Had your blood pressure checked recently? It’s worth keeping an eye on. I know so many people who have high blood pressure or on the borderline for worry.
The statistics regarding high blood pressure are pretty alarming. In fact, 30% of Americans have high blood pressure, 75% of people with diabetes have it and 25% of adults are prehypertensive, or on the brink of experiencing high blood pressure. About half the people with high blood pressure do not have it under control and 30% are unaware they even have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is really a silent disease. There are no signs or symptoms but the affliction can have deadly consequences. By not taking any action, you are putting yourself at risk for heart failure, stroke, loss of vision and even kidney failure.
The good news is that you have the power to take control of your diet and lower your blood pressure by making simple lifestyle and diet changes.
The most recommended approach recently to lower blood pressure has been the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which focuses on reducing sodium and increasing your vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods. However, there is a whole other world of options for you when it comes to controlling your blood pressure. Below is a list of 5 great foods to help lower blood pressure safely and naturally!
These fruits are rich in antioxidants. Along with blueberries, strawberries have shown significantly positive heart health benefits. Make sure to store your strawberries in the cold storage bins in your fridge to increase their access to humidity, which maximizes freshness and prevents nutrient loss.
2. Dark Chocolate
Consuming moderate amounts of cocoa or dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cocoa) can help lower blood pressure because cocoa is rich in flavanols. Cocoa is made from cocoa beans, the kernels of the cocoa fruit; it can also increase production of nitric oxide which helps your arteries to relax, dilate and become more flexible. All good! This can help to lower your blood pressure.
Soy is rich in a variety of nutrients including arginine, potassium, fiber and calcium. Arginine has been shown to prevent high blood pressure, likely because it is the building block for nitric oxide, a compound that dilates your arteries and lowers blood pressure. Potassium, fiber and calcium all play a role in lowering blood pressure, but this group of nutrients can also have preventative effects to lower your chances of developing high blood pressure in the future. Good choices are tofu and soybeans (steamed edamame at Japanese restaurants).
These tiny fish are packed with an abundance of nutrients that help your brain, bones and heart. Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your blood pressure by a few points, too. Sardines might not be the best go-to for blood pressure, but if you love (and crave) the occasional sardine, you’ll be happy to note that it is worthy of a mention because every little bit counts!
Melon is such a healthy and refreshing snack. Not only is it light and low in calories, it’s also filled with an abundance of nutrients including big-ticket potassium. Potassium helps maintain the fluid balance in all your cells and counteracts some of the effects of sodium. So if you’re consuming more sodium, keep your body in check by balancing it out with higher amounts of potassium. But don’t use this as an excuse to increase your sodium content. Put down that jar of salted nuts or deli pepperettes! Processed foods and cured meats are packed with added sodium. Aim for at least 4,700 mg of potassium per day which can give you a bit of breathing room when it comes to sodium intake.
Switching up your lifestyle is definitely the best way to prevent high blood pressure. By improving your diet, losing a few pounds, engaging in regular physical activity, reducing your salt intake and limiting your alcohol intake, you are well on your way to lowering your blood pressure levels. And who can resist a few strawberries dipped in dark chocolate?!
Basu, A., et al., “Strawberry as a Functional Food: an evidence-based review,” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2014; 54:790-806.
Desch, S., et al., “Effect of cocoa products on blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis,” American Journal of Hypertension 2010; 23:97-103.
Nguyen, H., et al., “A review of nutritional factors in hypertension management,” International Journal of Hypertension 2013; 2013.
Schaeffer, J., “Eat to lower blood pressure- Nutrition strategies for counseling patients,” Today’s Dietitian 2012; 14(1):18.