High blood pressure can triple your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. It’s the silent killer that you don’t even know about — until it hits!
While it is important to use medications if you have to, your diet and the foods you eat can also be a helpful tool in lowering your blood pressure naturally.
Here are natural foods to lower blood pressure:
#1: Dark chocolate
There’s no getting around it, most of us absolutely adore chocolate!
And the good news is, you don’t have to give up your sweet indulgence – if you choose the right type of
Cocoa, the major ingredient in chocolate, contains compounds called flavanols, which come from the cacao bean. Scientists have known for some time that these compounds have a wide range of beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.
In fact, indulging in some good quality cocoa has been shown to help relax arteries and improve blood flow, along with decreasing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
However, this is not a free license to consume as much chocolate as you please. The benefits are found in the cocoa so you can try to chocolate-up your food. For instance, try adding an unsweetened cocoa powder to your morning oatmeal, coffee, smoothie, or yogurt, or make your own hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder and milk.
Or, if you’re going to indulge in the chocolate itself, choose the darkest chocolate you can find.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
And in terms of assisting with blood pressure control, this may also be true.
Apples contain a flavonol called quercetin, which is also found in other plant-based foods such as onions, citrus fruits, berries, red grapes, red wine, broccoli, bark roots, flowers, and tea.
And this quercetin flavonol happens to have blood pressure-lowering effects.
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In one clinical trial where hypertensive participants supplemented with 730 mg/day of quercetin for 28 days, versus placebo. The groups supplementing saw an average 7 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure, and 5 mmHg reduction in diastolic pressure.
#3: Healthy fats
Fats contain fatty acids, and some fatty acids are great for cardiovascular health. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids.
One of omega-3’s main benefits is its ability to calm inflammation throughout the body. And according to a review of seventy clinical trials, consumption of omega-3s may reduce systolic blood pressure by an average of 1.52 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 0.99 mmHg.
OMEGA 3 food sources include:
- Chia seeds
#4: Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is an omega-9 fatty acid and contains more than 36 beneficial phenolic compounds. One specific compound, known as oleocanthal, has been discovered to have very powerful natural anti-inflammatory benefits.
This is great news since cardiovascular disease often involves a state of low-grade chronic inflammation in the body. But more than that, researchers suggest olive oil may influence genes that regulate the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, the hormonal blood pressure control engine.
One study found that olive oil consumption of 25 mL/day (equivalent to about 2 tablespoons) can lower systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.2 mmHg and diastolic pressure by an average of 2.1 mmHg.
However, don’t go purchasing the cheapest olive oil you can find. If you want to reap the benefits, your oil must be a good quality extra virgin olive.
Flaxseed contains a variety of substances that may be beneficial to blood pressure – α-linolenic acid, lignans, and fiber. Flaxseed can be eaten as a whole seed, as a ground flaxseed meal, which you can put in baked goods or add to cereals. Or it can be taken as a flaxseed oil supplement.
A review of 14 clinical trials showed the average blood pressure reduction from consuming flaxseed was 1.77 mmHg systolic and 1.58 mmHg diastolic. And if you consume whole flaxseeds daily for more than 12 weeks, diastolic blood pressure may reduce even further, up to 1.93 mmHg.
#6: Beetroot juice
Raw beet juice contains phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Alongside those phytochemicals are compounds called nitrates.
The nitrates found in beets are a source of nitric oxide (NO), a natural vasodilator, which means they help to relax and dilate the blood vessels in your body.
When your blood vessels are dilated, the blood is flowing with greater ease and your blood pressure naturally lowers. As a consequence, blood pressure levels are lower. In fact, one study found that just 6 hours after consuming beetroot juice, people’s systolic blood pressure was 4 to 5 mmHg lower!
Although red beets are the richest natural source of nitrates, there are other vegetables you can snack on that also contain them — celery, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, and onions.
#7: Hibiscus tea
If you have a hibiscus tree in your garden, pick a few flowers and brew yourself a tea!
Hibiscus tea is often termed ‘sour tea.’ And as it turns out, the hibiscus plant is rich in organic acids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, polysaccharides and nutrients that are beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
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A review of clinical trials found that those who consumed hibiscus tea regularly had a lower systolic blood pressure of up to 7.58 mmHg, and lower diastolic blood pressure of up to 3.53 mmHg.
#8: Sweet potatoes
and leafy greens
These foods are high in many nutrients, but one that’s particularly helpful for blood pressure is potassium.
When researchers looked at data from 17,000 adults they noticed that those who had lower blood pressure had a higher potassium intake. Since then several clinical trials have shown that increasing potassium does, in fact, lower blood pressure.
And interestingly, you don’t have to increase your intake by much.
Even a small increase of just 250 mg per day in potassium may lower blood pressure by 2 to 3 mmHg. In those that already have high blood pressure, the results may be as much as 7.2 mm Hg systolic and 2.8 mmHg diastolic.
Let’s put that amount of potassium into perspective with a few food sources:
- Beet greens – 1039 mg potassium per one cup
- Swiss chard – 961 mg per one cup
- Spinach – 839 mg per one cup
- Sweet potato – 839 mg per one potato
As you can see, as little as one quarter to one half a cup of leafy greens a day could help lower your blood pressure.
Did you notice something about all these foods that lower blood pressure?
They are all natural, whole foods!
It goes without saying that eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables is one of the best ways to control blood pressure naturally.
In fact, when people quit eating the standard American diet — filled with processed foods, added sugar and added salt — and switch to fruits, veggies, whole grains and whole food sources, blood pressure can be lowered anywhere from 3.5 to 11.4 mmHg.
And what’s more, these levels are maintained when a healthy diet is continued!
If you’re ready to make a few changes, the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) are both excellent whole food-based heart-healthy diets to follow.