Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to the pressure of blood against your artery walls. Over time high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage that leads to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other problems. Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it produces no symptoms and could go unnoticed, and untreated, for years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. There are a number of risk factors that a person cannot control, such as age, family history, gender, and race. But there are also factors you can control, such as diet. A diet that can help control blood pressure is one that’s rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
Read on to learn which foods can help you fight hypertension.
Foods to try
1. Leafy greens
Potassium helps your kidneys to get rid of more sodium through your urine. This in turn lowers your blood pressure.
Leafy greens, which are high in potassium, include:
- romaine lettuce
- turnip greens
- collard greens
- beet greens
- Swiss chard
Canned vegetables often have added sodium. Frozen vegetables contain as many nutrients as fresh vegetables, and they’re easy to store. You can also blend these veggies with bananas and nut milk for a healthy, sweet green juice.
Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids. One study found that consuming these compounds might prevent hypertension and help to reduce high blood pressure.
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are easy to add to your diet. Put them on your cereal every morning. Keep frozen berries on hand for a quick and healthful dessert.
3. Red beets
Beets are high in nitric oxide, which can help open the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that the nitrates in beetroot juice lowered participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours.
You can juice your own beets or simply cook and eat the whole root. Beetroot is delicious when roasted or when added to stir-fries and stews. You can also bake them into chips. Be careful when handling beets though, as the juice can stain your hands and clothes.
4. Skim milk and yogurt
Skim milk is an excellent source of calcium and is low in fat. These are both important elements of a diet for lowering blood pressure. You can also opt for yogurt if you don’t like milk.
According to the American Heart Association, women who ate five or more servings of yogurt a week experienced a 20 percent reduction in their risk for developing high blood pressure.
Try incorporating granola, almond slivers, and fruits into yogurt for extra heart-healthy benefits. If you’re buying small cups of yogurt, be sure to check for added sugars.
Oatmeal fits the bill for a high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sodium way to lower your blood pressure. Eaten for breakfast, it’s a great way to fuel up for the day.
Overnight oats are a popular breakfast option. Soak 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 1/2 cup of nut milk in a jar. In the morning, stir and add berries, granola, and cinnamon to taste.
Eating foods that are rich in potassium is better than taking supplements. Slice a banana into your cereal or oatmeal for a potassium-rich addition. You can also take one to go and have it for a quick breakfast or snack.
7. Salmon, mackerel, and fish with omega-3s
Fish are a source of lean protein in your diet. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this vitamin has blood pressure-lowering properties.
One benefit of preparing fish is that it’s easy to flavor and cook. In parchment paper, season a fillet of salmon with herbs, lemon, and olive oil. Bake in a preheated over (450°F) for 12–15 minutes.
Unsalted seeds are high in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals known to reduce blood pressure. Enjoy 1/4 cup of sunflower, pumpkin, or squash seeds as a snack between meals.
9. Garlic and herbs
One review notes that garlic can help reduce hypertension by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps to promote vasodilation, or the widening of arteries, to reduce blood pressure.
Incorporating flavorful herbs and spices into your daily diet can also help you cut back on the salt you may use. Examples of herbs and spices you can add include basil, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and more.
10. Dark chocolate
A 2015 study found that eating dark chocolate is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study suggests that up to 100 grams of dark chocolate may be associated with a lower risk of CVD.
Dark chocolate contains more than 60 percent cocoa solids and is lower in sugar than regular chocolate. You can add dark chocolate to yogurt or eat it with fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries as a healthy dessert.
Pistachios are a healthy way to decrease blood pressure by reducing peripheral vascular resistance (blood vessel tightening) and heart rate. One study found that a diet with one serving of pistachios a day helps reduces blood pressure.
You can incorporate pistachios in your diet by adding them into crusts, pesto sauces, and salads, or by eating as a snack.
12. Olive oil
Olive oil is an example of a healthy fat that has blood pressure-lowering properties. Olive oil contains polyphenols, which are inflammation-fighting compounds that can help to lower blood pressure.
Olive oil can help you meet your two to three daily servings of fat as part of the DASH diet. It’s also a great alternative to canola oil, butter, or commercial salad dressing.
Pomegranates are a healthy fruit that you can enjoy alone or as a juice. One study concluded that drinking a cup of pomegranate juice once a day for four weeks can help lower blood pressure in the short term.
Pomegranate juice is excellent with a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check the sugar content in store-bought juices, as the added sugars can negate the healthy benefits.
Dietary recommendations for lowering blood pressure, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, include reducing your intake of fat, sodium, and alcohol. Following the DASH diet for two weeks can lower a person’s systolic blood pressure (the top number of a person’s blood pressure reading) by 8–14 points.
Serving suggestions for the DASH diet include:
|Foods||Serving per day|
|sodium||no more than 2,300 mg on a traditional diet or 1,500 mg on a low-sodium diet|
|dairy (low-fat)||2 to 3|
|healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, ghee)||2 to 3|
|vegetables||4 to 5|
|fruit||4 to 5|
|nuts, seeds, and legumes||4 to 5|
|lean meat, poultry, and fish||6|
|whole grains||6 to 8|
In general, you should eat more low-fat protein sources, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. The DASH guidelines also suggest eating more foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
One study found that a high-fat (full fat) DASH diet reduces the same amount of blood pressure to the traditional diet. Another review looked at results of 17 studies and found that the DASH diet reduced blood pressure on average by 6.74 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 3.54 mmHg points for diastolic blood pressure.
Incorporating these heart-healthy foods can take some adjustment. Following these tips may help:
Through a heart-healthy diet, you can reduce your risks for hypertension and promote good health overall.