One in two American adults has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension (1). High blood pressure happens when the blood pressure along the artery walls is too high. When high blood pressure occurs, the heart and blood vessels experience extra strain (2). This makes you more susceptible to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and even dementia (3), (4), (5), (6).
High blood pressure is a silent ailment, as there are no symptoms or warning signs (2). That is why it is important to stay on top of your health and have your blood pressure checked regularly. Make sure to always check blood pressure levels if you are not sure about your levels. Knowing your numbers is a great place to start.
The good news is you can make easy lifestyle changes right now to reduce your risk of high blood pressure (7). Some of the most common ways to reduce high blood pressure are to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise and to get enough sleep each day (8). Some other ways include reducing chronic stress levels, and through medications prescribed by your doctor (8), (9). There is growing evidence that chronic psychosocial stress levels can contribute to high blood pressure (10). Chronic psychosocial stress can develop from many factors. These can include job stress, marital stress, discrimination, poverty, and social isolation.
Eating certain healthy nutrient-dense foods like the ones on the list below will help maintain a healthy blood pressure range so you can live a longer and healthier life. Food is just one factor in maintaining healthy blood pressure, but it is a great, effective place to start.
Summary: High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood pressure along the artery walls is high. This causes extra strain on the heart and blood vessels, which makes you more susceptible to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia. There aren’t any signs or symptoms of hypertension, so it’s best to keep up with healthy habits to prevent it. Some foods can help lower blood pressure.
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Foods that lower blood pressure
You can help maintain healthy blood pressure by eating a healthy diet. Check out which foods can help to maintain healthy blood pressure and see if you can start eating some of these nutritious foods today.
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is the perfect snack for a wide range of diets. There is some mixed evidence that dark chocolate may reduce blood pressure (11), (12). However, other studies have found no effect of dark chocolate on reducing blood pressure, and we need more research to fully understand this (13), (14). Try to eat dark chocolate that is at 50 percent dark or higher for the most health benefits. Also, be aware of added sugar content that are often in lot of dark chocolate snacks.
Summary: Dark chocolate contains heart protective antioxidants called flavanols. Eat chocolate that is at least 50% dark to obtain the most health benefits. Consume it in moderation, since it may still contain added sugar.
Bananas are rich in potassium, so they are a natural choice for food to lower blood pressure (15), (16). Potassium helps to balance salt on the body, helping the kidneys and heart function correctly (17). Bananas are one of the easiest fruits to eat and add to many different meals for quick dishes. Add some heart-healthy and potassium-rich bananas to cereal, oatmeal, or even your favorite smoothie for a new flavor and nutritional boost.
Summary: Potassium is a key nutrient that lowers blood pressure. It helps to balance salt in the body, which aids kidney and heart function. Bananas are high in potassium and can be easily added to oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, or eaten plain as a snack.
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are high in probiotics, which help to create more good bacteria in the gut microbiome (18). There is also some evidence that they may lower blood pressure because they have anti-inflammatory benefits and anti-atherosclerotic activity (19). This means they can lower build up on the arteries, which can improve blood pressure.
There is evidence that fermented foods may benefit gut bacteria and overall health, too (20). It is beneficial to incorporate fermented foods in your diet for optimal immune function (21). You can ferment many different types of foods, like onions, for example. Foods that are already fermented include pickles, yogurt, tempeh, miso soup, kombucha, and more.
Summary: Fermented foods contain gut-supporting probiotics. These bacteria are a part of a healthy gut. Some research has shown that fermented foods may help lower blood pressure because it helps lower buildup on the artery walls and overall helps lower inflammation. Pickles, yogurt, tempeh, miso soup, kombucha, and kefir are a few fermented foods to name that provide big health benefits.
Beets can also help to lower blood pressure in the body. High blood pressure starts when there is too much force along the artery walls. Some research suggests beets may help to diminish the pressure built up because they are naturally high in nitrates (22), (23). This naturally sweet vegetable can be a mighty force to improve blood flow in the body.
Summary: Beets contain powerful nutrients such as essential B vitamins and nitrates. These dietary nitrates convert to nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. This naturally sweet vegetable tastes great sautéed, roasted, or baked in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Garlic is a potent anti-inflammatory seasoning vegetable that may help to lower blood pressure and the risk of many common chronic diseases (24), (25). Garlic is often the primary seasoning in many dishes for its strong flavor, so it is usually only necessary to add a little to each meal. Add in some beneficial garlic to your next meal for more flavor and a nutritional boost.
Summary: Garlic is an anti-inflammatory spice that has been shown to lower blood pressure. Use fresh garlic as much as possible in your dishes to reap the benefits of this healthy food. Save time by mincing a larger amount and freezing or refrigerating leftovers to use later.
6. Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are a great food to add to your diet if you suffer from high blood pressure or want to prevent it (26), (27). Green vegetables are high in nitrates, fiber, and many other beneficial vitamins and minerals (28). These include kale, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, and swiss chard.
Summary: Like beets, green vegetables are high in nitrates and have a diverse nutrient profile that benefits overall heart health. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, and swiss chard are all great choices.
7. High-Flavonoid Fruits
Berries, apples, pomegranates, kiwi, and citrus fruits, and fruit juices are among the top foods to eat to help lower blood pressure. These fruits are extremely high in flavonoids, which some studies suggest may be beneficial for heart health (29). Citrus fruits and a few on this list are extremely high in beneficial flavonoids, which studies show help to lower the risk of blood pressure (30).
Add in some of these delicious and beneficial fruits to your diet to lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and much more.
Summary: High-flavonoid fruits and juices are very high in nutrients that lower blood pressure. Berries, apples, pomegranates, kiwi, and citrus fruits are a few to name. Make fruit a healthy staple in your diet to reduce blood pressure.
Trying to eat protein from plants? Lentils are a wonderful place to start. They are a popular plant-based protein complete with all nine essential amino acids that the body needs (31). Lentils and other legumes can lower the risk of high blood pressure partially due to their high nutrient profile (32). They are also extremely hearty, filling, and satisfying due to their high fiber content.
Since lentils are remarkably high in insoluble fiber, they can help to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure levels in the body (33). Add in a meatless Monday for a chance to try out some nutrient-dense lentils. All you need to do is soak the lentils and cook them in a pot for about 20-30 minutes depending on the type.
Summary: This popular plant-based protein contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs and can lower blood pressure. Their high insoluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. Lentils go well in chilis, stews, soups, bean burgers, or cooked in a pot for a main dish.
There is some preliminary evidence that cinnamon can have a short-term effect on lowering blood pressure (34), (35). Cinnamon is a powerful spice that is widely in teas and coffees. It has powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, as it is full of heart-healthy antioxidants (36). It is a common spice among many cultures for its rich flavor and health effects.
Summary: Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants that help manage blood sugar and boost heart health. Add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, coffee, tea, baked goods, or even chili.
High blood pressure is a common disease that can go unnoticed for too long. Make sure to check in with your doctor if you think you may have high blood pressure, as there are no signs or symptoms. High blood pressure can lead to serious diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and the brain (8). Always be cautious about the kinds of food you eat and try to monitor foods that cause high blood pressure, mainly salty, processed foods and alcohol (37).
Keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep each night is a good place to start. It is also a good idea to monitor your stress levels each day, especially if you are prone to chronic stress or anxiety (37). Chronic stress can also lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure.
If you are having a hard time starting a healthier diet or finding the right exercise regimen for you, reach out to a dietitian or doctor for help. They can help you find a system that works for your needs. Everyone is different in how their bodies react to certain foods and lifestyles, so a unique approach to wellness can help to accomplish your goals.