A list of delicious foods that can help lower your blood pressure
- The best foods to lower
blood pressureare high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
- These foods include leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, low-fat dairy, and more.
- You should avoid foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats.
Living with high blood pressure is a reality for more than 100 million US adults. There are many ways to control your blood pressure, and adopting a heart-healthy diet is one of the most important steps to take.
Here are some of the best foods you can eat to lower blood pressure, as well as which foods you should avoid.
Foods to eat to lower blood pressure
Americans are known to eat high-sodium diets, and it's one of the reasons hypertension is so common in the US.
"Extra sodium in your bloodstream can pull water into your blood vessels, which increases the total volume of blood inside your blood vessels, and causes blood pressure to increase," says Lori Mosca, MD, MPH, PhD, Director of Preventive Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
But eating a balanced diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium can help get your blood pressure under control. In fact, a 2013 review found that adding potassium to high-sodium diets reduces blood pressure substantially in hypertensive patients.
While all nutrients are important, Mosca says potassium is vital in managing blood pressure because it lessens the effects of sodium — the more potassium you take in, the more sodium you lose through urine. Additionally, a high intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium can ease tension in the blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure.
Examples of heart-healthy foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium include:
- Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Fruit like bananas, watermelon, apricots, and berries
- Seeds, nuts, and beans
- Avocados and tofu
- Low-fat yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
- Some fatty fish like salmon and mackerel that are high in omega-3 fatty acids
However, for certain patients, especially those with kidney disease, Mosca says too much potassium can be harmful if your kidneys aren't able to properly remove it. That's why it's important to talk with your doctor in order to make the dietary changes that are right for you to lower blood pressure.
The DASH diet can lower blood pressure
The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a healthy eating plan intended to help lower blood pressure without medication.
While you can eat foods from all food groups, you are encouraged to reduce sodium and focus on foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Guidelines include:
- Limit sodium in your diet to 2,300 milligrams per day (may go as low as 1,500 milligrams per day)
- Enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit
- Eat beans, seeds, nuts, and whole-grains
- Include fat-free and low-fat dairy
- Eat fish, poultry, and lean meats
- Reduce intake of salt, sugar, red meat, processed foods, saturated fat, trans fat, and alcoholic beverages
Foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure
If you're living with high blood pressure, Mosca says that — in addition to limiting your intake of sodium — you should minimize sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.
The American Heart Association also recommends cutting back on saturated and trans fats. In general, try to reduce your consumption of pre-packaged, processed, and prepared foods. And watch out for foods that add salt to your diet, including:
- Canned soup or other canned goods
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Frozen dinners
- Salted snacks and nuts
- Condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and barbecue sauce
- Some cheeses, seafood, and olives
Changing your eating habits is one of the best ways to take control of your blood pressure levels and start lowering them. Focus on foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These include many whole fruits and vegetables that you can add to a stir fry, salad, casserole, or just enjoy plain.
Most importantly, avoid prepackaged and processed foods that are loaded with sodium like cold cuts, frozen pizza, and condiments. Pair a healthy diet with regular exercise and you should see an improvement in blood pressure levels.
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