What to Eat if You Have High Blood Pressure
Written by: Dr. Diane Fulton
High blood pressure currently affects 26% of the world's population -- 972 million people -- and changing what you eat can significantly improve your blood pressure.[i] From relaxing with green tea and using garlic to spice up your cooking to adding more fruits and veggies like kiwi, pomegranate, orange, grapefruits, beets, broccoli and carrots to your diet, your blood pressure can oftentimes be lowered naturally.
Eating flavonoid-packed cocoa or dark chocolate is also a way to decrease your risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Here's a look at some of these healthy dietary additions in detail.
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea is a whole food that can fight cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, high blood pressure, obesity and imbalanced cholesterol.[ii]
Green tea's ability to lower blood pressure derives from its most abundant polyphenol -- compounds called catechins, which activate a voltage-gated potassium channel called KCNQ5 that helps with vasodilation (enhancing blood flow) by increasing muscle tone in the arteries and regulating important neurons.[iii]
In a meta-analysis of 11 studies with a total of 821 participants, green tea significantly improved cholesterol and blood pressure.[iv] Similarly, a review of 20 trials comprising 1,536 participants revealed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and significant improvements in lipid profiles that balanced cholesterol.[v]
In a study of 44 sedentary women with high blood pressure, subjects who consumed green tea and did resistance training twice a week for nine weeks had the highest improvements in mean and systolic blood pressure when compared to the placebo or each treatment alone.[vi]
Garlic has had very positive results on lowering blood pressure, managing cholesterol levels and reducing risk for cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.[vii],[viii]
In a systematic review of nine studies investigating the effects of garlic on lipid parameters and eight systematic reviews on blood pressure parameters, 75% or more of the reviews found garlic interventions significantly decreased total cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.[ix]
In another meta-analysis of 14 trials, garlic -- particularly aged garlic extract -- consistently reduced systolic blood pressure by 7 to 16 mmHg, diastolic blood pressure by 5 to 9 mmHg and total cholesterol by 7 to 30 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL).[x]
Fruits and Vegetables
Current research shows that eating more fruits and vegetables has a positive effect of lowering blood pressure as well as decreasing risk for cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome diseases.[xi],[xii],[xiii] The mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables are able to help manage blood pressure vary according to their potassium, flavonoid, polyphenol and fiber contents.[xiv]
In their analysis of three large longitudinal cohort studies of 187,453 nurses and health professionals, those who ate four or more servings of fruits and vegetables per week -- as opposed to less than one serving per month -- particularly broccoli, carrots, tofu or soybeans, raisins and apples, had lower risk of high blood pressure.[xv]
A study of 5,659 Chinese adults who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer and high blood pressure in 2006 was compared to a follow-up analysis in 2011 resulting in 866 subjects with high blood pressure and fruit intake as the most significant factor associated with lower blood pressure.[xvi]
Research on four fruits shows their ability to control blood pressure -- kiwis, pomegranate and two citrus fruits. Eating three kiwis per day for eight weeks in a study of 118 subjects with moderately elevated blood pressure was more significant in lowering blood pressure than eating an apple a day.[xvii]
Quantitative data synthesis from eight randomized trials showed significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure with more than a 240 cubic centimeter (cc) dose per day of pomegranate juice.[xviii] In a study of 13 men with high blood pressure ages 39 to 68, 150 milliliters (ml) of pomegranate juice per day significantly reduced systolic blood pressure by 7% and diastolic blood pressure by 6%.[xix]
In a trial of 22 healthy patients ages 18 to 59 who drank 500 ml per day of orange juice from concentrate, both diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased. Grapefruit juice, a good source of vitamin C, pectin fiber and antioxidants, also decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in both healthy and high blood pressure subjects.[xx]
Recent studies have shown a variety of health benefits for red beetroot and its active compound betalain -- blood pressure and lipid improving, antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and anti-obesity effects.[xxi],[xxii],[xxiii]
In a systematic review of 22 studies including 650 beetroot juice and 598 control participants, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower in the beetroot group than in the control group. The mean difference of systolic blood pressure was larger between the beetroot juice-supplemented group and the control group when subjects drank beet juice for more than 14 days and at the higher dose of 500 ml per day.[xxiv]
Beetroot supplementation of 150 ml 2.25 hours before a treadmill test of 24 subjects revealed increased plasma nitrite concentrations and reduced diastolic blood pressure to a greater degree in older adults while systolic blood pressure was reduced in both older and younger adults.[xxv]
In a study of 47 middle-aged and older participants, those given beetroot juice containing 400 mg of nitrate for 60 days had the biggest 24-hour systolic blood pressure drop compared to the placebo group or the folic acid with beet group, and only the beet group showed a significant decrease in 24-hour diastolic blood pressure.[xxvi]
Flavonoid-rich chocolate -- dark chocolate that is typically 70% or more cocoa content with less sugar and a bit of a bitter taste -- is considered a superfood for its ability to lower blood pressure, protect your heart, prevent diabetes, decrease cognitive decline and fight oxidative stress.[xxvii],[xxviii]
Among 45,653 women, chocolate consumption was estimated from an extensive dietary questionnaire and 12,793 cases of high blood pressure were identified. Moderate consumption of 2.3 grams per day of plain chocolate was inversely associated with the risk of high blood pressure. However, chocolate/cocoa intake from desserts or sweet sources was tied to significantly increased blood pressure risk.[xxix]
In a meta-analysis of 42 studies including 1,297 participants, those who ate more than 50 mg per day of chocolate or cocoa showed higher prevention of cardiovascular disease with better insulin resistance, increased flow-mediated dilatation -- which measures how well the arteries are doing -- reductions in diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure and marginally significant effects on cholesterol.[xxx]
In a systematic review of 16 studies researching chocolate, the results showed a protective effect of moderate consumption of chocolate on cardiovascular risk, especially for women.[xxxi] Dietary intake of chocolate and blood pressure were assessed at baseline in 19,357 participants ages 35 to 65 years who were free of myocardial infarction and stroke and not on high blood pressure medication.
A follow-up study eight years later reported 166 cases of myocardial infarction and 136 strokes. The highest chocolate group's systolic blood pressure was 1.0 mmHg, and mean diastolic blood pressure 0.9 mmHg, lower compared with the bottom quartile of chocolate and higher cocoa intake was associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk.[xxxii]
Natural Foods That Lower Blood Pressure
Current research shows that whole foods added to your diet can help to control your blood pressure and keep you healthier. These protective foods include green tea, garlic, fruits, vegetables, beets and cocoa/chocolate. For more in-depth information, please see GreenMedInfo.com's research on high blood pressure.
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