Aug. 16. 2018
Nutrition Articles
McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

Thirty-four percent of people in the U.S. have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (1). While many patients may take medications, following a diet rich in foods that may reduce high blood pressure may also help.

Hypertension refers to the pressure in your arteries (or the blood vessels that carry blood throughout your body) being above normal levels. It can lead to more serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems.

A generally healthy diet like recipes we share here on Nutrition Stripped which are all loaded with whole food ingredients rich in fiber, healthy fats, protein, and whole food carbohydrates in addition with limiting processed foods with high sodium, refined sugars — may help lower your risk of hypertension or help control symptoms. You actually can find so much benefit without going on a “diet” for hypertension — many of the foods you encounter living a whole food lifestyle are rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, and olive oil, in addition to typically being lower in sugar-sweetened beverages and trans fats (2).

Taking a closer look at the big picture, there are a few specific foods that can help you keep your blood pressure in check.

5 Foods That May Help Reduce Hypertension

1. Dark Chocolate and High Blood Pressure

Good news for anyone craving a piece of chocolate: It could help your health. Another amazing reason to enjoy your dark chocolate! Many studies support the idea that chocolate can help lower blood pressure, thanks to the flavanols (or powerful antioxidants) in the delicious dessert-like food.

More specifically, one meta-analysis study found that dark chocolate (50% to 70% cacao) can reduce systolic blood pressure — or the pressure involved in pumping blood from the aorta to the rest of the body (3). It can also help lower diastolic prehypertension, or the blood pressure felt between pumps when the heart is filling with blood.

To add more (healthy!) chocolate recipes to your hypertension diet, try these:

Mint Chocolate Feel Amazing Fudge
Superfood Chocolate Bark
Blueberry Chocolate Bars

2. Flax and High Blood Pressure

Flaxseeds are high in fatty acids, fiber, and a polyphenol known as lignans, which is why researchers believe they might help with hypertension and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, this food could be one of the best dietary ways to relieve high blood pressure (4). Researchers believe this lowering of blood pressure may come from the lignans’ antioxidant effects.

Subjects in the study consumed 30 grams of milled (aka ground) flaxseed every day for six months. You can easily do this by adding around four tablespoons of ground flaxseed (which your body also digests better than whole) to smoothies or soups, or even baked goods — remember these are very rich in fiber so if you decide this is the best option for you, be mindful of increasing this fiber gradually to decrease any potential tummy troubles. For a few of my favorite recipes featuring flax, check these out:

Cherry Cardamom Bircher Muesli
Rye Flaxseed Loaf
Turmeric Persimmon Porridge

3. Nitrate Vegetables and High Blood Pressure

Nitrate-heavy veggies in particular, though, can reduce blood pressure, research finds (5). Nitrate-containing foods work by increasing nitric oxide in the body and this compound helps widen blood vessels, which improves blood flow and circulation and therefore, can lower blood pressure levels.

Nitrate veggies include beets (and beetroot juice), as well as leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and collard greens. Carrots, cabbage, green beans and celery also contain nitrates that are good for your blood pressure and cardiovascular system. Many of these veggies are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and folate.

You can always snack on these foods on their own, especially cooked beets or raw carrots or celery. To get your fill of these nitrate-heavy foods in a full meal, follow these recipes:

Beet Marinara Brown Rice Pasta
Beetroot Pineapple Salad with Mint
Baked Pea Falafel with Sesame Rice Balls

4. Olive Oil and High Blood Pressure

A staple in the Mediterranean Diet (another approach to eating that’s been shown to reduce high blood pressure), olive oil is a staple ingredient. On its own, extra virgin olive oil has also been shown to help lower hypertension, likely because of the polyphenols, a type of antioxidant (6). Another study points out that if you combine olive oil with nitrate-rich veggies (like those mentioned above), you have a full recipe for fighting high blood pressure (7).

In addition to antioxidants, extra virgin olive oil also contains healthy monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory properties.

Look for olive oil labeled “extra virgin” and buy those that come in a dark bottle, as light can make it go bad faster. Aim for about two tablespoons per day by cooking with it or using it as a dressing. You can find countless recipes that involve olive oil–especially salad dressings—but here are a few of my top go-tos:

5-Minute Summer Tomato Salad
Massaged Kale Salad
Zesty Lemon Shallot Dressing

5. Nuts and High Blood Pressure

Cashews, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios have all been shown to not only reduce the risk of heart disease but also hypertension — a marker of heart conditions. Pistachios may be the type that stands out the most, though most nuts have been associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure (8)(9).

It’s easy to grab a handful of nuts for a healthy fat-filled snack, with a dose of protein, but you can also easily mix them into main dishes. Try these recipes to do just that:

Maple Banana Nut Granola
Spicy Sweet Nut Seed Mix
Nourishing Nut & Seed Bread

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a high blood pressure? Have you made changes in your diet and lifestyle to help reduce high blood pressure? Share your stories below or using #nutritionstripped. We (the community and I) want to hear from you!

References:
  1. American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. (2018, January.) Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.
  2. DASH Eating Plan.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
  3. Karin Ried, Thomas Sullivan, Peter Fakler, Oliver R Frank, and Nigel P Stocks. (2010, June.) Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis.
  4. Rodriguez-Leyva D, Weighell W, Edel AL, LaVallee R, Dibrov E, Pinneker R, Maddaford TG, Ramjiawan B, Aliani M, Guzman R, Pierce GN. (2013, October.) Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients.
  5. Vikas Kapil, Rayomand S. Khambata, Amy Robertson, Mark J. Caulfield, Amrita Ahluwalia. (2014, November.) Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients.
  6. Rafael Moreno-Luna Rocio Muñoz-Hernandez Maria L. Miranda Alzenira F. Costa Luis Jimenez-JimenezAntonio J. Vallejo-Vaz Francisco J.G. Muriana Jose Villar Pablo Stiefel. (2012, December.) Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease Blood Pressure and Improve Endothelial Function in Young Women with Mild Hypertension.
  7. Rebecca L. Charles, Olena Rudyk, Oleksandra Prysyazhna, Alisa Kamynina, Jun Yang, Christophe Morisseau, Bruce D. Hammock, Bruce A. Freeman, and Philip Eaton. (2014, May.) Protection from hypertension in mice by the Mediterranean diet is mediated by nitro fatty acid inhibition of soluble epoxide hydrolase.
  8. Mohammadifard N, Salehi-Abargouei A, Salas-Salvadó J, Guasch-Ferré M, Humphries K, Sarrafzadegan N. (2015, March.) The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.
  9. Luc Djoussé, Tamara Rudich, and J. Michael Gaziano. (2010, February.) Nut Consumption and Risk of Hypertension in US Male Physicians.