High blood pressure is no joke. Nearly one in three U.S. adults suffer from hypertension, and only about half are able to keep theirs controlled. Several factors, such as obesity, tobacco use, inactivity and high alcohol intake, can contribute to higher readings, but diet is one of the biggest offenders. Check out this yummy list of foods that might help turn the tide.
Diet plays a role in blood pressure levels. It can help to eat foods included in the DASH diet: whole grains, lean meats, fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy products. Some foods have properties that can lower the numbers even more. Try adding some flax and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids; flavonoid-rich berries and dark chocolate; high-potassium foods like bananas; fiber-rich foods like oats and barley; and fermented foods like yogurt. Let's look at how these foods can improve blood pressure.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. This has people cut sodium, saturated fats, high-cholesterol foods, and sweets while also adding in more whole grains, lean meats, fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy products. It may be difficult at first to change to a whole new diet, especially for those accustomed to convenience foods (which are often loaded with salt and other unwanted ingredients), but it helps to start slow and maintain consistency. Below are some great choices to kick it off.
Swap out steak or ground beef for a flavorful cut of salmon or better yet, give up meat altogether and add a dash of ground flax to meals for an Omega 3 boost. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce blood pressure even in people not taking any medications. There are plenty of good sources of omega-3 fatty acids including nuts, flax, and leafy greens. Try serving the usual fare on a bed of greens for an easy healthy upgrade.
Berries are too often overlooked as the superfoods they are. Skip the refined sugar and grab a handful of juicy berries when in the mood for sweets. Foods rich in flavonoids, like blueberries and strawberries, can reduce blood pressure and may even reduce the risk of full-blown hypertension. Other foods high in flavonoids include apples, cherries, and citrus fruits.
Dark chocolate is another great way to satisfy that sweet tooth while lowering blood pressure. It contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that can relax the blood vessels and make visible reductions in blood pressure readings. Just make sure the chocolate you choose is high in cacao; milk or white chocolate won’t offer many benefits.
Bananas and other foods that are high in potassium can help reduce blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. Potassium reduces the amount of overall sodium content in the body, and it has properties that help to reduce blood vessel tension. Other foods high in this nutrient include potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, citrus, avocados and stone fruits.
How about that bowl of piping hot oatmeal on a snowy morning? It could do wonders for your blood pressure. There’s a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which is found in oats and barley, which appears to be particularly beneficial for blood pressure numbers. And it gets even better: Beta glucan also reduces triglyceride absorption and lowers bad cholesterol levels. It's a double whammy of healthy goodness!
Probiotics, like those found in yogurt, may also help lower numbers, but most will need to take them consistently for at least 8 weeks before seeing any benefits. And the bigger the variety of probiotic strains, the better results may likely be. Other sources of probiotics include kefir, aged cheeses, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha. And remember: consistency and variety are key.
We may be able to do more for our blood pressure than many think. It's not entirely outside our control. We can start by taking a look at our diets and looking for ways to add in more foods that may make a significant difference. Many of the above might only slightly affect readings, but combined, they just may transform health. Use them in combination with other healthy practices and/or medications to regain control.