Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and contributes to over 7 million deaths per year worldwide (1). About 60% of Americans are pre-hypertensive or hypertensive (2).
Lowering blood pressure reduces the risk of damaging arterial plaque which in turn lessens the chances of coronary heart disease and strokes (3).
Regular exercise and modifying your diet can drastically improve your blood pressure. Here are 5 food that help to lower blood pressure.
1) Nitrate-rich vegetables
Dietary nitrates are compounds that exist in green leafy vegetables and beetroot. Oral bacteria convert dietary nitrates to nitrites and this increases nitric oxide bioavailability (4).
Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and regulates blood pressure (5).
Many clinical trials demonstrate that consuming nitrate-rich vegetables lowers blood pressure across several age groups (6, 7) and different health conditions (8-12).
Due to the short nature of current clinical research, potential long-term benefits remain unclear.
A large 15-year observational study in Australia found that consuming at least 76.4 mg of dietary nitrates per day reduced the risk of vascular disease by 6.6% when compared to women that consumed less than 52.7 mg per day (13).
These findings occurred despite similar diet quality and lifestyle behaviors. However, longer clinical trials are required to determine causality.
Nitrate rich vegetables like lettuce, beetroot, spinach, parsley and cabbage can help lower your blood pressure and contain many other vital nutrients so make sure you include these foods in your diet is a must.
Anti-bacterial mouthwash can interfere with nitric oxide production from dietary nitrates and may negatively impact blood pressure (14).
So also consider using a natural probiotic mouthwash instead or using probiotic chewing gum to reap the full benefits of nitrates.
Cacao beans are seeds of the fruit grown on the Theobroma cacao tree, found in parts of Africa and South America
. Cacao is best-known for its role in producing chocolate but research is revealing various health benefits.
The Kuna Indian community living on an Island off the coast of Panama scarcely develop high blood pressure despite consuming more salt than most western populations (15).
Lifestyle factors likely cause these low hypertension rates because Kuna Indians living in urban environments commonly develop high blood pressure despite consuming similar foods (15).
However, Island-dwelling Kuna Indians uniquely drink several glasses of a cocoa-based beverage
Cacao is abundant in a flavanol called epicatechin that increases nitric oxide (17).
A meta-analysis of 35 clinical trials with over 1800 participants revealed that cacao supplementation reduces blood pressure by about 2 mmHg in healthy adults and 4 mmHg in people with high blood pressure (18).
Raw cacao powder is the healthiest form and you add 1-2 teaspoons to smoothies, added to yoghurt, porridge, hot chocolate or you can make your own treats.
The European Food Safety Authority recommends 200 mg of cacao flavanols per day, obtained by 2.5 grams of flavanol-rich cacao powder or 10 grams of flavanol-rich dark chocolate as part of a balanced diet (19).
Garlic has been used for cooking and traditional medicine for over 5000 years in various countries (20).
It consists of carbohydrates, sulphur compounds, fibre, amino acids and its rich in phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
High concentrations of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties can be found in garlic (21).
The sulphur compound allicin plays a key role in garlic’s blood pressure-lowering capabilities.
They increase hydrogen sulphide which also plays a role in relaxing our blood vessels (22).
Clinical trials demonstrate that garlic reduces systolic blood pressure by 5.1 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.5 mmHg (23).
The effect is even stronger in hypertensive patients, with a systolic blood pressure reduced by 8.7 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.1 mmHg, with a dose of at least 600 mg per day (23).
4) Tree nuts
Consuming tree nuts also reduces the risk of hypertension. For example, a large cohort study involving 15966 found that eating tree nuts everyday reduced the risk of hypertension by 18% even when exercise, diet quality, multivitamin use and cholesterol were taken into account (24).
Tree nuts provide several nutrients involved in regulating blood pressure. Examples include calcium, potassium and arginine (25-27).
Tree nuts also contain very little sodium so researchers have studied the association between tree nuts and blood pressure.
Nuts additional provide many polyphenols that are associated with good health (28).
Consuming 30 grams of mixed nuts per day reduced blood pressure in a 4-year clinical trial involving subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease (29). Systolic blood pressure was reduced by 7.26 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 3.26 mmHg compared to the control group.
Nut intake also increased blood polyphenols and this was positively associated with increased nitric oxide.
The findings suggest that polyphenols existing in nuts lowers blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide (29). A handful of mixed nuts provide a great snack alternative to highly processed junk food.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated acids are vital for human health but they cannot be produced within our bodies so they must be obtained from food. Health benefits include improved endothelial function and reduced atherosclerosis (30).
Fish delivers a rich source of omega-3 and high intakes are associated with many health benefits.
For example, a study in Ecuador found that people consuming at least 5 portions of oily fish had on average a blood pressure 2.3 mmHg lower than individuals who consumed less (31).
Clinical research demonstrates that omega-3 reduces blood pressure, most likely by relaxing blood vessels (32).
Taking 1 to 2 grams per day reduces systolic blood pressure but to also reduce diastolic blood pressure requires at least 2 grams per day (32).
High blood pressure can result in a number of health complications if not correctly managed. This can include complications such as heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, heart failure and metabolic syndrome. Embracing a healthy lifestyle by regular exercise and making changes to your diet can drastically improve your blood pressure.
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- Carlström M, Lundberg JO, Weitzberg E. Mechanisms underlying blood pressure reduction by dietary inorganic nitrate. Acta Physiologica. 2018 Apr 25:e13080.
- Rees DD, Palmer RM, Moncada S. Role of endothelium-derived nitric oxide in the regulation of blood pressure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 1989 May 1;86(9):3375-8.
- Sweazea KL, Johnston CS, Miller B, Gumpricht E. Nitrate-Rich Fruit and Vegetable Supplement Reduces Blood Pressure in Normotensive Healthy Young Males without Significantly Altering Flow-Mediated Vasodilation: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Controlled Trial. Journal of nutrition and metabolism. 2018;2018.
- Raubenheimer K, Hickey D, Leveritt M, Fassett R, Ortiz de Zevallos Munoz J, Allen JD, Briskey D, Parker TJ, Kerr G, Peake JM, Pecheniuk NM. Acute effects of nitrate-rich beetroot juice on blood pressure, hemostasis and vascular inflammation markers in healthy older adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 22;9(11):1270.
- Bondonno CP, Liu AH, Croft KD, Ward NC, Yang X, Considine MJ, Puddey IB, Woodman RJ, Hodgson JM. Short-term effects of nitrate-rich green leafy vegetables on blood pressure and arterial stiffness in individuals with high-normal blood pressure. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2014 Dec 1;77:353-62.
- Jonvik KL, Nyakayiru J, Pinckaers PJ, Senden JM, van Loon LJ, Verdijk LB. Nitrate-Rich Vegetables Increase Plasma Nitrate and Nitrite Concentrations and Lower Blood Pressure in Healthy Adults–3. The Journal of nutrition. 2016 Apr 13;146(5):986-93.
- McDonagh ST, Wylie LJ, Webster JM, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. Influence of dietary nitrate food forms on nitrate metabolism and blood pressure in healthy normotensive adults. Nitric Oxide. 2018 Jan 30;72:66-74.
- Ashworth A, Mitchell K, Blackwell JR, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. High-nitrate vegetable diet increases plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations and reduces blood pressure in healthy women. Public health nutrition. 2015 Oct;18(14):2669-78.
- Jajja A, Sutyarjoko A, Lara J, Rennie K, Brandt K, Qadir O, Siervo M. Beetroot supplementation lowers daily systolic blood pressure in older, overweight subjects. Nutrition Research. 2014 Oct 1;34(10):868-75.
- Blekkenhorst LC, Bondonno CP, Lewis JR, Devine A, Woodman RJ, Croft KD, Lim WH, Wong G, Beilin LJ, Prince RL, Hodgson JM. Association of dietary nitrate with atherosclerotic vascular disease mortality: a prospective cohort study of older adult women. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2017 May 31;106(1):207-16.
- Bondonno CP, Liu AH, Croft KD, Considine MJ, Puddey IB, Woodman RJ, Hodgson JM. Antibacterial mouthwash blunts oral nitrate reduction and increases blood pressure in treated hypertensive men and women. American journal of hypertension. 2014 Oct 30;28(5):572-5.
- Hollenberg NK, Martinez G, McCullough M, Meinking T, Passan D, Preston M, Rivera A, Taplin D, Vicaria-Clement M. Aging, acculturation, salt intake, and hypertension in the Kuna of Panama. Hypertension. 1997 Jan 1;29(1):171-6.
- Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND, McCullough ML. Flavanols, the Kuna, cocoa consumption, and nitric oxide. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension. 2009 Mar 1;3(2):105-12.
- Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NK. Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans. Journal of hypertension. 2003 Dec 1;21(12):2281-6.
- Ried K, Fakler P, Stocks NP. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017(4).
- EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to cocoa flavanols and maintenance of normal endothelium‐dependent vasodilation pursuant to Article 13 (5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal. 2012 Jul;10(7):2809.
- Ried K, Fakler P. Potential of garlic (Allium sativum) in lowering high blood pressure: mechanisms of action and clinical relevance. Integrated blood pressure control. 2014;7:71.
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- Vasdev S, Gill V. The antihypertensive effect of arginine. International Journal of Angiology. 2008 Mar;17(01):07-22.
- Smith SR, Klotman PE, Svetkey LP. Potassium chloride lowers blood pressure and causes natriuresis in older patients with hypertension. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 1992 Feb 1;2(8):1302-9.
- Bolling BW, McKay DL, Blumberg JB. The phytochemical composition and antioxidant actions of tree nuts. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition. 2010;19(1):117.
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