High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure. I am Dr. Frita, a medical doctor and nephrologist, which means I'm a kidney and high blood pressure specialist, and hypertension is actually the second leading cause of people having kidney failure and going on dialysis. A lot of people have hypertension, but many do not have it under control, and you can control it. One way is by partnering with a physician you trust, and another is by implementing lifestyle changes like exercise and meditation and decreasing stress, and also by the foods that you eat. Yes, eating the proper foods can help you to have normal blood pressure. So that's what we're going to talk about today. I'm going to share 10 of the most powerful foods for high blood pressure!
On a daily basis, I help people to manage their hypertension. Yes, sometimes people require high blood pressure medications, but a lot of times there are things that you can do in your everyday lives that can really help to reduce blood pressure. Be sure to watch my video on how to lower blood pressure naturally after you finish reading this article.
What Is High Blood Pressure or Hypertension?
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers, the top number, or systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure is the pressure in your vessels when your heart is contracting, while diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your vessels when your heart is relaxed.
If your systolic blood pressure, that top number, is consistently 130 or greater, or if that bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure, is consistently 80 or greater, you have high blood pressure. Now you may be thinking, "Oh, no, this blood pressure is normal for me. When I get lower blood pressure, I get dizzy. I get lightheaded." You may be saying, "High blood pressure just runs in my family." Listen, hypertension is 130 over 80 or greater. If you have it, you need to consult with your physician and try to get that blood pressure down. You also need to read this article and learn what foods you need to incorporate into your diet. Always consult with your physician or registered dietician before changing your diet.
Now, food is amazing. Food can be your friend, food can be your foe, but food can also be like medicine. I believe in practicing integrative medicine. I use traditional medications when necessary. I also use lifestyle management, and I integrate them both. It's not one or the other. So let's talk about how we can actually use food as medicine when it comes to managing your high blood pressure. Let's get into some of these foods, the 10 best foods to help you to lower your blood pressure.
The 10 Best Foods For High Blood Pressure
When it comes to improving our health and lowering our blood pressure, finding tasty yet nutritious options can make all the difference. If you're looking for a natural way to manage your high blood pressure, you'll be happy to know that berries are not only delicious but also offer remarkable benefits in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Berries are like nature's candies. I love berries. They're sweet, they're delicious, and they can also help you to eliminate free radicals and decrease inflammation in your blood vessels, which can help to lower blood pressure.
Also, berries tend to have high potassium. Now, again, consult with your physician and make sure you're not someone who needs to restrict potassium, but the average person needs about 4.7 grams of potassium per day, which is great for lowering blood pressure. I'll tell you how. When you take in potassium, that helps you to excrete or to urinate out sodium, and this helps to lower blood pressure.
Berries are also good because they have minerals and fiber. When you have fiber, that helps you to lower your cholesterol, which decreases inflammation and also helps with your blood pressure. So definitely berries, are a great choice when it comes to controlling blood pressure.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are also great for your blood pressure. They have an abundance of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that help your heart to be stronger. Additionally, they contain healthy fats which provide energy to the body as well as help with weight management. Some of the best nuts and seeds for high blood pressure include walnuts, pistachios, and chia seeds. Other great choices for nuts and seeds include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and almonds. All of these foods are really good for blood pressure, so let's talk about it.
Walnuts are excellent because they help to increase the elasticity of your blood vessels. They make your blood vessels stretch a little more, and help them to relax, which decreases your blood pressure. Walnuts also help to lower your cholesterol, which can decrease your inflammation and help with blood pressure. Pistachios have some similar qualities, and then you have the flax seed and the chia seeds. These are all really great.
Chia seeds are loaded with fiber and unsaturated fat. In two tablespoons of chia seeds, you have 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of unsaturated fat. Also, chia seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. All of these things are good for decreasing inflammation and helping to lower your blood pressure.
Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
Another great thing about nuts and seeds is that they're easy to incorporate into your diet. You can take in nuts and seeds as snacks, and again, you want unsalted. This will help to fill you up, to help you eat less, and of course, if you eat less, then you're less likely to be living with obesity, and we know that living with obesity will increase your risk for high blood pressure. So that's one way.
Also, in addition to just having nuts and seeds as a snack, you can incorporate them into your everyday diet. You can put walnuts and pistachios on your salads. The same thing with chia seeds. Now, chia seeds tend to swell up, so I suggest that you moisten your chia seeds before you eat them so you have an idea of how much they're going to swell in your stomach. At any rate, if you are dealing with high blood pressure, nuts, and seeds are an excellent way to help manage it!
Legumes like beans and lentils are also great for your blood pressure. Other great legumes include black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans or chickpeas. Beans are excellent because they're loaded with soluble fiber, and as we discussed, having this high-soluble fiber can help you to lower your cholesterol and decrease the inflammation in your blood vessels, which can lead to lower blood pressure.
You can incorporate beans into your diet pretty easily. I like having black beans on my salads and I love to get a salad with kale, black beans, and red onions. I actually like to put a little bit of feta cheese in mine and do a light vinaigrette dressing. If you want some boiled egg whites, you can have that in your salad as well, or a lean fatty fish, which we'll talk about.
I also like making soups out of my beans, and sometimes I'll just do a big pot of black-bean or kidney bean soup. It's very filling, plus I'm getting the health benefits and I'm helping myself to lower my blood pressure naturally. So definitely you want to incorporate legumes into your diet in order to help manage your blood pressure.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, swordfish, and even sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids that can help to reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and improve circulation. This means that fatty fish can also be beneficial for reducing high blood pressure. Plus, they are a great source of protein and other nutrients like potassium and magnesium which help to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure
Now, you want to be careful with sardines, they can help decrease inflammation in your blood vessels, and these are the type of fish that can help to lower blood pressure, but you want to make sure it has low salt and that you don't add a lot of salt when you're dealing with sardines. It's better to get fresh sardines with no sodium.
How To Incorporate Fish Into A Healthy Diet
You can easily incorporate fish into a healthy diet. Personally, I love adding grilled fish, particularly salmon, to my salads. It not only elevates the flavors but also contributes to a well-rounded meal. I also recommend very lightly seasoning your fish. You can put garlic on your fish and even add red peppers. You can do all kinds of spices, like black pepper as an alternative to sodium for your fish. Grilling the fish is the preferred method, as it helps preserve its nutritious properties. Frying is not recommended, as it may compromise the health benefits.
I also enjoy having it as a main course alongside delicious sides like broccoli, carrots, and beans. Sometimes I even incorporate quinoa. Fish is not only an excellent source of protein, but also provides ample amounts of vitamin D and omega-3s. It's a very good choice for maintaining healthy blood pressure and overall well-being.
5. Whole Grains
Let's discuss the nutritional benefits and versatility of quinoa and oats specifically. I'm not talking about sugary oats or oats that have all kinds of fake fruit in them or that come like oatmeal that's really processed. I'm talking about real oats. Also, we're talking about brown rice and whole-wheat bread, as opposed to processed, starched white bread. I'm talking about whole-wheat, multigrain bread. These are foods that are going to be good for your high blood pressure. Yes, they're loaded with fiber and they help to decrease the free radicals, and they have great antioxidant properties. Whole grains are great foods to help to lower your blood pressure.
Now, quinoa is something that I really love to incorporate into my diet. Quinoa comes in various types, originating from South America. For instance, there is black quinoa, as well as white quinoa. Interestingly, the darker the quinoa, the more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties it will have.
Quinoa is a grain that can really grow in just about any kind of environment, so that's pretty neat, but I really like it because instead of eating white rice or really starchy foods, when you cook quinoa, it has the consistency of rice and so you can really substitute that quinoa and have that good whole grain in different dishes. Where you normally would have white rice or even pasta, you can substitute quinoa, and that's a way to have an excellent flavor in your food, but also to help to manage your high blood pressure.
6. Healthy Fruits
Of course, healthy fruits are going to be good foods for blood pressure. When you're dealing with fruits, you're dealing with antioxidants. You're also dealing with lowering inflammation, which is going to be good for your blood vessels and decreasing your blood pressure.
Bananas are excellent, because they have high potassium, and of course, when you take in potassium, you urinate out sodium. That's good for your blood pressure. Always consult with your physician to find out if you should have a potassium restriction. Bananas can also help to fill you up. They are not very high in calories and they can help to prevent you from being a person living with obesity or help you to manage your weight.
Avocados, are one of my favorites. Now, avocados are just packed with incredibly healthy nutrients. They have high potassium, low sodium, and plenty of fiber. They also contain healthy fats that help to maintain cholesterol levels as well as decrease inflammation in the blood vessels. Avocados are an excellent choice for reducing high blood pressure and they're really easy to incorporate into almost any diet.
How To Incorporate Avocados Into A Healthy Diet
Now, for some people, it's an acquired taste, but I love avocados. I like to slice them and have avocados on my salads. If I eat tacos, I like to have sliced avocados on them. I had a shrimp taco the other day with red onions and sliced avocado. You can also make guacamole. You don't want to add salt, but you can certainly add garlic, and red peppers to your guacamole, and in order to keep it healthy, please don't use a lot of salty or high-fat, high-carb chips. Just eat the guacamole plain. It's delicious. Or you can have it with a little quinoa or get creative.
Kiwi is a great source of vitamin C and fiber, both of which are excellent for reducing high blood pressure levels. Additionally, kiwi has a high potassium content, which we know is also good for your blood pressure. You can easily add kiwi to your salads or yogurt bowls. Kiwi can even be blended into smoothies or juices to make a delicious and nutritious drink that helps keep blood pressure in check.
Watermelon is a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to decreased blood pressure and improved heart health. Research indicates that approximately 9 to 13 milligrams of lycopene are present in a serving of around one and a half cups of watermelon. Watermelon is also full of electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, both of which are necessary for regulating fluid balance in the body, not to mention that it's also a very hydrating fruit. Consuming watermelon helps regulate sodium levels in your body (as long as you don't sprinkle it with salt). Additionally, it offers a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals that support cardiovascular well-being. Watermelon can be eaten on its own as a snack or cut up and added to salads, smoothies, and fruit platters.
Pomegranates are known for their rich antioxidant content and heart-healthy benefits, which makes them a perfect snack choice for people looking to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Research suggests that the antioxidants found in pomegranate juice help to reduce inflammation and improve circulation. They're also an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Pomegranates can be eaten as is or blended up and added to smoothies, salads, yogurt bowls, and oatmeal.
Cranberries boast a rich abundance of antioxidants, which aid in reducing inflammation and improving circulation. Consuming cranberries has been associated with enhanced blood pressure levels, thanks to their rich content of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients contribute to improved digestive health, bolster the body's antioxidant system, and support better overall cardiovascular well-being. Cranberries can be enjoyed as is or added to salads, smoothies, yogurt bowls, and oatmeal for a delicious and nutritious treat.
Strawberries are one of the best fruits for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. They contain anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that fight inflammation and help reduce stress levels in the body, thus improving cardiovascular health. Eating a handful of strawberries is an easy way to get your daily dose of anthocyanins. Strawberries can also be enjoyed as a snack or added to salads, yogurts, and smoothies. They also make a great topping for oatmeal or whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
7. Hibiscus Tea
Now, this one is probably going to surprise you, but hibiscus tea is something that can help you to lower your blood pressure, and this is not just something that's anecdotal. There have actually been studies to show that drinking hibiscus tea can help you to lower your blood pressure.
There was one meta-analysis of studies done where they compared people who drank hibiscus tea versus a placebo drink, something that did not have hibiscus, and in this meta-analysis of studies, they found that the people who drank hibiscus tea had a significant lowering of their systolic and their diastolic blood pressures.
Hibiscus tea is something that has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes in various cultures. Very specifically for blood pressure, it has antioxidants including flavonoids and anthocyanins, which help to decrease inflammation and get rid of free radicals. These things help to dilate your blood vessels and to decrease blood pressure.
Another thing about hibiscus tea is that it has an ACE-inhibitor effect. So you've probably heard of ACE inhibitors as drugs, like lisinopril, and ramipril, and these are drugs that help to decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Well, this hibiscus tea, this natural tea also has some ACE-inhibiting effects, angiotensin-converting-enzyme blocking effects, and that can also help to lower your blood pressure.
How To Incorporate Hibiscus Tea Into A Healthy Diet
You can wake up in the morning and have yourself some hibiscus tea. You can drink it before you go to bed at night. Make sure you consult with your physician, because if indeed you start to get blood-pressure-lowering properties after incorporating hibiscus tea, then if you're on blood-pressure medications, your doctor may need to start pulling them back. So yes, hibiscus tea is something that can help you to manage your high blood pressure.
8. Heart-Healthy Vegetables
In addition to berries, you can also get great heart-healthy benefits from certain vegetables.
Broccoli is a really wonderful power vegetable! It has vitamin A, which can help to increase your white-blood-cell production. It has vitamin C, which we know has antioxidants, and it's good for helping you to decrease the duration of respiratory illnesses. It also has vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties, decreasing inflammation, which will help you to decrease your blood pressure. I love to steam my broccoli or saute it with garlic or onions.
Kale and other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, all of these, which can have a little bit of a pungent taste depending on how you cook them, are great because they have glucosinolates. That's a sulfur-containing compound, which has antioxidants and anti-inflammation properties which help to lower blood pressure.
Kale is wonderful! It can be enjoyed in its raw form or added to salads. You can enhance it further by incorporating nutritious chia seeds and quinoa. For a touch of sweetness, adding fruits is a great option. If you're in the mood for something savory, try making crispy kale chips in an air fryer. Simply drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and garlic. This will surely take care of that little savory craving you may have.
I also have a patient who gave me an idea. She actually freezes her kale and then puts it in the blender with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and she makes herself something that has the consistency of ice cream and she includes the frozen kale in it. So yes, very healthy to incorporate.
Carrots are wonderful because they have high potassium, which can help you to lower your blood pressure. They also have beta-carotene, and fiber, which again can help to decrease inflammation in your blood vessels.
Spinach is a great source of vitamins, including vitamin K, and it's also high in magnesium. Magnesium has been linked to improved blood pressure readings, so eating spinach can help you keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Spinach can be enjoyed raw as part of a salad or cooked as part of many dishes like omelets, soups, and casseroles.
Red Bell Peppers
Now, who doesn't love a red bell pepper? Here is a fun fact. A red bell pepper actually has twice as much vitamin C as most citrus fruits! Red bell peppers also have antioxidant properties including beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium, which can help to lower blood pressure.
I like to just have raw red bell peppers. I might dip them in a low-calorie dressing, add them to my salads or incorporate them into a stir-fry dish. Red bell pepper is a versatile veggie to incorporate into your diet and help your blood pressure at the same time.
Cucumbers are a great source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. All of these components work together to help regulate blood pressure levels. Cucumbers can also be incredibly refreshing as they contain 95% water. Enjoy them sliced up in salads or blended into smoothies for an added nutritional boost. You can even make yourself a cucumber-infused water if you're looking for something extra special and refreshing. By the way, despite its common classification as a vegetable, it's worth noting that cucumber is, in fact, a fruit. I included it in this section because so many people refer to it as a vegetable.
We're talking dark chocolate. And yes, we always talk about chocolate like it's the arch-nemesis and like it's horrible, but when you're dealing with chocolate that has 70% cacao or greater, it actually can have some medicinal benefits, including the lowering of blood pressure.
So here's what happens when you have cacao, it has flavanols, and flavanols help your blood vessels, the endothelial cells, to increase nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a substance that helps your blood vessels to dilate. It increases vasodilation, which means your blood vessels are bigger, they're relaxed, and the blood pressure is lowered.
So when you're eating chocolate... And I'm not talking about milk chocolate. I'm not talking about chocolate with all kinds of added sugar, caramel, nougat, and nuts. I'm talking about cacao, 70% or higher. When you have it in moderation, it can literally help to lower your blood pressure.
Spices are going to be important for you to enjoy your food, and there are spices that are actually healthy for your blood pressure. You will notice the spice I will not say is salt. I want you to have low sodium, less than 1,500 milligrams per day in most cases. So let's just put sodium to the side, and let's talk about other ways you can spice up your foods and maintain good blood pressure.
Garlic or Garlic Powder
Garlic is wonderful because it has a substance called allicin, which helps to soften blood vessels. It helps them to dilate, to relax, and it helps to lower your blood pressure. Plus, garlic is delicious. You don't want to cook it too much, because you don't want to decrease the nutritional value or decrease some of the blood-pressure-lowering properties. But garlic, is definitely, a spice that is good for your blood pressure.
Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger is actually a flowering plant that's related to turmeric, which also has anti-inflammatory properties, and both turmeric and ginger are good for your blood pressure. Ginger also has some anti-microbial properties. It's good for nausea and vomiting, and it's another way that you can incorporate it as a spice, and it's good for your blood pressure as well.
Cinnamon is another wonderful spice. It helps to reduce bad cholesterol, and it helps to regulate glucose levels in your body which can help you with diabetes management. And it also has some vasodilating properties, so it can help to relax blood vessels. In addition, cinnamon gives your food a nice flavor that's not overpowering yet still packs a punch!
You can add cinnamon to sweet potatoes instead of using sugar, or butter. You can certainly add cinnamon to spice up different foods like oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies. You can even do a little cinnamon with cacao if you want a nice little dessert that is pretty good for your blood pressure.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their heat, and it's also associated with a decrease in blood pressure. Capsaicin is something that can give you a little spice and it can also help to increase your metabolism, as some studies show. You can get capsaicin by using jalapeños or habaneros as a topping on your salad or adding a dash or two of hot sauce to soups, stews, or tacos. Be mindful of how much you consume, because capsaicin can irritate your digestive system and increase your sodium intake. But if you use it responsibly, capsaicin can be a fun way to add some heat and flavor to your meals while also helping to maintain optimal blood pressure levels for better health and well-being.
Some other things you can use to spice up your food and help with high blood pressure include lemons or lemon zest. And when you do use things like lemon zest along with garlic, even if you do add a little bit of salt to your food, the lemon zest will help to enhance the flavor so you won't add as much. Make sure when you're dealing with spices, you want to have low salt or no salt, and these spices that I mentioned will be excellent and one of the best foods for blood pressure.
So these are the 10 best foods for high blood pressure. If you found this article to be helpful and informative, please be sure to share it with the people you care about. Remember, you are in control of your blood pressure. In addition to partnering with a doctor you trust, talking with registered dieticians, exercising, doing meditation, and eating a healthy diet, you really can manage your blood pressure. By incorporating these heart-healthy foods into your diet, you can start to notice changes in your blood pressure levels and overall health. Eating healthy doesn't have to be boring or tasteless - so explore some of the delicious options available that will help you meet your goals!