For many people with hypertension or high blood pressure, proper diet and exercise can control the condition and limit symptoms. Following a healthy eating plan including nutrients that specifically improve heart health and blood flow can reduce the need for medication and lower the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Fresh beets and beet juice are an excellent option for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. The nitrates in beets can help relax and widen blood vessels, which enables blood to flow through more easily, thus lowering blood pressure. Increasing one's intake of beets might cause feces and urine to turn pink temporarily, but this is harmless.
Eating two bananas each day can help to reduce blood pressure by up to ten percent, due to the high levels of potassium in this tropical fruit. Bananas are typically inexpensive and easy to find, so they make a great convenience food for people with a busy schedule. Two bananas make up about a quarter of the recommended daily amount of potassium, which is proven to relax blood vessel walls.
Salmon is a useful addition to the diet for those with high blood pressure, and it can reduce the risk of heart disease. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids or fish oils. Consuming these can help reduce blood pressure by reducing damage to the cells in the blood vessel walls. How salmon is prepared can impact its benefits, however; it is best to avoid frying or breading the fish. Instead, grill, bake, or broil the salmon and use a healthy, low-sodium seasoning like lemon or garlic.
Sweet potatoes contain lots of potassium and magnesium, which help control blood pressure. They are also easy to dress up without heart-threatening toppings like salt or sour cream. Instead, bake sweet potatoes and top them with healthy ingredients like spinach and feta or shredded grilled chicken and rice. Sweet potatoes have many other nutritious properties as well: they're high in fiber and low in sodium and fat.
Instead of eating red meat or fried chicken, people with high blood pressure should often substitute baked chicken breast. Avoid cooking at high heat, as this may increase an inflammatory response. Also, refrain from using high-fat butter, oil, salt, or breading during the cooking process. Stay away from dark meat cuts like legs and thighs, as they are higher in fat. Serve marinated and baked chicken breast with nutritious sides like fresh green beans or spinach salad for a heart-healthy meal.
Nearly all beans are good for the heart and can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. White beans provide some of the most potent benefits, but other popular varieties include black, navy, lima, kidney, and pinto beans. High potassium levels, which help relax the muscles in the walls of blood vessels, give this food their heart-healthy superpowers. Beans are also loaded with fiber and magnesium, two more nutrients that can keep heart disease at bay.
Garlic naturally reduces blood pressure. It contains allicin, the properties of which relax and dilate the blood vessels. In addition to its heart benefits, garlic is a great alternative to salt-based seasonings. Sodium is one of the most significant causes of high blood pressure, so whenever possible, use healthier options like garlic to add flavor to meals.
Quinoa is considered a superfood, and for good reason. This grain, which makes a great salad base or side dish, contains potassium and magnesium. It also has plenty of other benefits, like aiding in weight loss and helping control diabetes, thanks to its high fiber content, low sodium, and low fat.
When planning a diet around hypertension, kale can be a great addition. This dark, leafy green contains high levels of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C, all of which are beneficial for the heart. Kale is good in salads, but it can also be added to smoothies, soups, and plenty of other dishes. Iron and vitamin K are just two of the other beneficial components of kale. People on blood thinners should take care, though, as too much vitamin K can interfere.
Nutritionists recommend eating seafood at least twice a week to maintain a healthy diet. Tuna is a great option, since it contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Like salmon, tuna is also a source of protein and iron. Ideally, opt for tuna filets, rather than canned tuna, as the latter is often full of sodium, which is not appropriate for people with high blood pressure.
Research indicates skim milk can help reduce blood pressure. In the case of people with hypertension, skim milk is a healthier, lower-fat alternative to regular-fat dairy products. It also contains calcium, potassium, and magnesium — three of the most important ingredients for heart health. Skim milk enriched with calcium and potassium is especially effective.
Oats are a great choice for those with high blood pressure, since they are low in sodium and high in fiber. Research shows that oat fiber binds with cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps eliminate it. Both steel-cut oats and round oats are good options, and they can be topped with fruit for a change of pace. Oatmeal also contains manganese, magnesium, and protein, vital nutrients for heart health. Remember that instant varieties often have lots of added salt and other unhealthy ingredients, so start with plain oats.
Pork tenderloin is a healthy alternative to fish and chicken. Unlike most cuts of pork, tenderloin is low in fat, which makes it a healthy option for those with hypertension. It is best to cook meats on low heat to reduce potential inflammatory responses. Also, pork still contains a high amount of fat and should be eaten sparingly. Use natural spices and herbs, rather than relying on sodium to add flavor.
Research shows chocolate can be good for high blood pressure. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate can help reduce hypertension, so don't feel guilty about sneaking a bite — up to 50 calories-worth — each day. Scientists believe a compound called flavanol is responsible for this benefit, though moderation is key. Options with at least 50 percent cocoa are considered "dark."
Broccoli contains many minerals needed to regulate heart health, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Like kale, broccoli is rich in iron and vitamin K. Studies demonstrate that eating one serving every day can lower blood pressure over time, thanks to minerals that help relax blood vessels. Steam broccoli as a side dish, or eat raw sprouts with low-fat dipping sauce as an afternoon snack.
In addition to being a refreshing part of the summer menu, watermelon has a non-essential amino acid called l-citrulline that is being tested in clinical trials as an antihypertensive. L-arginine, another amino acid important hormone release and immunity, is a precursor of nitric oxide, which aids in blood vessel dilation and reducing blood pressure. Because l-citrulline is a precursor of l-arginine, it is considered a vital piece of this process.
Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are tasty additions to cereal and smoothies, and they’re also great for lowering blood pressure. They contain water-soluble pigments called anthocyanins, which research shows help reduce blood clots and promote the relaxation of blood vessels. One study looked specifically at blueberries and found that eating one cup daily widened arteries, which reduced cardiovascular disease risk.
Fermentation is a food preservation process where starch and sugar are broken down by yeast and bacteria. Foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and the Korean delicacy kimchi (fermented vegetables) help with digestion and reduce heart disease. These foods are rich in good bacteria, and research shows that probiotics help gut microbiota to be more diverse, protecting the body from inflammation and reducing blood pressure. Some fermented foods contain significant salt, so be sure to check labels. One thing to note: Foods that are fermented with vinegar do not have the same benefits, as vinegar inhibits bacteria growth.
There is much evidence that cinnamon helps with blood sugar maintenance, but it also helps lower high blood pressure. Randomized placebo-controlled trials show that short term consumption of cinnamon resulted in lower diastolic and systolic pressure levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The spice naturally relaxes blood vessels and is an anti-inflammatory, which can ease hypertension.
Extra virgin olive oil has gained significant attention, thanks to the Mediterranean diet trend. Because extracting olive oil involves pressing the fruit instead of using heat, extra virgin olive oil retains its flavor, as well as essential phenols and their associated benefits. One medical trial found that over a year, the average systolic pressure of those who ingested extra virgin olive oil daily decreased between 2 and 3 mm Hg. Research shows that the polyphenols in the oil stall endothelial dysfunction, a process that reduces nitric oxide levels and increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
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