According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29% of Americans have hypertension. (1)
That means one out of three people has hypertension which is the root cause of many cardiovascular diseases.
Here are a few blood pressure-friendly foods that you should include in your diet.
Scientific evidence suggests that nitrate-rich vegetables and fruits can reduce blood pressure. One 2018 study found that nitrate-rich produce does lower blood pressure in healthy men aged 18 to 40 years. After eating nitrate-rich foods for two weeks, the diastolic blood pressure in the test subjects decreased by 9%. (2)
A 2008 study found that 500 ml of beetroot juice can reduce the blood pressure by 10.4mm Hg on average. Also, researchers suggested mechanisms through which nitrates produce their blood pressure-lowering effect. (3)
The American Heart Association suggests that people should consume more nitrate-rich foods to alleviate the effects of excessive salt consumption. This recommendation was based on a rat study that demonstrated the blood pressure-lowering ability of nitrate-rich foods.
Although the beneficial effects in the rat study may not necessarily be seen in humans, the results of the study are nevertheless encouraging. Nitrate-rich foods proved 100 times more effective than potassium-rich foods in protecting mice against the effects of a salt-laden diet. Hence, you can expect similar results could be expected in humans. (4)
The American Heart Association suggests that yogurt may be a blood-pressure friendly food. This study is the largest of its kind. The research involved nurses aged 25 to 55 years and male medical professionals aged 45 to 75 years. The study lasted for three decades and found over 74,000 cases of hypertension in the test subjects.
After analyzing the data, researchers found that women consuming 5 or more servings of yogurt had a 20 percent less chance of developing hypertension. Researchers deemed this result statistically significant. Surprisingly, men did not experience the same effects. Furthermore, researchers say that this could be due to substantially lower consumption of yogurt in the male participants.
Another encouraging result is worth mentioning. Participants who ate higher amounts of blood pressure-friendly foods (like whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits) along with yogurt experienced the greatest benefit. They had a 31 percent lower chance of suffering hypertension.
Other dairy products besides yogurt-like cheese and milk also provided blood pressure benefits. However, yogurt is the most effective blood pressure food among all other dairy products. (5)
Oatmeal is another blood pressure-friendly food according to one study.
18 men and women suffering from hypertension were given oatmeal for 6 weeks. The oatmeal provided 5.52 grams per day of beta-glucan which is believed to be a highly beneficial part of oats. The results were dramatic. Systolic blood pressure went down by 7.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure reduced by 5.5 mm Hg. Also, cholesterol went down by 9% whereas the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol saw an impressive reduction of 14%. (6)
Berries are among the most popular health foods due to their high antioxidant content. Strawberries and blueberries are rich in a class of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins.
The results of one large study show that anthocyanins can be helpful for blood pressure. Over 85,000 participants were involved in the study. Those consuming the highest levels of anthocyanins saw an 8 percent reduction in hypertension. (7)
Bananas and Other Potassium-Rich Foods
The American Heart Association recommends eating potassium-rich foods like bananas. According to the AHA, potassium-rich foods may help in managing blood pressure since potassium can offset the negative effects of sodium. With higher potassium consumption, the concentration of sodium decreases. Besides this, potassium is also beneficial for your blood vessels since it lowers the tension within arteries due to which blood pressure drops. (8)
Hence, it makes sense to increase the consumption of this mineral through potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, coconut water, white beans, black beans, dried apricots, and Swiss chard.
A meta-analysis of 15 studies shows that dark chocolate is helpful for the reduction of high blood pressure. Dark chocolate proved beneficial for people with normal as well high blood pressure. That is, dark chocolate reduced blood pressure in both of these people. The blood-pressure-lowering effects were most significant in hypertensive patients. (9)
A Harvard study showed that flavonoids in dark chocolate can help to dilate your blood vessels which makes it a blood pressure-friendly food. The results of the Harvard research were announced by the AHA in their science session.
Dark chocolate should contain at least 70 percent cocoa for beneficial effects. Researchers also noted that dark chocolate increased insulin sensitivity meaning that dark chocolate can lower the risk of diabetes and other metabolic syndromes. (10)
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