20 Healthiest Foods That Lower Blood Pressure
Whether you've just been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) or you're just doing your research because high blood pressure runs in your family, you should know about the important role diet plays in managing this condition. To prevent and manage high blood pressure, you should not only remove the unhealthy foods causing the problem from your diet, but you can also eat more foods that lower blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure and what are the risk factors?
High blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood moving to and from your heart pushes too hard on your arteries, according to the American Heart Association. According to the CDC, a whopping 75 million Americans—that's nearly a third of the adult population—struggle with high blood pressure.
Hypertension increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-altering health consequences along the way.
There are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure, including stress, smoking, lack of exercise, alcohol, age, genetics, and diet.
How does diet play a role in managing high blood pressure?
An unhealthy diet that's high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar may increase your risk of high blood pressure. These nutrients contribute to hypertension in a variety of ways. For example, saturated fat increases cholesterol levels, including "bad" LDL cholesterol, that can block your arteries and slow blood flow.
While it's important to minimize these nutrients in your diet to decrease your risk of or manage your high blood pressure, it's also important to eat more foods that lower blood pressure.
Foods that lower blood pressure contain specific nutrients that are scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure. These nutrients include:
- beta-carotene (vitamin A)
- omega-3 fatty acids
- vitamin C
While the words "blood pressure-lowering diet" may conjure images of unseasoned egg whites and limp steamed veggies, getting your blood pressure into a healthy range is more than just doable—it can be downright delicious.
Here is a list of the 20 healthiest foods that lower blood pressure. And for a more structured eating plan, consider trying the DASH Diet or "The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" Diet. This expert-approved, heart-healthy diet is one of the top-recommended diets to lower blood pressure.
Don't deprive yourself of your favorite sweet treats just because you're trying to lower your blood pressure. Mangoes are a great source of fiber and beta-carotene, both of which are proven to lower blood pressure. In fact, research published in Current Hypertension Reports suggests that adding beta-carotene-rich foods to your diet may be an effective way to lower blood pressure in no time. Not a fan of raw mangoes? Try freezing and blending them for a tasty homemade sorbet that's perfect for those hot summer days.
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While fatty foods may seem like they have no place in a high blood pressure-fighting meal plan, fatty fish like salmon are a major exception to that rule. Salmon is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation, lower risk of heart disease, and lower blood pressure into a healthy range. Research published in the June 2012 edition of the British Journal of Nutrition reveals that omega-3 supplementation reduced blood pressure among older patients and those with hypertension, making this tasty protein-rich fish a must-eat for anyone whose blood pressure has crept into a concerning range.
Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C (even more than citrus fruits), which has been shown to improve cardiac function and lower blood pressure. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that loading up on vitamin C reduced blood pressure by 5 millimeters of mercury in patients with hypertension, making these versatile veggies a smart addition to any meal plan.
Slash your blood pressure and lower your risk of chronic disease by making apricots a staple in your diet today. Whether you're eating dried apricots as a snack or adding some to your weight loss smoothie recipe, these fruits are the key to healthier blood pressure. Apricots contain vitamin C and beta-carotene. Even better is the 3.3 grams of dietary fiber you'll get per cup of apricots. Why is that? Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that a high-fiber diet can significantly lower your blood pressure, too.
Don't deprive yourself of dessert just because you're eager to get your blood pressure under control. A little dark chocolate can go a long way when it comes to lowering those numbers, thanks to its flavonoid content. Flavonoids, a type of plant-based pigment, have been linked to reductions in blood pressure, thanks to their ability to improve endothelial function, according to researchers at the University of Manitoba. Just make sure you're choosing real dark chocolate for the biggest benefit; foods high in sugar, like most milk chocolate bars, have been linked to an increase in blood pressure by researchers at the New Zealand University of Otago. Reduce your risk of chronic disease even further by discovering and ditching the worst habits for heart health ASAP.
An apple a day really does keep the doctor away, particularly for those struggling with high blood pressure. In addition to the 4.5 grams of blood pressure-lowering fiber you'll get from each apple, you'll also enjoy a healthy helping of quercetin, which has been deemed an effective antihypertensive, according to the results of a study conducted at the University Complutense of Madrid School of Medicine.
That bunny food is blood pressure medicine in disguise. Carrots pack a one-two punch of beta-carotene and vitamin C, getting your blood pressure into a healthy range before you know it.
While eggs have had a checkered reputation because of their cholesterol content, recent research suggests these protein powerhouses can actually help improve both your cholesterol and your blood pressure. According to the American Journal of Hypertension, a high-protein diet, like one rich in eggs, can help lower blood pressure naturally while promoting weight loss, as well. Just make sure you're not detracting from the health benefits of your egg-based breakfast by adding the wrong condiments; the sugar in ketchup and high salt content of hot sauce may reduce your protein-rich meal's blood pressure-lowering effects.
Sweeten up your meals and lower your blood pressure in one fell swoop by making cherries part of your diet today. Not only are cherries packed with fiber, quercetin, and vitamin C, a study published in the February 2015 edition of Clinical Nutrition has linked their resveratrol content to significant reductions in systolic blood pressure.
Start your day with zesty grapefruit and see your blood pressure numbers soar into a healthy range. In addition to being an excellent source of blood pressure-lowering, immune-boosting vitamin C, pink grapefruit is a good source of lycopene. Multiple studies have found that lycopene is effective at reducing blood pressure. In fact, a Finnish study published in Neurology reveals that study subjects with the highest concentrations of lycopene in their blood decreased their risk of stroke by 55 percent.
Stirring some flax into your favorite smoothie or morning oatmeal could be the first step toward lowering your blood pressure. Flaxseed is a great source fiber, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can reduce inflammation and improve the health of your heart and circulatory system. Research conducted at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences reveals that individuals who added omega-3s to their diets had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than their placebo-taking counterparts.
Make like Popeye and make spinach a part of your blood pressure-lowering routine. As well as being an easy veggie to sneak into everything from smoothies to sauces, tempting even the pickiest palates, spinach is a triple threat when it comes to your blood pressure, thanks to its healthy helpings of fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
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A little tomato on your menu could be the key to healthier blood pressure. In addition to boasting plenty of vitamin C and quercetin, tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have linked to significant reductions in blood pressure. Just don't try to get your fix from ketchup or bottled tomato sauce; the combination of sugar and salt in most recipes can send your blood sugar through the roof.
Satisfy your sweet tooth and improve your blood pressure by adding blueberries to your menu today. Blueberries are low-glycemic, high in fiber, and loaded with resveratrol, which can be effective at reducing blood pressure.
They may not be great for your breath, but when it comes to your blood pressure, onions can't be beaten. Onions are a great source of quercetin, which a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found effective at lowering blood pressure in overweight and obese study subjects suffering from hypertension and pre-hypertension.
Lima beans are a wonder food for anyone trying to get their blood pressure under control. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, adding beans to your diet can help you get your blood pressure into a healthy range while keeping you full, making you less likely to reach for sugary or salty snacks that can cause your blood pressure to soar.
Cooling down this summer is as healthy as it is delicious when you make watermelon part of your meal plan. Not only is watermelon a good source of blood pressure-lowering vitamin C and lycopene, research published in the American Journal of Hypertension reveals that patients with prehypertension who added watermelon to their diet significantly reduced their blood pressure.
Indulge your carb cravings and lower your blood pressure at the same time by whipping up a batch of oven-baked sweet potato fries tonight. Sweet potatoes are a good source of hypertension-fighting fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. How's that for a smart snack?
Kale's ubiquity comes from more than just Beyonce's endorsement; it also happens to be a superfood for anyone whose blood pressure is higher than they'd like. Kale contains quercetin, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, which can act as an effective means of lowering blood pressure naturally.
Swap out those refined sugar-loaded treats in favor of strawberries and watch your blood pressure dip into doctor-approved territory. Researchers at the University of Alberta's Manzankowski Alberta Heart Institute have found resveratrol, a pigment found in red fruit like strawberries, effective at preventing hypertension and dangerous enlargement of the heart muscle in mice and rats. Though this hasn't been proven in humans yet, strawberries are still a healthy food to add to your hypertension-fighting diet.
Besides being aware of the habits that could be making your high blood pressure worse and squeezing in some regular workouts, you'll need to take a proactive approach with your diet to keep your blood pressure under control in the long run.