1. Leafy greens
Sodium is a major culprit when it comes to elevated blood pressure. Potassium can assist your kidneys to eliminate more sodium through urine, which in turn reduces the effects of hypertension. Leafy greens are a fantastic source of this critical nutrient, especially romaine lettuce, arugula, turnip greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens, and Swiss chard.
If you’re not a fan of the green stuff, bananas are also potassium rich. Try blending a banana with some greens and any kind of nut milk for a more palatable way to get the potassium you need.
Many types of berry, especially the humble blueberry, are full of healthy compounds called flavonoids. Getting enough flavonoids in your diet has been linked to preventing hypertension and lowering blood pressure in people who already suffer from it.
Flavonoids also deliver a whole host of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to the body, so you really can’t go wrong (unless, of course, you happen to be allergic). These tasty fruits are easy to add to your diet, sprinkled over cereal or a salad, or plain by the handful.
3. Red beets
The reason that beets are a great part of a hypertension diet is that they contain a large amount of nitric oxide, which helps to open up blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that consuming beetroot juice lowers blood pressure within just 24 hours.
Beets do have a very distinctive flavor that people seem to either love or hate, and if you are in the latter category you’ll be happy to know that peeling and roasting beets removes a lot of the “earthy” taste. Some creative ways of using roasted beets include cookie dough and hummus.
4. Skim milk and yogurt
Calcium, found in abundance in milk and yogurt, plays a vital role in the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels, and therefore may help to reduce blood pressure. Calcium is also essential in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
As reported by the American Heart Association, women who eat five or more servings of yogurt per week have a 20% lower chance of developing high blood pressure at all. Skim milk and yogurt are recommended sources of calcium because they are also low in fat, but beware of the sugar content in yogurt.
If you are not a fan of dairy or find it troubles you in other ways, non-dairy sources of calcium include seafood, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, tofu, and seeds.
A diet rich in fiber and whole grains can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Oatmeal has both. In just 100 grams of oatmeal you’ll get 10 grams of fiber, 352 milligrams of calcium, and 359 grams of potassium.
That makes it one of the best breakfasts you can have if you’re trying to reduce your blood pressure. It is also low-fat and low-sodium, and delivers plenty of slow burning carbs to fuel your day. Add some fruit or nuts for an extra health boost.
We mentioned that potassium is crucial in lowering blood pressure because it helps to get rid of excess sodium. It’s important to note that eating foods that are rich in potassium is better for your body than taking a supplement.
Bananas are one of the best food sources of potassium, and they also contain healthy protein, fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Amplify your healthy blood pressure breakfast by slicing a banana onto that oatmeal.
7. Garlic and herbs
Like beetroot, garlic contains nitric oxide that helps promote widening of the arteries, otherwise known as vasodilatation. This can bring down blood pressure, and make food more flavorful to boot. Certain herbs are known to benefit hypertension as well.
Basil, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and celery seed are all great examples. Introducing more herbs and spices into your diet can also help to reduce the amount of sodium you need to enjoy meals.
8. Dark chocolate
When you want a little something sweet, dark chocolate is the way to go. A study out of Harvard found that eating a small square of dark chocolate every day helps to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
The study looked at 24 separate chocolate studies that involved a total of 1,106 people. It found that dark chocolate, as long as it contained at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa, lowered blood pressure in every one of the participants.
The mechanism is likely related to the heart-healthy flavonoids contained in cocoa, which cause blood vessel dilation. To get the most benefit, look for chocolate listed as 60-70% cocoa solids (cacao).
Hypertension is a scary condition because it can lead to a whole host of dangerous health complications, yet has no real symptoms of its own.
And doctors are now considering blood pressure levels between 120/80 and 140/90, once considered normal, as representing a condition called prehypertension. People with prehypertension have twice the risk of heart disease as people with lower blood pressure.
Luckily, hypertension is very treatable with medication from your doctor and a few dietary changes. In the case of prehypertension, making these changes early may keep you from developing full blown hypertension at all, and avoid the need for medication.
As you can see, many flavorful and satisfying foods can be a part of a hypertension diet. Just don’t skip your annual checkups so that you can catch it early if high blood pressure is a problem for you.