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High Blood Pressure

This section focuses on the subject of high blood pressure.

20 Foods that Lower Blood Pressure & 10 To Avoid

Find out how to control high blood pressure naturally, including by consuming high blood pressure foods to eat and dismissing those recommended to avoid.

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Medically known as hypertension, high blood pressure is when the heart forcefully pumps blood into the arteries and consequently increases the pressure against the blood vessels.

If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), kidney disease, stroke and heart failure.

But many factors contributing to high blood pressure are modifiable, including smoking, being overweight and obese, staying sedentary, drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much salt.

Controlling high blood pressure naturally can be achieved through a hypertension diet, regular exercise, and making other lifestyle changes.

Find out how to control high blood pressure naturally, including by consuming high blood pressure foods to eat and dismissing those recommended to avoid.

20 Lowering High Blood Pressure Foods to Eat

When it comes to diets for hypertension, nutrition experts encourage consuming more wholesome foods rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other heart-healthy nutrients.

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is regularly named best high blood pressure diet, also encourages consuming a variety of nutritious foods, including fresh produce and low-fat dairy with moderating intake of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.

Fresh Produce: 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

1. All Green, Leafy Vegetables

Romaine lettuce, spinach and kale are all prime examples and provide essential nutrients and fiber.

Select fresh or frozen veggies when possible, as canned and some frozen varieties may contain high volumes of salt.

2. Broccoli

This well-respected veggie, a part of the cabbage family, is loaded with nutrients without amplifying total calories.

Not only is broccoli budget-friendly, but highly versatile – snack on broccoli stalks with hummus, steam and serve as a side or bulk up entrees.

3. Sweet Potatoes

Though considered a starchy vegetable, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients while offering a little natural sweetness.

They also provide high amounts of potassium, an essential mineral and electrolyte that has a documented role in hypertension prevention.

4. Apples

"An apple a day might keep blood pressure at bay…" Apples are a healthful fruit loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Their ability to increase uric acid in the blood may contribute to high antioxidant levels, ultimately protecting blood vessels form damage. But if drinking apple juice, choose juices without added sugars and stick to a 4-ounce glass.

5. Bananas

Bananas are much more than monkey business, as research indicates daily consumption can help to lower blood pressure.The result is related to banana's potassium content, as it lessens the effects of sodium.

6. Tomatoes

Whether believed as a fruit or vegetable, tomatoes provide potassium and considered to be heart-protective.

Lycopene, a naturally-occurring compound found in tomatoes that provide its red color, may also reduce systolic pressure (the pressure read first on a blood pressure reading).

Whole Grains: 6 to 8 servings daily

7. Whole Wheat Pasta

Choose wheat over white pastas for nutrients and fiber. One serving is a ½ cup of cooked pasta.

Though pastas are naturally low in fat, be mindful of added sauces that may also be high in salt content.

8. Oats

Inexpensive and versatile, oats are a great contributor to a well-balanced diet.

Enjoy a hearty bowl of overnight oatmeal or throw whole or ground oats into baked products for added fiber and nutrients.

9. Brown Rice

Like pasta, a serving size is a half-cup of cooked rice. Switching from white to brown rice further boosts nutrients and fiber as well as potentially reducing the overall risk of high blood pressure.

Lean Proteins: 6 or less servings daily

10. Chicken

Lean chicken breasts or tenders provides ample amounts of protein without a tremendous amount of calories. Stray away from fried and breaded forms to eliminate unwanted calories from fat.

11. Turkey

Like chicken, go away with or limit fried turkey products. Pick fresh deli turkey from a butcher, as prepackaged deli meats are oftentimes preserved with high amounts of sodium.

12. Beef

Though beef does in fact contain the misrepresented saturated fat, it also offers rich sources of iron and protein. When consuming beef products, aim for the lean and fresh cuts.

13. Fish

Fish and shellfish are an excellent source of lean protein, thus having a great potential to facilitate weight loss. Fatty fish such as herring, tuna, sardines and mackerel are also noteworthy related to their healthy omega-3 fatty acid content.

Dairy Products: 2 to 3 servings daily

14. Milk

Despite the dairy debate regarding nonfat versus whole milk, milk is an exceptional source of calcium. Along with bone health, calcium may have a healthful effect on blood pressure.

15. Yogurt

Not all yogurts are treated the same – some are loaded with sugar while others are highly nutritious. Lean towards a plain Greek yogurt to minimize sugar and maximize protein.

Greek yogurt is a blank canvas for fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, or used in place of sour cream or mayonnaise for a lighter tuna or chicken salad.

16. Cheese

Calcium-containing cheese offers heart-protective benefits, especially in moderated amounts. When choosing cheese, try aiming for part-skim products without added salt.

Fats and Oils: 2 to 3 servings daily

17. Olive Oil

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, a well-documented fat known for its contribution to good health. Though saturated fats can fit into a balanced diet, incorporating unsaturated fat sources (also found in other seed and vegetable oils) has shown to be heart-protective and support blood sugar control.

Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 3 to 5 servings weekly

18. Nuts

Nuts such as a walnuts and pecans are rich sources of healthy fats. It is important, though, to keep portions limited to a small palm-full, as they are energy-dense and offer heavy amounts of calories.

19. Beans

There is a plethora of protein-packed beans to choose from – black, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, just to name a few – that serve as a vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein source. The high content of fiber, potassium and magnesium ultimately provides the capability to reduce blood pressure.

20. Seeds

Like seed oils, their respected whole form also contains healthy fats. Omega-3 loaded chia seeds have also been shown to be cardio-protective by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation. Throw seeds onto salad for extra crunch, mix into smoothies or simply munch on their own!

10 Foods to Avoid with High Blood Pressure

To further reduce high blood pressure naturally, diet recommendations include limiting foods rich in salt and sugar.

As a general rule, sodium intake is recommended to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. On the Nutrition Facts label, look at the Percent Daily Value (%DV) - 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is low while 20% DV is considered high.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a maximum added sugar intake of 37.5 grams (or 9 teaspoons) for men and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day.

It is imperative to reduce products loaded with added sugars, as they essentially offer nothing more than calories and contribute to weight gain - overweight and obese individuals have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

So limit the salt shaker and these high sodium foods that can increase blood pressure, along with reducing the intake of those rich in added sugar.

1. Canned Beans

Canned beans can be loaded with sodium for preservation purposes. If purchasing canned beans, rinsing the beans with a colander and water can help wash away most of the salt.

2. Premade Soups

Despite the promotion of nutritious veggies, soups can be loaded with salt and sodium. And unlike canned beans, soups cannot be rinsed to reduce salt content.

When choosing soups, try to find "low in sodium" or "reduced salt" products or take advantage of the nutrition facts label.

3. Canned or Bottled Tomato Products

Tomato sauces, pastes and ketchups are often loaded with salt. Create your own products with fresh or rinsed, canned tomatoes for ingredient and salt control.

4. Packaged and Processed Meats

Prepackaged meats, including breakfast sausages and hot dogs, tend to be loaded with sodium. Despite the misbelief that deli meats, such as turkey, may be a lean protein source, added salt is common.

Avoid the hidden sodium by purchasing directly from the butcher rather than in the grocer refrigerated section.

5. Frozen Meals

Meals found in the freezer section - pizzas, chicken strips and individual frozen entrees - are not only loaded with unwanted ingredients, but filled with sodium.

Even the advertised "healthy" meals tend to contain high amounts of sodium.

6. Candy

Candy essentially offers nothing more than calories and sugar while spiking sugar levels.

Skip out on sugary suckers and candy bars and opt for naturally-sweetened fruits rich in fiber and potassium, an essential nutrient that has shown a preventative role in high blood pressure.

7. Soft Drinks

Soft drinks supply nothing more than sugar and calories the way candy does. One can (or 12 fluid ounces) of soda generally contains more than 9 teaspoons of sugar, or 39 total grams - that is the entire daily recommended amount for men and two-thirds for women!

8. Pastries

Doughnuts, cakes and cookies are loaded with sugar along with fat. The combination may contribute to weight gain in excessive amounts.

Reduce the consumption of these products and keep portion and serving sizes in check.

9. Sauces

Sauces and condiments can be a double whammy when it comes to its composition of both salt and sugar - ketchup is a notorious condiment for supplying high amounts of both.

Offer flavor to foods by spicing it up in the kitchen with fresh herbs and seasonings, or at least be sure to keep amounts in small portions if choosing to use dips or sauces.

10. Alcohol

Surprisingly, the consumption of alcohol has actually shown to reduce heart disease risk.

The catch? Consuming alcohol in moderation and in recommended amounts - limited to two servings per day for men and one serving for women.

Too much alcohol can result to initial dehydration and long-term weight gain, both consequently increasing blood pressure.

Additional High Blood Pressure Natural Treatment Recommendations

In addition to implementing components of a high blood pressure diet, treatment recommendations to manage high blood pressure naturally also include regular exercise, weight management, alcohol moderation and smoke cessation.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise elevates heart rate and improves blood flow, along with managing weight to lessen the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, or exercising for 30 minutes daily most days of the week. Also include strength training in a workout regimen to further support weight maintenance, strong bones, and overall health.

Weight Management

As diet and exercise being top influences of high blood pressure treatment, natural weight loss can also follow. This is of a great benefit, too, as excess weight can force the heart to pump harder in order to supply the body with oxygenated blood.

Losing and managing not only reduces heart strain, but lowers the risk of other health conditions and can lead to a longer, healthier life.

Alcohol Moderation and Smoke Cessation

Too much alcohol increases the risk of dehydration, which can consequently increase blood pressure, while smoking interferes with blood flow and oxygen to the brain and is a major risk factor high blood pressure and stroke.

So if you do decide to drink, do so in a moderated amount (one serving for women per day and two servings for men) and make sure its consumption does not interfere with medications or health conditions. And if you smoke, there is no better time to quit.

References:
DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. Mayo Clinic.

High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on September 13, 2016. Updated on March 07, 2019.

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