Best Foods To Lower Blood Pressure According to a Dietitian
High blood pressure is a serious problem in Australia, with 1 in 3 Australians aged 18 years or over suffering from the condition. It’s also one of the leading causes of death and disability in Australia and globally (1,2).
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is diagnosed when your blood pressure is consistently higher than normal, for example, 130/80mmHg or higher (3). When your blood pressure is higher than it should be, it places more force on your artery walls and can damage blood vessels, increasing your risk for conditions such as Coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure (3).
Thankfully, there are many lifestyle changes we can make to manage and prevent high blood pressure – one of which includes eating a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, according to research, there are specific foods that may lower and manage our blood pressure, particularly those rich in nutrients like potassium and magnesium (4). In this article, we’ll explore the best foods to lower blood pressure, and foods you should limit to help you manage the condition.
1. Vegetables and legumes – One of the best foods to lower blood pressure
There’s no surprise vegetables feature at the top of the list of foods to lower blood pressure. Not only are they a great source of fibre, but they are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, both of which play an important role in blood pressure regulation. In fact, research has proven that people who consume 4-5 servings of vegetables have a lower risk of high blood pressure (2).
Here are 5 standout veggies that have been shown to lower blood pressure:
- Leafy greens – these veggies are excellent sources of magnesium and potassium – a mineral known to help relax blood vessel walls and flush excess sodium from the body (5,6)
- Beetroot and beet greens – not only are they rich in potassium, but also high in nitrates, which help to relax blood vessels and may lower blood pressure (4)
- Broccoli – this cruciferous veg is rich in four compounds that lower blood pressure including calcium, potassium, magnesium and Vitamin C (5). It also contains flavonoid antioxidants which help enhance blood vessel function and levels of nitric oxide. What a star! (5)
- Beans and lentils – containing potassium, magnesium and fibre, several studies have shown that consuming these foods may lower blood pressure and even reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (4,6)
- Garlic – when crushed or chopped, a compound called Allicin is released and has been found to lower blood pressure (5)
Like vegetables, fruit is also a great source of fibre, antioxidants and heart-healthy minerals like potassium and magnesium are known to help lower blood pressure. It’s also a key staple in the DASH diet, where research has shown that people who ate more fruit (and vegetables) compared to their regular way of eating had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t (2).
Here are 3 of our favourite fruits that make the list of foods to help lower blood pressure:
- Bananas – they’re rich in fibre and potassium, providing ~420mg in just one serving (5)
- Berries – these delicious fruits anthocyanin – a natural compound that can help artery walls become more flexible, and wider to improve heart health and lower blood pressure. Blueberries also contain nitric oxide, which helps improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure (5,6)
- Avocados – this creamy fruit is a great source of potassium, magnesium and calcium – all nutrients known to support blood pressure regulation
3. Nuts and seeds
While they may be small, nuts and seeds pack a nutritional punch. Not only are they a great source of healthy fats, proteins and vitamins and minerals, but several have also been found to lower blood pressure – making them great foods to help lower blood pressure.
Firstly, pistachios are a great source of potassium and have been found to lower blood pressure by reducing heart rate and reducing the tightening of blood vessels. In fact, a review of 21 studies found that among a variety of nuts, pistachios had the strongest effect on reducing both Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure (4,5.7).
Also containing potassium, pumpkin seeds have shown to be a powerful seed when it comes to regulating blood pressure. They’re a great source of arginine, an amino acid used in the production of nitric oxide which helps to relax blood vessels and regulate blood pressure, and magnesium too (4,6).
Last (but not least) is chia and flaxseeds. They offer a variety of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and fibre, and in a review of 11 studies, flaxseeds were found to help lower blood pressure when consumed in whole form for 12 weeks or longer (4).
4. Fatty fish and olive oil
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and are well known to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. But according to research, these fats are also great foods to lower blood pressure. How? By decreasing blood-vessel constricting compounds called oxylipin and by reducing inflammation (4).
Also, it should come as no surprise that Olive Oil makes the list of best foods to lower blood pressure. Well known as a staple in the Mediterranean diet, Olive oil contains polyphenols, a protective antioxidant that’s been found to improve blood vessel health by helping them remain elastic (6). It’s also been linked to lowering blood pressure, particularly in women, so make sure you’ve got this healthy staple in your pantry to use during cooking, for salad dressings and more (5).
5. Dark chocolate – an unexpected food to lower blood pressure
If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll be excited to see this has made the list of best foods to lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate contains flavanol – a plant-based antioxidant that has been found to promote healthy blood vessel function by widening blood vessels. When adding this to your eating plan, make sure it’s enjoyed in moderation and is at least 50-70% cocoa to reap the benefits (5,6).
The takeaway message
Adopting a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, and the occasional square of dark chocolate may help to lower and manage your blood pressure.
If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure or want to improve your overall heart health, book your free assessment to speak to one of our friendly staff about how our programs can help you!