Everybody is always looking for the latest superfood on the market. Want to hear a secret? Many of the foods you find in your local grocery store or even tucked away in your fridge may have more superpowers than you would have thought—especially when it comes to foods that lower blood pressure.
One highly underrated food is the sweet potato. While potatoes get a lot of negative attention, likely because they are a starchy root vegetable full of, dare I say, carbs, sweet potatoes may be a food that lowers blood pressure! Many fear a regular baked potato—but you shouldn’t rob the sweet potato of all the credit it deserves. It’s rich in many nutrients including an abundance of vitamin A (important for your eyes & vision and immune systems), it has double the amount of fiber than the regular potato, and it’s one of the best sources of potassium!
Now what’s so special about potassium? Did you know that potassium has been strongly linked to lower blood pressure? It can play a significant role in decreasing high blood pressure and your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The Potassium-Blood Pressure Connection
One meta-analysis, which summarizes results of multiple studies, found that foods that lower blood pressure are those that have higher potassium content. These results were found among participants that were either healthy or had high blood pressure.
Potassium maintains a fluid balance within the cells and therefore it was determined that the effects of potassium lowering blood pressure are dependent on the salt content in the body.
This means that if your salt intake is high then your potassium intake should also be higher to balance it out in order to be more effective in decreasing blood pressure. If your salt intake is low, in order to reduce your blood pressure, your intake of potassium should be lower. However, for healthy individuals and those without any kidney problems, excess potassium is excreted in your urine.
Adults should be getting about 4,700 mg of potassium per day. It is estimated that 50% of adults are not getting the recommended amounts, likely because 90% of people are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium and are the best foods to lower blood pressure.
Why You Need More Potassium Than Ever Before
The recommended amounts of potassium have actually increased over the years as there has been strong evidence supporting its role in helping lower blood pressure. Since one medium-sized sweet potato contains over 540 mg of potassium, it can definitely be a beneficial food that lowers blood pressure.
One of my favorite snacks is sweet potato chips and they are so easy to make. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Slice the sweet potato into circles and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over the slices and sprinkle some rosemary on top. Bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Take them out, let them cool and enjoy! Such an easy snack or appetizer to hold you and your guests over until dinner is ready to be served—and it can’t hurt that you’re serving them foods that lower blood pressure!
Appel, L.J., “ASH position paper: dietary approaches to lower blood pressure,”The Journal of Clinical Hypertension 2009; 11:358-368.
“Canadian Nutrient File,” Health Canada website 2010; http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php, last accessed October 30, 2013.