Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the pressure of blood in the arteries is consistently elevated. A slew of new studies on foods and hypertension suggest it may be easier than you thought to reduce high blood pressure. Skip the pharmaceuticals and eat more of these foods for an easy (and delicious) way to help lower your blood pressure numbers. Plant-based diets and diets high in fruits and vegetables are strongly associated with lower blood pressure, so much so that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially recommends adopting healthy eating practices as one of the primary actions to take to prevent or lower high blood pressure and hypertension. Prevention is the best cure! DASH, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” is the eating plan recommended by the NIH (National Institute of Health).
For adults under 65, it’s that first number in your blood pressure reading that may be the best indicator of future heart problems or even premature death. A normal reading is around 120/80. If that first number is 140 or higher, you have reason for concern. For those 65 and older, however, it’s a trickier situation. Readings may vary more and doctors need to be careful in prescribing blood pressure medication for older patients.
The risk of developing hypertension naturally increases for everyone as they age, so use prevention as your cure by exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive salt, alcohol and tobacco. Using food as your medicine is one safe, effective way to decrease blood pressure for all age groups as they work naturally to dilate blood vessels so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
Give your heart a break by eating these 15 healthy and medicinal foods.
2. Whole Grain Cereal
9. Black Beans
11. Ground Flax Seeds
14. Pumpkin Seeds
15. Cashew Nuts
Calorie for calorie, berries are among the most nutritional foods on the planet when it comes to fiber and antioxidant capacity. All berries are great for you, but blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries top the list for their ability to help lower blood pressure, thanks to high doses of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other plant compounds called anthocyanins that protect against hypertension.
2. Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal
Whole-grain, high-fiber cereals like oatmeal, oat squares, bran flakes or shredded wheat, can reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure. The fiber and magnesium found in oats both have beneficial effects on blood pressure. In addition, oats slow atherosclerosis, the plaque buildup that occurs in blood vessels. Plus, the more servings of cereal you eat a week, the greater the benefits. Loose oats also make an excellent thickener for soups and stews.
A baked potato is high in potassium and magnesium, two important minerals that can help fight high blood pressure. Research shows that if Americans boosted their potassium intake, adult cases of high blood pressure could fall by more than 10 percent. As for magnesium, many older Americans fail to get enough in their diet, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some other foods high in both these minerals are spinach, bananas, soybeans, and kidney beans. Magnesium also helps lower stress and improve overall immunity.
Drinking a glass of beet juice can lower blood pressure within just a few hours. The nitrate in the juice has the same effect as taking a nitrate tablet, the researchers found. Beet juice can be found at some health food stores and specialty groceries such as Whole Foods. Other nitrate-rich foods include spinach, lettuce, cabbage and carrots.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Eating a one-ounce square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure, especially in people who already have hypertension, according to Harvard researchers who analyzed 24 chocolate studies. Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, natural compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels. Look for chocolates that say they contain 50 to 70 percent cacao, or make your own superfood chocolate at home.
Celery contains phytochemicals known as phthalides, which relax the muscle tissue in the artery walls, enabling increased blood flow and, in turn, lowering blood pressure.
Broccoli is a potent package of fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, all nutrients that help lower blood pressure. One cup of steamed broccoli provides more than 200 percent of the vitamin C you need each day. Broccoli also contains chromium, which helps regulate insulin and blood sugar. These nutrients, found naturally in most plants, help boost immunity and fight off diseases. Other vegetables with similar compounds include carrots and leafy greens like kale and spinach.
For more than a century, dandelion has been used as a cure-all for countless conditions and ailments in cultures around the world, particularly in its native Asia and Europe. The entire plant is edible, from leaves to roots. And in addition to lowering blood pressure, it’s good for the liver, eyes, and skin.
A natural diuretic, dandelion helps reduce blood pressure by releasing excess sodium without the loss of potassium (as occurs with some over-the-counter diuretics). This is doubly important because excess sodium raises blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, while potassium helps regulate it. Dandelion is also loaded with magnesium, which dissolves blood clots and stimulates the production of nitric oxide, helping to relax and dilate blood vessels for better blood flow.
Legumes boast a high fiber-to-protein ratio that you won’t find in any other type of food. This combination works wonders for regulating blood sugar and lowering blood cholesterol levels, both of which are related to maintaining normal blood pressure. Black beans are a nutrient-dense source of fiber and magnesium, which are essential for healthy blood pressure levels. What puts them at a distinct advantage over other foods, though, is the folate you’ll find in these legumes. Folate, also known as folic acid in its synthetic form, is a B-complex vitamin that appears to lower blood pressure (especially systolic blood pressure) by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow. Another excellent source of folate is spinach.
Garlic is a good food to help fight hypertension because it acts as a blood thinner. When chopped, it also produces allicin, a compound that has antibacterial and antifungal properties. This can help fight many diseases that may result from hypertension, such as stroke and heart disease. Garlic also helps lower cholesterol.
11. Ground Flax Seeds
Flax Seeds help lower cholesterol and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and infections.
Not only are they delicious, bananas also help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. Eating bananas is suggested because they have the highest rate of potassium to sodium.
Apricots are a power food when it comes to fighting hypertension , especially when they’ re dried. They contain a soluble fiber that helps promote digestion and fights bloating and constipation.
14. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can help reverse hypertension because they contain a high zinc value. Inadequate zinc can make your arteries lose elasticity, resulting in inflammation. For best results soak and then sprout your raw seeds (also known as pepitas). You can then add tamari or sea salt and dehydrate them for a delicious heart healthy snack.
15. Cashew Nuts
Nuts are a great source of nutrients like iron, potassium and fiber. Cashew nuts, specifically, contain magnesium and copper — two essential nutrients that help boost your immunity. Magnesium relaxes your nerves and muscles, while copper helps with the development of connective tissue. Walnuts are another great choice to help lower blood pressure.