High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
In the US, one in three adults have high blood pressure yet in hunter-gatherer populations high blood pressure is virtually unheard of! Because of this, many experts now believe that the majority of cases of hypertension come from poor lifestyle and dietary choices.
The good news is that this condition can be reversed in part by changing what you eat and drink!
Start adding in some, or all, of the following foods and drinks and you should notice a change in your numbers pretty soon.
Blueberries & Strawberries
Berries are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids, which are thought to be naturally beneficial for blood pressure levels.
One huge study (of over 87,000 people over a 14 year period) found that those who had the highest flavonoid intake, mainly from blueberries and strawberries, had an 8% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, compared to those with the lowest intake.
As well as preventing hypertension, these juicy fruits may help lower high blood pressure too.
Snack on berries regularly, add them to smoothies or try them in this delicious Make-Ahead Fruit and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait.
In just one day you may see a reduction in your blood pressure levels thanks to the healing power of beetroot.
A study carried out at the Queen Mary University in London found that blood pressure was lowered within 24 hours in people who drank beetroot juice – the same effect as taking nitrate tablets!
Researchers say only a small amount of juice is needed – just 8oz – to have this effect. They also say that the higher the blood pressure at the start of the study, the greater the decrease caused by the nitrate in the beetroot.
If you don’t fancy sipping on beetroot juice, add some roast beets to your salad or make a pretty pink Beetroot and Coconut Soup.
If you have slightly elevated blood pressure, you may be able to bring it to normal levels simply by sipping on some tea!
A study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Nutrition, reveals that drinking hibiscus tea can be helpful in lowering blood pressure, particularly when it is slightly elevated.
Researchers believe that a type of flavonoid (the same one found in blueberries) along with other antioxidants in hibiscus tea help stave off damage to blood vessels.
Drink three cups daily for best results.
Green or Oolong Tea
Hibiscus tea isn’t the only healing tea for blood pressure. Green tea, and oolong tea, are two others that are worth drinking.
One study of over 1,500 people showed that drinking one half to two and a half cups of oolong or green tea daily can lower your risk of hypertension by 46%!
Why not try out some of these 21 delicious Matcha green tea recipes? You won’t be disappointed!
Delicious dark chocolate is known to have a ton of health benefits – including the ability to lower blood pressure.
Scientists have discovered that the antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate can reduce hypertension, inflammation and improve the elasticity of blood vessels.
The study found that blood pressure was lowered within 18 weeks without weight gain – as long as participants stuck to just one square (30 calories-worth) of dark chocolate a day.
Make sure you choose a high-quality chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content.
A little red wine can prove beneficial for both your heart and your blood pressure.
But, there are a few things you need to take into consideration first.
- If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start – experts say the benefits are relatively small.
- If you’re a woman under 50 years of age, then it’s not so clear if red wine is such a healthy choice. Studies have shown a rise in breast cancer risk in younger women from drinking alcohol. For women over 50, the risk isn’t so great.
- One glass a day for a woman, or two for a man, is all you need to drink for heart and blood benefits.
- You should have two alcohol-free days a week according to World Health Organization guidelines.
However, there’s another way you can enjoy your glass of wine, benefit your blood pressure and not worry about any other risks …. Go non-alcoholic!
One study found that three glasses of non-alcoholic red wine a day over a month led to a significant drop in blood pressure in men with heart disease risk factors. Men who drank red wine with alcohol had no change in their blood pressure leading researchers to think that the alcohol weakens antioxidant activity.
Oatmeal is an all-round heart healthy food, thanks to its high fiber, low fat and low sodium content.
In 2002, research published in The Journal of Family Practice found that eating oatmeal reduced participants’ systolic pressure by as much as 7.5 points and diastolic pressure by 5.5 points.
The scientists concluded that adding oats to your daily diet can both prevent and treat high blood pressure.
Eating oatmeal regularly also helps you maintain a healthy weight and keep cholesterol low – both important factors in preventing hypertension.
Refreshing, juicy watermelon is thought to manage blood pressure levels, thanks to its citrulline content.
This amino acid enables us to produce nitric oxide, a gas which helps our blood vessels relax and the arteries stay flexible – both of which makes blood flow easier, thus lowering blood pressure.
One study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky looked at the effect of citrulline in watermelon on heart health in mice.
The researchers found that mice who drank watermelon juice had around 50% less plaque in their arteries than the mice who didn’t. What’s more, the mice having the watermelon drink gained just 30% of the weight that the other mice did.
Another study – this time on humans – showed that watermelon extract reduced blood pressure in obese people.
Never underestimate the power of ‘gut bugs’ in your overall health!
A review of nine previous studies found that probiotics can modestly reduce hypertension. However, the scientists behind the review suggest that probiotics may have greater effects when multiple strains of bacteria are used, and when taken long term.
These nutty little seeds, full of omega 3 fatty acids, have been enjoyed for their taste and health benefits for thousands of years.
Recent research has proven that they are, in fact, an incredibly useful food to have around.
A study which looked at the effects of flaxseed oil on the blood pressure levels of almost 60 middle-aged men, found that regular consumption can significantly reduce hypertension, without any other dietary changes.
Stir a spoonful of the seeds into your oatmeal for extra flavor, add to baked goods, or drizzle the oil on your salads.
A 2007 Mexican study decided to investigate if spirulina could be beneficial in lowering blood pressure levels.
What they found was extremely promising.
After just 6 weeks, a daily dose of 4.5 g of spirulina helped regulate blood pressure in both men and women – without any other dietary changes!
Spirulina can be mixed with water before drinking, or you can blend it into a smoothie. A word of warning – it does not taste good! For this reason, spirulina capsules are also available and are well worth considering.
Beans and Lentils
They’re not just nutritious though…they’re also healing.
Research has revealed that regularly eating lentils can lower dangerous blood pressure levels and even improve the condition of blood vessels, which have been damaged by high blood pressure.
Sounds like they’re pretty deserving of a year in their honor!
Lentils, and other pulses, can be used in a variety of ways – from replacing minced beef in certain dishes, to creating hearty salads and traditional Indian dishes. You could also try out these tasty Lentil-Chickpea Veggie Burgers with Avocado Green Harissa.
Leafy Green Vegetables
In the same way that the nitrates in beetroot help lower blood pressure, so do the nitrates in leafy green vegetables.
Researchers say that eating healthy amounts of nitrate-rich vegetables – such as a bowl of lettuce – will have a positive effect on blood pressure levels for around 24 hours.
Regularly rotate leafy greens like kale, cabbage, spinach, collard greens, fennel, Swiss chard, mustard greens etc. in your diet.
Baked potatoes, with the skin left on, are one of the most potassium rich foods around. One average potato will provide around 26% of your recommended daily value of potassium.
The American Heart Association say that a diet that includes natural sources of potassium is important for those with high blood pressure as potassium lessens the effects of sodium – a huge contributor to high blood pressure.
Avocados are another great natural source of potassium – with one fruit containing 28% of your daily potassium needs.
In fact, avocado can provide you with a myriad of health benefits so they’re worthy of a place in your pantry.
There is one caveat when it comes to avocados though – they’re a high fat food. Excess weight is a big problem for those with high blood pressure so if you want to include avocados in your diet for their potassium content, make sure to cut back on fat intake elsewhere.
A 2011 study, funded by Oslo University Hospital, found that kiwis eaten daily helped lower blood pressure levels in participants.
50 men and 68 women with mildly high blood pressure ate three kiwi fruits a day for eight weeks and saw promising results.
While three kiwis a day is excessive, enjoying a few a week along with the other foods listed here may play a part in lowering your blood pressure.
This natural antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory is one of the best foods to have on hand.
A garlic extract between 600 mg and 1,500 mg was found to be just as effective as medication prescribed for high blood pressure when it was taken over a 24 week period.
Other studies have shown that garlic supplements have a significant effect over 12 weeks, but only in mild cases of high blood pressure.
It’s the compound allicin in the garlic that’s responsible for these positive effects. As allicin is less potent when cooked, it’s recommended you enjoy your garlic raw – like in a bruschetta or salad – or invest in a good quality garlic supplement.
Other Herbs & Spices
Garlic isn’t the only herb with an effect on blood pressure. Eating a variety of herbs and spices regularly can see you enjoy all sorts of health benefits. For high blood pressure try:
Basil – extract of basil has been shown to lower blood pressure (although the effects were only seen briefly). It tastes delicious though so it can’t hurt to try it and see!
Cardamom – participants given powdered cardamom every day for several months enjoyed significant reductions in their blood pressure readings.
Celery Seed –celery seed extract has been shown to lower blood pressure in hypertensive rats, but not in those with normal blood pressure levels.
Cinnamon – patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes saw a reduction in their blood pressure levels after consuming cinnamon.
Want to learn more about herbs and their health properties? Discover some more under-rated healing herbs here.