Globally, over 1 billion people suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. It is one of the most common risk factors for heart disease and is largely preventable. A heart-healthy diet can benefit those with hypertension. Eating the right foods, especially those high in minerals like potassium and magnesium, may help lower and control your blood pressure levels.
How salt can impact my blood pressure?
Generally, people with high blood pressure should also avoid foods that are high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams. For reference, a teaspoon of salt has about 2,400 milligrams of sodium.
Salt contains sodium, as does monosodium glutamate (or MSG), both of which are used in many packaged and prepared foods. Table salt, iodized salt, sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt all contain the same amount of sodium. There are some sodium-free table salts available that use potassium chloride to mimic the taste of salt without the effects of sodium, Additionally, there are as well as salt-free herb and spice blends to help flavor food without sodium.
When you consume sodium, the body will retain extra water to help flush the excess sodium out. This can cause an increase in blood pressure because there is a higher volume of water.
Those with high blood pressure should also limit or avoid fried and fatty foods, foods high in sodium like deli meats, jerky, snack foods, or preserved foods that use salt or sodium, like canned soups or vegetables.
All of that said, there are heart-healthy foods that may have additional benefits that can help lower blood pressure naturally.
12 Heart-Healthy Foods to Incorporate into Your Diet
These bright and tangy fruits are packed with vitamins, as well as special plant compounds called polyphenols that may help lower your blood pressure naturally. While there have been some small but promising studies done on orange and grapefruit, it’s important to note that grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interact with certain prescription medications.
You may have heard that salmon and other oily fish are good for your heart, and the research backs up the hype! Fatty and oily fish like salmon and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can help lower blood pressure by tamping down inflammation and lowering oxylipins, certain which are compounds that cause blood vessels to constrict.
A recent study found that people with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood also had significantly lower blood pressure levels.
BEANS AND LENTILS
Studies have shown that foods high in magnesium, potassium, and fiber may help (maintain a healthy) blood pressure. That’s where beans and legumes come in handy! These pantry staples are high in fiber, potassium, and magnesium. When people swapped beans and lentils in for other foods, they noticed a lower blood pressure, whether or not they had been diagnosed with hypertension.
When you are done carving up that jack-o-lantern, don’t throw out those pumpkin seeds! These seeds are packed with potassium, magnesium, and arginine. Arginine is an amino acid that is used to make nitric oxide, which helps our blood vessels relax and dilate more, allowing for lower blood pressure.
A small study found that postmenopausal women who took 3 grams of pumpkin seed oil daily for 6 weeks saw a significant decreased in their systolic blood pressure.
Berries have been called a “superfood” in recent years, and it’s because they can positively impact your blood pressure levels in a super way! Berries are high in fiber and antioxidants, including a group called anthocyanins. These anthocyanins may help reduce blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide levels in the bloodstream. They also help reduce vasoconstricting molecules, such as angiotensin II, but more human studies are needed.
These delicious green nuts have a lot of potassium and have been linked to lowering your blood pressure levels. A review of 21 different studies, showed pistachios have the biggest impact on lowering blood pressure among several different nuts.
Sure, these root vegetables are associated with healthy eyes, but they are great for managing your blood pressure as well. Carrots contain many powerful plant compounds that have been found to reduce inflammation and relax blood vessels.
This summertime produce has been associated with many health benefits, including helping the prostate and heart. Not only do tomatoes contain potassium, but they also have a carotenoid called lycopene. Lycopene may help lower the risk of heart disease and decrease blood pressure. Lycopene is present in fresh tomatoes but consuming tomato products like tomato sauce or tomato paste, increases the lycopene content.
Greek yogurt goes beyond breakfast. This strained yogurt is full of protein, but also calcium and potassium, which may help with regulating blood pressure. Studies have shown that consuming 3 servings of dairy daily may reduce your risk of high blood pressure by 13%!
This dark leafy green is incredibly healthy for you, in so many ways! . Spinach is high in nitrates, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and potassium; it’s a total powerhouse for blood pressure!.
In one study, people who ate about two cups of spinach soup daily for a week saw reductions in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared to people who consumed asparagus soup, which is low in nitrates. The spinach soup also helped with stiffness in the arteries, which may be also beneficial to blood pressure.
We have heard about the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil for many years now. The healthy fatty acids and antioxidants in olive oil are true health stars! Olive oil also contains polyphenols, which have been shown to keep blood vessels flexible.
This flavorful bulb does more than just make a mean pasta. Garlic contains nitric oxide, which has been shown to relax blood vessels. A recent review study found that garlic improves blood pressure in hypertensive patients similar to medications used for treatment. Kyolic garlic, in particular, has been shown to help with arterial stiffness and may even improve cholesterol levels.
Healthy Food For a Healthy Heart
Remember, if you are trying to eat a heart-healthy diet to help your blood pressure, it often goes beyond watching the sodium content! Foods that are rich in potassium and other minerals, as well as antioxidants have been shown to improve blood pressure. Try incorporating some of the nutrient-rich foods listed above in your regular diet as part of a heart-healthy plan!
Laura Krebs-Holm, MS RD LD, is a registered dietitian who believes that good nutrition can make a huge difference in your health. She earned her Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Texas State University in San Marcos, and has been helping people feel their best through the power of food ever since. When she is not keeping up with the latest nutrition research, Laura enjoys cooking, reading, working out, and gardening.