and Duk-Hee Lee. “Circulating carotenoid concentrations and incident hypertension: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.” Journal of hypertension 27, no. 2 (2009): 237.|
|↑17||Jovanovski, Elena, Laura Bosco, Kashif Khan, Fei Au-Yeung, Hoang Ho, Andreea Zurbau, Alexandra L. Jenkins, and Vladimir Vuksan. “Effect of spinach, a high dietary nitrate source, on arterial stiffness and related hemodynamic measures: a randomized, controlled trial in healthy adults.” Clinical nutrition research 4, no. 3 (2015): 160-167.|
|↑18||Yogurt may protect women from developing high blood pressure. American Heart Association.|
|↑19||Hoshi, Toshinori, Bianka Wissuwa, Yutao Tian, Nobuyoshi Tajima, Rong Xu, Michael Bauer, Stefan H. Heinemann, and Shangwei Hou. “Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure by directly activating large-conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 12 (2013): 4816-4821.|