Foods That Lower Blood Pressure – Diets that are either plant-based or that include a large number of fruits and vegetables daily are excellent for combating high blood pressure, or hypertension. This connection is so well known that one of the official recommendations for reducing or preventing hypertension from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is to eat a healthy, plant-focused diet.
In fact, there is a specific diet that was created to combat hypertension called the DASH diet, or “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The DASH diet is centered on low-fat foods, vegetables, and fruit, and it’s meant to provide a low-cholesterol diet that still lets you have dairy and other food groups. The following eight foods are examples of what you’ll find on the DASH diet.
Fish from cold-water areas, such as wild salmon, sardines, cod, halibut, herring, mackerel, tuna, and trout, have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids, or fats, have several beneficial health effects on humans, ranging from reducing hypertension, reducing your risk of strokes and heart attacks, and improving risk factors for cardiac disease including arterial plaque and heart rate. The human body doesn’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, so fish are one of the easiest ways for humans to add these fats into our diets.
There is one important caveat regarding these fish: many are known to be at risk of mercury contamination. Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say that two 6-ounce servings each week is a safe amount to eat, even if you’re a pregnant woman. Do be aware that if you have any blood disorders, such as easy bruising, or if you are currently taking any blood-thinning medications, you should discuss your cold-water fish intake with your doctor first.
Fiber-rich legumes play an important role in the DASH diet and in your health. Black beans are little fiber and protein powerhouses that don’t add a lot of calories to your diet, so if you are also trying to lose weight, these beans are an excellent dietary addition. Black beans can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
But it’s not only the fiber and low-fat protein that affect your blood pressure; these beans are also high in folate, or folic acid, a B vitamin that improves the health of your blood vessels. You can get about 256 micrograms of folate, or slightly over one half of the daily-recommended allowance of 400 micrograms, from one cup of cooked black beans. If you reach 800 micrograms of folate per day, you could see beneficial effects on your blood pressure as proved by several studies.
Low-fat dairy products offer a great compromise between reducing calories and still getting necessary fats in your diet. Fat is caloric, and reducing your dairy intake from whole-fat to low-fat reduces the number of calories you ingest, which helps you if you want to lose weight. But the fat in dairy is actually beneficial — it makes the calcium in the milk more bioavailable, or easier to absorb. Plus, a Dutch study noted that for adults who are 55 years old or older, low-fat dairy products might also help prevent the onset of hypertension.
Here’s your perfect breakfast food. Whole-grain oats contain fiber and magnesium, both of which help your blood pressure and help rein in atherosclerosis. Oats are so beneficial that, in a 12-week study of oat-based and refined-grain-based cereals, 73 percent of the group that ate the oat cereals were actually able to either stop taking or substantially reduce their high blood pressure medications.
Three fourths of a cup of oats per day, at least six days a week, should be your minimum intake. If breakfast isn’t your thing, add oat bran to salads or add oatmeal to soups as a thickener. You can also use oats as an ingredient stretcher for recipes like meatloaf.
Your old childhood snack of celery sticks and peanut butter should make reappearance in your adult diet if you want to help prevent or reduce hypertension. Celery has phthalides, phytochemicals that reduce blood pressure by relaxing arterial walls. Adding the peanut butter (or another nut butter) adds some protein and healthy fats to the snack.
Berries are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, not to mention antioxidants, and all of these components help to control blood pressure. Vitamin C and potassium are two of the more important vitamins and minerals you’ll find in berries. Whether you like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, aim for a cup each day. Raspberries will have the most fiber, strawberries will provide a healthy dose of vitamin C, and blueberries win the antioxidant contest.
Broccoli has long been known as a superfood. Fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and calcium all live in this common vegetable, and all of these help reduce or prevent hypertension in some way. Sometimes the main mechanism isn’t known; for example, how vitamin C reduces blood pressure is not completely known, but the effect on blood pressure is clear. Try to eat a cup of broccoli per day, either raw in salads or with a sauce like salsa, or steam the broccoli for a less crunchy side dish. You can also juice broccoli and add it to your daily green juice or smoothie.
Dandelion leaves offer a peppery bite when used raw in salads, and you can stir-fry them with garlic, too. Dandelion is an old remedy that is supposed to be beneficial for your liver, the organ responsible for clearing toxins out of your body. It’s a natural diuretic that helps reduce sodium levels in your body.
One warning: Do not pick random dandelion leaves out of your lawn or out of fields. Chances are that those leaves are contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides. Pick up a bunch of dandelion leaves at the grocery store — they’re fairly cheap — or set up a dedicated spot in your garden to growing your own, untouched by pesticides.
Remember there are many other foods that lower blood pressure.