Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of Americans across the country. As we recounted in a recent blog, hypertension is often called the “silent killer,” with many people going unaware of their heightened blood pressure levels until it’s too late—resulting in a stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.
Hypertension, however, isn’t as simple as eating too much salt or fat. Recent studies have shown that a variety of factors contribute to hypertension, including stress, diet, lack of exercise, and more.
Your diet does have a large effect on your blood pressure, and what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat! Below we’ve listed 7 foods you should add to your shopping list that will help decrease your blood pressure and cut hypertension:
Individuals who regularly consumed olive oil as opposed to vegetable oils and butter were found to have decreased their blood pressure at the end of a 3-month study at the University of Massachusetts.
Similarly, another study following Spanish university students found that the men who consumed more olive oil had significantly lower blood pressure.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should start gulping olive oil. But swap out regular vegetable oil with olive oil. Ideally, extra virgin olive oil!
Beets are high in something called dietary nitrates, a unique type of compound found in certain vegetables that has a variety of health-promoting properties. In particular, researchers believe that nitrates may be responsible for the blood-pressure-decreasing effects of beets!
Two studies highlight the power of beets when it comes to hypertension.
First, a study from the British Heart Foundation followed 68 patients with high blood pressure; half received about a cup of beet juice daily. Those who received daily beetroot juice saw their blood pressure reduce significantly, while also enjoying other health benefits. Another study found that people who had a diet higher in nitrate-containing veggies had a much lower risk of developing hypertension.
When adding beets to your diet, stick to the whole food instead of the juice, especially if you are struggling to manage blood sugar. Adding a half-cup of roasted beets to a salad is a tasty way to go. Considering that beets have a moderately high sugar content for a vegetable, be mindful of how much you consume.
Garlic is not only delicious, it’s also extremely helpful for folks dealing with high blood pressure! In an Australian study, they found that individuals taking two capsules of garlic extract per day (approximately 480mg) had the largest decrease in their blood pressure as opposed to those taking the placebo. Other studies have shown garlic to rival the effects of common blood pressure medications—without the side effects. Garlic is a safe, tasty, and a simple addition to any meal! Start weaving a few cloves into your lunch and dinner to reap its blood pressure effects. If you are afraid of chasing off those around you with the odor, there are odorless options to try:
Pistachios & Other Nuts!
Nuts are a source of healthy fats that provide long, sustained energy throughout your day. Additionally, many nuts have a variety of nutrients and vitamins that support your immune system, weight management, heart health, and more. When it comes to blood pressure, nuts can be just as helpful.
A variety of studies have shown that nuts can help lower blood pressure. Pistachios were found to be the most helpful in decreasing hypertension and improving overall heart health.
For an afternoon snack, skip out on the sugary granola bar and opt for a handful of nuts. You’ll likely find yourself feeling more satiated throughout the day and notice your blood pressure decrease over time.
Flaxseeds, similar to nuts, have a variety of health benefits. They’re high in omega-3’s and fiber (among other things), and they’ve also been found to decrease blood pressure by multiple studies. In fact, in one study, the researchers found that flaxseed decreased systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg on average. This is one of the greatest responses of blood pressure levels to dietary changes. If there’s one thing you prioritize adding to your diet, try flaxseeds! You can easily add them to salads for a nuttier flavor, or oatmeal for your breakfast.
Sesame oil has also shown strong anti-hypertensive effects. In studies in Greece and India, researchers found that consumption of sesame oil significantly decreased blood pressure within 15 to 45 days, respectively. Consider adding olive oil and sesame oil into your diet to help your hypertension! Please note that the use of olive oil is okay for low-mid temperature cooking (like stir-fry) but sesame oil is more heat sensitive and NOT suitable for cooking.
Finally, regular intake of cinnamon has been found to decrease blood pressure in about three months. Adding cinnamon to your tea or coffee can go a long way in cutting hypertension (and increasing flavor!)
On your next shopping trip, add a few of these ingredients to your cart! Including them in your diet can help decrease your blood pressure and leave you feeling healthier in the long term. Consider adding olive oil, sesame oil, and garlic to your salad dressing. And try adding some raw beets and flaxseed into a smoothie. The options are endless, and chances are you already have many of these ingredients in your kitchen.