General dietary advice
• Cut back on salt
This is the most obvious dietary change that is recommended to those of us who have high blood pressure. A low sodium diet that is high in at least two of the minerals magnesium, calcium and potassium is thought to be the most beneficial
• Eat more fruit and vegetables
Particularly those that are rich in potassium as these can help to balance out the negative effects of salt
• Reduce your intake of saturated fats
It’s a good idea to cut back on fat if you have high blood pressure, but you need to make sure that you cut back on the right kind of fat. Fat is the source of essential fatty acids that your body needs and it can’t produce by itself. Try to avoid saturated fats as these raise your cholesterol levels and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
It can be difficult to know which foods are best for high blood pressure but checking the label can be a great starting point in informing you of what is actually in what you eat. Below I’ve listed 6 great foods that are not only healthy, but can actually help you lower your blood pressure.
Beetroot is an absolute power veg! From lowering blood pressure, to improving sports performance, to being extremely rich in essential vitamins and minerals like iron this little veg just does it all! Check out our blog ‘Beetroot juice, heart health and periods – what’s the link?’ for all of the benefits of this awesome vegetable.
In terms of lowering blood pressure beetroot is an excellent source of potassium and nitrates, which are both thought to be important in helping to manage blood pressure. The chemical formation of nitrite from the dietary nitrates in the juice is thought to lower blood pressure. Nitrite can be converted to nitric oxide (NO) by the cells that line blood vessels; this nitric oxide is a powerful dilator of blood vessels which results in lower blood pressure.
One study found that consuming just 100g of beetroot juice could help significantly reduce blood pressure in as quickly as 24 hours!1 A 2013 review also found that beetroot consumption can reduce blood pressure by 4-10 mmHg in just a few hours.2 This reduction in blood pressure then also reduces the chances of strokes and cardiovascular disease.
Not sure how you should incorporate beets into your diet? I’d recommend trying Biotta’s Beetroot juice which is 100% organic so it is still packed full of all natural vitamins and minerals. Or why not try your hand at making a super nutritious Beetroot Smoothie?
Pomegranates have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and have long been linked to regulating blood pressure. A study carried out at Queen Margaret University found that those who drank 500ml of pomegranate juice had a reduction in blood pressure and lower levels of unsaturated fats which are linked to the storage of abdominal fat.3
Pomegranates ability to act as an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor) is what makes it so effective in lowering blood pressure. Inhibiting ACE helps blood vessels to relax and open up which, in turn lowers blood pressure and allows more blood and oxygen to get to the heart.4
3) Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers out there will be pleased to hear that dark chocolate makes this list! A Harvard study found that eating a small square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure. This is due to the heart-healthy benefits of flavonoids which can be found in unsweetened chocolate cause dilation of the blood vessels.
Now I should mention that not all chocolate has this beneficial effect! The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the more heart-healthy flavonoids the chocolate contains. Try to aim for dark chocolate that contains around 60 to 70% cacao.5
I’d suggest Ombar’s 72% Raw Dark Chocolate Bar which is vegan-friendly and made from only 4 ingredients one of which is a probiotic for gut health. For those of you who prefer a darker, richer chocolate Ombar also do a 90% Raw Dark Chocolate Bar which can both be found with our friends over at Jan de Vries.
Spinach is so incredibly rich in nutrients it has a number of great health benefits. It is packed full of heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, folate and magnesium which all contribute towards lowering blood pressure. Spinach’s high potassium content can counteract the negative effects that sodium has on your blood pressure. Learn how to cook spinach here.
Flaxseeds are a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve the health of your heart and circulatory system. Research found that consuming flaxseeds resulted in a pronounced decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This is thought to be mainly contributed to higher levels of α-linolenic acid.6
Experts recommend consuming ground flaxseeds as the whole seed can sometimes pass through the body mostly undigested. You can often buy already ground flaxseed, or, alternatively you can buy the seeds whole and grind them up yourself or mix them into smoothies and yoghurt.
When it comes to flaxseeds I’d opt for an organic option such as Linwoods Milled Organic Flaxseeds. Packed full of fibre and rich in alpha linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid which helps to maintain normal blood cholesterol these seeds made a great addition to smoothies and fruit bowls. Linwoods do a great range of flaxseeds including flaxseeds with sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and goji berries which can all be found with our friends over at Jan de Vries.
The beneficial effects of garlic lowering blood pressure are thought to be due to its sulphur-containing compounds such as allicin, diallyl disulphide and diallyl trisulfide. One 2016 study concluded that aged garlic extract is effective in reducing uncontrolled high blood pressure in a large proportion of the people who took part in the study. They also found that garlic had the potential to improve arterial stiffness, inflammation, and other cardiovascular markers in people with elevated blood pressure.7
What’s more, these findings aren’t recent; they have been around for thousands of years! Traditionally garlic was not used for cooking; it was used for medicinal purposes such as maintaining normal heart function and supporting blood pressure and circulation. These traditional uses of garlic can be found in both the food and natural supplement form such as in Jan de Vries’ Hawthorn-Garlic Complex Capsules. These capsules contain vitamin B1 which contributes to the normal functioning of the heart. They also contain vitamin E which is an antioxidant that can help protect the body from oxidative stress.
What else can I do for high blood pressure?
Taking steps towards changing your diet – even if these are small changes at first – is a great place to start. You can also lower your blood pressure by lifestyle changes such as reducing stress and exercising more. For more ways to lower your blood pressure take a look at my blog for 6 easy lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure naturally.