Foods That Lower Blood Pressure – 6 Easy Actions

Looking for foods that lower blood pressure? Worried that eating to control your high blood pressure will mean a life of bland food or a jail sentence of deprivation? Don’t worry, you can learn how to eat to lower your blood pressure and turn it into a lifestyle that you’ll love.

Your fork and knife are the most powerful tools you have to manage high blood pressure. According to Mayo Clinic, adhering to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help lower your blood pressure by a few points in just weeks. Yeah, you think – that’s great – but how am I going to incorporate DASH into my life without it becoming a full time job?

Keep reading and we’ll give you six actions, inspired by the science behind DASH, plus easy tips to make them happen!

Action 1 – Eat More Veggies
Action 2 – Watch the Salt
Action 3 – Enjoy Potassium-Rich Fruits
Action 4 – Crowd in Healthy Proteins
Action 5 – Swap in Healthy Fats
Action 6 – Go for WHOLE Grains 

1. Eat More Veggies

Vegetables are rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Getting these key minerals into your diet is the trick to lowering your blood pressure. Potassium is important for muscle function and eases tension in blood vessel walls 1. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels by regulating hundreds of the body’s systems, specifically blood pressure 2. Fiber is known to lower high blood pressure by reducing cholesterol 3.

DASH recommends 4-5 servings of vegetables a day. One serving is a 1/2 cup cooked, or 1 cup raw. While all vegetables are great, favor the potassium-rich ones: dark, leafy greens, cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, and pumpkin.

Tips to make it happen:

  • Don’t stress about servings – just make vegetables HALF of what you eat a day.
  • Crowd vegetables into what you’re already eating. Toss them into your favorite dishes. Add spinach to your omelet, chili, taco meat, or soup. Instead of just pasta and red sauce, add sauteed veggies like zucchini, onions, and swiss chard.
  • Ask for “double veggies” and order a side salad when you’re eating out.
  • Make your salad count. Replace iceberg lettuce with baby spinach, arugula, baby kale and/or mixed greens. You can buy them already washed and ready to go. Store them with a dry paper towel to help absorb the moisture so they’ll last longer.
  • Snack on cut up veggies – buy them cut up and pair them with hummus, other bean dips, or cheese. Pack them up too and bring them with you when you’re on the go.

2. Watch the Salt

Your body wants to maintain a balanced ratio of liquid to salt. When there is too much salt, your body pulls in more liquid and this extra fluid in your blood contributes to high blood pressure.

So your goal is to keep yourself to no more than 1,500 mg of salt a day (that’s about ½ a teaspoon, or one turkey and cheese sandwich). According to the CDC, very little salt is coming from the salt shaker (only 5%). Here’s where most of the salt is coming from: bread and rolls (7%), cold cuts/cured meats (5%), pizza (5%), fresh and processed poultry (4.5%), soups (4%), sandwiches (4%), cheese (4%), pasta dishes (3%), meat mixed dishes (like meatloaf) (3%), and savory snacks (like chips, pretzels etc.) (3%).

Tips to make it happen:

  • Eat more fresh foods and less packaged processed foods.
  • Get your sauces and dressings on the side. You’ll find that you need less sauce to experience the flavor than you may expect.
  • Limit foods that are high in salt like canned soups, frozen dinners, entrees and vegetables with sauces, and mixed meat dishes (like meatloaf).
  • Choose “salt-free,” “no salt added,” or “low-sodium.” You can always add your own salt – it will be less!
  • Read the food labels – ignore the percent daily value listed on the package (that’s calculated based on outdated guidelines). Keep in mind your goal to stay under 1,500 mg a day. That Sierra Turkey sandwich from Panera has 1,900 mg of salt – yikes! So maybe eat half and pair it with a salad, or choose another option.
  • Use Celtic sea salt – it has a stronger salt flavor so you can use less.
  • Add a dash of cayenne pepper. It boosts the salt flavor so you can use less salt and taste it more.
  • Use other things to flavor food – try fresh lemon juice, herbs and spices, and garlic.

3. Enjoy Potassium-Rich Fruits

Fruits are a great source of potassium, magnesium, and fiber. These are the three power-minerals that help lower high blood pressure 4.

The DASH diet recommends 4-5 servings of fruit a day – one serving is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. Favor the potassium-rich ones: oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, apples, and berries.

Tips to make it happen: 

  • Cut up fruit and add it to your breakfast cereals and oatmeal, or place strawberries on top of your waffle.
  • Pack up fresh fruit as snacks and pair them with calcium-rich protein (like low-fat cheese) or magnesium-rich protein (like unsalted pumpkin seeds).

4. Crowd in Healthy Proteins

Crowding protein into your diet may help to lower your blood pressure 5. Protein is a “macronutrient” that your body uses to make enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals. It’s an important building block of your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood and it helps you stay full longer by slowing the release of sugar from the carbohydrates you eat.

Try to eat more plant-based protein as it will help you pull in the nutrients and fiber you need. Some great sources of protein are beans, lentils, and unsalted nuts and seeds. When choosing an animal protein, go for fish, seafood, and leaner cuts of meat like white meat chicken or london broil.

Tips to make it happen: 

  • Buy already-cooked sources of protein like beans and lentils. You can find them either in the freezer section or canned (buy low salt and rinse before eating).
  • Toss chickpeas into your salad, add black beans to your soup, or pair bean dips with your veggies for snacks.
  • Unsalted nuts are a great source of protein. Get them into your salads, oatmeal, and pair them with fruit for a snack.
  • Try to eat fish two times a week. Choose omega-3 rich fish like salmon.

5. Swap in Healthy Fats

There are two types of fat that you want to try to avoid: saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat can be found mainly in red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products 6. Saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain. Too much cholesterol in your blood causes your arteries to narrow, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Trans fat occurs naturally in some foods in small amounts, but most trans fat is found in the oils of highly processed foods. Trans fat can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease 7.

Crowd in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids instead. Studies have found that eating these healthy fats improve blood cholesterol levels, which can subsequently decrease your risk of heart disease and reduce high blood pressure 8.

The DASH diet recommends 2-3 servings of healthy fats and oils per day. One serving is about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing.

Good sources of monounsaturated fat include: unsalted nuts, avocados, canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and nut butters 9. Crowd in Omega-3 essential fatty acids through eating fish (salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring) or plant sources: ground flaxseed, oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean), and nuts/other seeds (walnuts, butternuts, and chia seeds).

Tips to make it happen:

  • Palm oils and coconut oils are high in saturated fats. Try substituting in a healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil instead.
  • Add nutrient-rich unsalted nuts like almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds to your day. Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day and make them unsalted.
  • To avoid trans fat, check your food labels. By law, a serving of food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be rounded down and labeled as 0 grams 10. Read the ingredient list for the term “partially hydrogenated”, that’s a trans fat.

6. Go for WHOLE Grains

Whole grains are rich in healthy nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, fiber, folate, iron, and selenium.

Make sure the products you’re buying are actually whole grain. Ignore what they say on the front of the package. Turn it over and read the ingredients. You want to see “100% whole” in front of grain. And you want to see “whole” before the type of flour.  Choose products that list whole-grain ingredients first.

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that you keep your grains to 1-3 servings a day. One serving is a slice of bread, one piece of pizza, or half a cup of pasta, cereal, or grain.

Tips to make it happen:

  • Look for phrases like “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “oatmeal,” or “quinoa” in the ingredients list.
  • The number of grains and type of grain is something you should explore if you have signs of inflammation. Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, digestive issues, headaches, or joint pain are driven by inflammation. To learn more about healthy eating to reduce inflammation, check out our article.

You got this. You can eat to lower your blood pressure. Pick a few things to try and get started today!

Changing how you doesn’t have to be so hard. It just takes knowledge, skills and support. Sign up for a FREE 2 week trial of my online program and learn how to eat right for you. You’ll learn how to eat to control your blood pressure and get the personal coaching to turn healthy eating into a lifestyle that you love!

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/key-minerals-to-help-control-blood-pressure
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/key-minerals-to-help-control-blood-pressure
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12544662
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550
  7. https://www.bloodpressureuk.org/microsites/AfricanCaribbean/Home/Healthyeating/Fattyfoods
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550
  9. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000785.htm
  10. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550

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