If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), the foods you eat can play a significant role in helping you manage the condition.
Over time, high blood pressure can damage the arteries and increase the risk of kidney disease, stroke, and heart attack. Research shows that a diet high in foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in sugar, meat, and alcohol can significantly reduce blood pressure.
This article lists some of the best foods to help lower high blood pressure and some to avoid.
Getting four to five servings of fruits daily is an important element of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
Anthocyanins, the pigments that give some produce their red, blue, or purple color, may help prevent hypertension. In one study, participants who ate the highest amounts of anthocyanins, mostly from blueberries and strawberries, experienced an 8% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure.
A daily intake of wild blueberry powder is linked to lower 24-hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading, measuring the pressure in your arteries with each heartbeat, taken as you go about your day at home). It’s also linked to a lower incidence of future heart disease risk in healthy older adults.
Flavonoids in citrus fruit may help lower blood pressure and offer some protection against cardiovascular disease.
Research suggests drinking orange juice regularly may help manage blood pressure in people with early hypertension. Common citrus fruits include:
Potassium can help lower blood pressure by lessening the effects of sodium and reducing tension in blood vessel walls. One medium-sized banana has about 226 milligrams (mg) of potassium. Most adult males need 3,400 mg daily, while most women need 2,600 mg.
Kiwifruit is packed with bioactive substances that may help lower blood pressure. One study found that people with moderately elevated blood pressure who ate three kiwis a day for eight weeks had lower blood pressure compared to those who ate an apple a day.
Watermelon contains potassium, lycopene, and citrulline, all of which promote heart health and may help lower blood pressure. It can also help you feel full while adding a few calories.
Some vegetables, such as beets, carrots, leafy greens, and more can help lower high blood pressure.
Beets are loaded with nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure. If you’re drinking beet juice, watch out for added sugars, though. These juices can add a lot of extra calories, and excess weight works against blood pressure control.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens are among the highest in nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease and stroke. These veggies include:
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard
Carrots contain fiber, potassium, beta-carotene, and other compounds to help lower the risk of high blood pressure and promote heart health.
Tomatoes and tomato products are lycopene-rich, which can improve blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and mortality (death).
Broccoli is full of flavonoids, which help reduce blood pressure. One study found that people who ate four or more servings of broccoli a week were less likely to have high blood pressure than those who ate broccoli once a month or less.
Potatoes contain an abundance of potassium. One medium white baked potato with the skin on provides about 20% of the daily value for potassium.
Salmon and Other Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower inflammation and blood pressure. Experts recommend eating two or three servings of fatty fish every week. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Bluefin tuna
- Striped bass
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are rich in arginine, which your body uses to convert nitrates into nitric oxide, reducing blood pressure. Research suggests eating nuts several times a week may significantly lower the risk of heart disease. Nuts and seeds high in arginine include:
Legumes, such as beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils, are rich in dietary fiber, bioactive peptides, and flavonoid polyphenols, all linked to lower blood pressure. And they’re associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Oats contain beta-glucan and other components that may help prevent and manage high blood pressure. Oats may also help reduce other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and triglycerides, and diabetes. Oatmeal keeps you feeling full longer than many other breakfast choices and goes well with other blood pressure–friendly foods such as berries, nuts, and seeds.
Numerous studies show that olive oil, high in oleic acid and antioxidant polyphenols, can help manage blood pressure. Olive oil is also high in monounsaturated fat, which helps improve cholesterol. Research suggests that higher olive oil consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
You may be concerned about eating eggs since one fried egg provides 61% of the daily value (DV) of cholesterol. Studies on eggs and heart health have had conflicting results, with some suggesting that eating eggs doesn’t significantly affect blood pressure either way.
Eggs are nutrient-dense, and the DASH diet includes them as a source of lean protein. If you enjoy eggs, consume no more than one egg or two egg whites daily.
Following the DASH diet, you can have up to six 1-ounce servings of lean meats, fish, poultry, and eggs daily. Some examples of lean meats are:
- Skinless chicken or turkey
- Salmon, tuna, trout
- Lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb
Yogurt is chock-full of micronutrients, including potassium. One study found that even small amounts of yogurt can help lower blood pressure. Participants with hypertension who regularly consumed yogurt had blood pressure readings 7 points lower than participants who didn’t.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which help relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and reduce blood pressure and inflammation. And dark chocolate has 2 to 3 times more flavanols than milk chocolate.
Herbs and Spices
Using lots of herbs and spices may be good for your heart. One study found that using about 1.3 teaspoons of herbs and spices daily was associated with lower blood pressure after four weeks.
Fermented foods contain probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins that benefit overall health. These foods may also be linked to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart disease. Examples of fermented foods are:
- Olives and pickles
Foods to Avoid With High Blood Pressure
Consuming foods with salt and caffeine, processed foods, and more should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.
Eating a lot of salt makes you retain fluids. That increases blood volume and raises blood pressure. Eating less salt is associated with lower blood pressure and morbidity (being unhealthy) and mortality from heart disease.
The DASH diet suggests keeping sodium at 2,300 mg or less per day. Lowering it to 1,500 mg lowers blood pressure even more. Foods high in sodium include snacks, processed foods, and restaurant meals.
If you already have hypertension, coffee can lead to a short‐term increase in blood pressure. And for those with severe hypertension, heavy coffee drinking may increase the risk of heart disease mortality. Caffeinated green tea doesn’t seem to have the same effect.
Drinking too much alcohol, including red wine, can increase blood pressure. If you do drink, limit drinking to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Because salt is a preservative, processed foods are often high in sodium. This includes many deli foods, fast foods, frozen foods and canned, premixed, and packaged foods. Nutrients may be lost during processing. Checking food labels can help you choose healthier products.
To help lower blood pressure naturally, what you eat can play a significant role. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low in saturated fats, sugar, and alcohol can help lower your blood pressure. A heart-healthy diet can help manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. A healthcare provider can recommend other lifestyle changes that may help.