Hypertension is a worryingly silent killer. There are no tell-tale signs of high blood pressure, either, meaning you may not even know that you’re on the path to heart disease. Still, there’s some good news: you can ward off hypertension through smart dietary choices. That includes eating certain superfoods – and these are 20 of the best for a healthy heart.
Oatmeal’s high fiber content makes it excellent for combating high blood pressure. It’s mostly down to beta-glucan – a variety of fiber that actually dissolves in water. And after beta-glucan hits the digestive tract, it sucks up the LDL or so-called “bad” cholesterol that can cause hypertension and removes it from the body.
If you’re not already starting your day with oatmeal, then, it’s time to switch up your breakfast. Add fruit, such as berries or bananas, for a little extra flavor. You could even make savory oatmeal fritters with sesame seeds for crunch; pair these with poached eggs, too, if you like.
19. Sweet potato
Potassium is essential for lowering salt levels in the body and regulating the rhythm of the heart. It stands to reason, then, that foods rich in this mineral can help fight high blood pressure. And for your potassium fix, you need look no further than the humble sweet potato, as just a single cup of the tasty tuber – with skin on – contains an incredible 950mg of the stuff.
Fortunately, this root veggie is almost infinitely versatile. Whenever you’re craving French fries, for instance, you can simply swap out your regular potatoes for the sweet variety instead. And, of course, there’s the much-loved sweet potato pie – not just for the holidays – if you’ve got a hankering for dessert.
18. Peanut butter
If eaten frequently – but not in great quantities – peanut butter can both reduce cholesterol and keep your blood pressure in check. There’s plenty of potassium in the nutty spread, too, along with a dose of fiber. And, of course, peanut butter is packed with protein. Overall, then, it’s a surprisingly healthy choice.
So, a breakfast of peanut butter on toast may be just the ticket, although you may also want to add the stuff to your oatmeal or overnight oats. And if you’re in the process of bulking up, incorporate peanut butter into a protein powder smoothie or make chocolate-covered peanut butter balls.
Berries contain good levels of flavonoids – natural compounds that may combat hypertension. And blueberries are particularly great at taming blood pressure, as they have notably high amounts of the flavonoid anthocyanin. This substance helps endothelial cells work properly, and that’s good news when it comes to controlling blood flow within the body.
Given how adaptable and tasty berries are, though, incorporating them into your diet should be a breeze. Raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries all make for delicious smoothies, for example. You could even whip up your own homemade jams or – if you’re feeling really adventurous – add berries to a salad for a fruity zing.
16. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens contain four important hypertension-curbing vitamins and minerals: calcium, folate, potassium and magnesium. In fact, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 found that women in their 30s and 40s slashed their risk of high blood pressure by almost 50 percent upon consuming just 1mg of folate every day. Calcium, meanwhile, helps keep our heart in proper working order, while potassium and magnesium help regulate and reduce blood pressure, respectively.
So, while you may not have been keen on your veggies as a child, it’s time to start eating broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and chard. And an easy way to get them down is to make juicing a part of your daily routine. A leafy green smoothie – with berries or apple for sweetness – can do you wonders, too.
Just like the sweet potato, the banana is an excellent source of potassium – and that’s good to hear if you’re trying to stave off hypertension. Speaking to the Daily Express in 2018, a representative from Blood Pressure UK explained why, saying, “Potassium is a key mineral that the body relies on heavily to function properly. It helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt.”
Fortunately, there are a multitude of tasty ways to add bananas to your diet – aside from simply eating them on their own, of course. You could add chopped bananas to your oatmeal or blend them into milkshakes. And if you enjoy baking, try making some banana bread. While technically this tasty treat is a cake, it’s healthier than most.
Garlic, too, is capable of lowering blood pressure to an extent. Apparently, the delicious – if somewhat stinky – herb can encourage the creation of nitric oxide when eaten or taken as an extract in supplements. And nitric oxide, in turn, opens up the vessels in our bodies, making it easier for blood to get through.
However, it’s worth noting that taking a garlic supplement can potentially have some negative side effects – including loose stools, heartburn and feelings of nausea. Women who are expecting a baby or breastfeeding one should steer clear, then, as should those with bleeding disorders. A normal level of garlic in the diet is totally fine for most people, though.
Back in 2015, researchers at Queen Mary University of London revealed that consuming a 250ml glass of beetroot juice on a daily basis could help curb the blood pressure of patients suffering from hypertension. Astonishingly, the team even found that the drink was virtually as effective as specialist medication in lowering blood pressure levels. And it seems that’s all down to the nitrates found in beetroot.
In a university press release, Professor Amrita Ahluwalia explained of her and her colleagues’ findings, “This research has proven that a daily inorganic nitrate dose can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure. And the best part is that we can get it from beetroot and other leafy green vegetables. For those looking to work dietary nitrate into their daily diets, the trick is not to boil the vegetables, as dietary nitrate is water-soluble. But steaming, roasting or drinking in a juice all has a positive effect.”
12. Low-fat yogurt
In 2019 dietician Ruchika Jain told NDTV, “Yogurt is not a magical remedy for hypertension, but along with a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise, it can help in controlling blood pressure.” She added, “It contains magnesium, which is good for high blood pressure. Calcium is also there in yogurt, [and this] helps in muscle contraction, which is good for the heart muscles.”
But there’s more. Jain continued, “Another factor [that] can indirectly help in controlling blood pressure is weight management. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, [and as] yogurt is a good source of protein [it] can help in weight loss.” According to Jain, one to two cups of low-fat yogurt per day is enough to reap the benefits.
11. Salmon and mackerel
As you may already know, salmon and mackerel are both rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and these too can affect blood pressure levels for the better. Not only does omega-3 reduce the quantity of triglycerides – a variety of fat – in the blood, but it can also help with inflammation.
So, why not try tinned versions of salmon and mackerel in a salad or in a sandwich? And you’ll be pleased to know that fish is also relatively simple to cook. Try putting salmon in parchment paper, adding your choice of herbs and olive oil and then baking in the paper for 15 minutes.
10. Pistachio nuts
Nuts aren’t typically seen as a heart-healthy food; they’re often pretty fatty, after all. But don’t be fooled: the pistachio nut is better than you may think for combating hypertension. It’s full of antioxidants, for one, along with potassium, magnesium and calcium. And compared to other nuts, pistachios have a much lower fat content. In fact, the fats they do contain are primarily of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties, and these are both seen to be good for you in moderation.
In order to reap these benefits, then, simply roast pistachios and eat them as a quick snack. It’s best to find the unsalted type, however, as otherwise you’ll be adding extra sodium – a potential blood pressure raiser – to your diet. You can even dip your pistachios in dark chocolate for a sweet and relatively healthy treat.
9. Extra virgin olive oil
It’s long been known that extra virgin olive oil is good for the heart. However, a study published in the journal Nutrients in June 2020 claims that you should be seeking out a specific kind of this oil in order to help lower systolic blood pressure. Specifically, reach for the EVOO that’s high in polyphenols, and take around two to four tablespoons in your food or from a spoon on a daily basis.
Crucially, polyphenols greatly improve the working of the endothelium in blood vessels. And while talking to Bicycling magazine in August 2020, dietician Joy Dubost touted extra virgin olive oil’s many plus points. She said, “[EVOO] is a healthy fat that does everything from improving heart health to making you full for longer to providing vitamin E and antioxidants.”
In June 2020 EBSCO published the result of research that analyzed the effect pomegranates have on the blood pressure of healthy men and women. And after the test subjects had each consumed 330ml of pomegranate juice every day for a month, there were some very promising findings.
The study claimed, in fact, that “pomegranates may improve cardiovascular risk because of [their] content of antioxidant polyphenols.” And best of all, every person involved in the research had seen their blood pressure drop considerably. A daily pomegranate juice or smoothie may be just what the doctor ordered, then.
Lemon juice isn’t all that pleasant to taste, but if you suffer from hypertension, you should probably start puckering up. You see, eating lemon can help relax the blood vessels, which has the benefit of warding off high blood pressure. The sour citrus fruit’s juice can also help lower the quantity of triglycerides in our bodies – a good thing, as an excess of these fats can both harm liver function and prompt weight gain.
And adding lemon to your diet is a piece of cake. For one thing, you can use it to flavor sweet baked goods. Lemon is also a great way to add sharpness to salad dressing or tea, and it can even cut through the taste of fattier fish such as mackerel.
The potassium found in tomatoes – particularly fresh ones – can help so-called “bad” cholesterol from coating our arteries and putting us on the path to hypertension. Naturally, that’s good news for anyone looking to keep their blood pressure down. The tasty red fruit is full of antioxidants, too.
You do need to be careful, however, as canned tomatoes, juice and marinara sauces may all be packed with salt – making them a bad choice for people with hypertension. So, search out reduced-sodium tomato products instead – or, better yet, stick with the unprocessed fruit.
Popeye’s favorite food is chock-full of heart-healthy elements such as potassium, magnesium and folate. And in 2015 researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center seemingly found that the leafy green could help with blood pressure, too. Participants in the Canadian center’s study first ate spinach over a week-long period before abstaining from the vegetable for a further seven days.
And after the subjects were monitored on the last day of that first week, it was found that their blood pressure had noticeably improved. So, if you’re looking to reap similar benefits, think about adding spinach to your next soup, pasta dish or juice – or, of course, just eat the tasty vegetable as an accompaniment to a meal.
In 2015 Dr. Kenneth Shafer of the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine advised eating celery to help regulate your blood pressure. That’s the whole stick, as opposed to just an extract. And Shafer added, “To get the benefit, you should eat roughly four stalks – one cup, chopped – of celery daily.”
There’s little sodium in celery, after all, making it a heart-healthy snack. The magnesium, fiber and potassium in the veggie also help keep blood pressure down. And then there are the photochemical phthalides – naturally produced compounds that relax arteries and so assist in boosting blood flow within the body.
By 2017 the avocado had become so in demand that cafés in Turkey and Australia had started serving avolattes. And as the name suggests, that’s milky coffee served inside an avocado skin. It made a strange kind of sense, to be fair, as the fruit has become a favorite with urban millennials, with avocado on toast now an exceptionally popular breakfast choice.
And perhaps it’s no surprise that the avocado has become so ubiquitous. After all, while it’s full of fat, the majority is of the monounsaturated kind – which can help reduce levels of so-called “bad” cholesterol. Avocados also have a high fiber content, meaning they may help stave off hunger pangs for longer.
Watermelon is both deliciously refreshing and virtually fat-free – making it the ideal fruit for summertime snacking. However, because watermelon also features the amino acid L-citrulline, it can very handily help with hypertension, too. In the body, L-citrulline is transformed into L-arginine, which is crucial in creating nitric oxide. This nitric oxide then opens up the blood vessels – reducing the risk of hypertension as a result.
Don’t just chow down on a slice of watermelon when the mercury rises, however, as the fruit is actually pretty versatile. You can sip its juice as it is, for instance, or freeze it to make thirst-quenching ice pops. And if you’re a culinary adventurer, try marinating a chunk in a smoky sauce before searing it in a pan for a meat-free steak substitute.
1. Dark chocolate
In theory, the flavanols within dark chocolate can boost the levels of nitric oxide in our arteries. And this in turn ought to have a positive impact upon the body. Simply put, nitric oxide encourages the arteries to ease up a little and ultimately lower blood pressure. But unfortunately for chocoholics all over the world, these benefits aren’t 100 percent proven as of yet.
There’s even contradictory information about the health advantages of consuming dark chocolate. Research into the subject has shown either that there is some effect on blood pressure or none at all. But while there is no definitive conclusion as of yet, a square of dark chocolate a day can’t hurt – particularly if it helps curb your sugar cravings.