Health & Wellness

Hypertension Diet: 10 Foods That Lower Blood Pressure (+ 6 to Avoid)

Searching for foods that lower blood pressure? The truth of the matter is that if you’re struggling with high blood pressure, you’re not alone.

According to the CDC, almost half of American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. It’s a diagnosis that you want to take seriously, but don’t be too alarmed because it’s also a condition that you can start improving today with some very doable lifestyle changes such as eating more foods that lower blood pressure.

While you can’t change whether or not hypertension runs in your family, you can control many other things that affect your blood pressure including your diet, weight (obesity makes high blood pressure more likely), exercise, stress levels, and habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

If you haven’t checked it out already, my article 5 Surprising Factors That Affect Blood Pressure Readings tells some of the lesser-known contributors to high blood pressure.

You may be wondering: What is the fastest way to lower blood pressure naturally? Some of the quickest ways to lower your blood pressure naturally without medication is by improving your diet, exercising regularly, and decreasing or better managing the stress in your life.

What should we eat when BP is high? To start lowering blood pressure numbers today, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables generally top most lists, but some are particularly more helpful.

Most health professionals agree that the best sources of potassium are foods that lower blood pressure rather than supplements. So, let’s take a look at which foods top the list. And get ready to discover some foods you may not have expected to make the cut.

 

The 10 Best Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

Here are 10 of my favorite foods that lower blood pressure.

1. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is touted for some pretty incredible health benefits, from supporting healthy blood sugar levels to reducing belly fat.

Human research has been limited when it comes to apple cider vinegar’s positive effects as one of the foods that lower blood pressure. However, we do know that this fermented liquid made from apples is a rich source of potassium, which is one of the key dietary nutrients for managing healthy blood pressure levels.

In addition, research has shown that a daily dose of apple cider vinegar can make having belly fat less likely. [1] The risk of hypertension is directly linked to being overweight so incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet can help your efforts to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

To start using apple cider vinegar on a regular basis, simply make it your go-to household vinegar. You can use it in homemade salad dressings and marinades.

You can also combine a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of raw honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon in a cup of hot water. It almost tastes like hot apple cider and it makes a great night time beverage that many people find sleep-promoting (I know I do!).

2. Bananas

Whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go, you can reach for one of nature’s most convenient snacks and one of the top foods that lower blood pressure naturally: a banana.

According to the American Heart Association, potassium-rich foods like bananas help to improve blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessel walls.

Bananas also contain significant levels of fiber and magnesium. Studies have shown that all three nutrients—potassium, magnesium, and fiber—have beneficial effects on blood pressure. [2]

Fortunately, bananas are a perfect addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and homemade baked goods, making them highly versatile and easy to incorporate into your diet.

3. Beans and lentils

Packed with soluble fiber, legumes such as beans and lentils are often touted for their benefits on digestive health. But did you know that legumes also have major heart-healthy benefits?

Fiber-rich foods such as beans and lentils can help to lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels. [3] And out of all of the many healthy foods that lower blood pressure, beans and lentils are options that also pack a powerful punch of protein.

If you’re not already regularly eating beans, you have a lot of options to consider including black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and pinto beans.

When compiling your meals, keep in mind that beans and lentils are great in soups or stews or alongside sauteed veggies.

4. Beets

What is the best drink for high blood pressure? Beet juice definitely tops the list. Beet juice and beets are rich sources of natural chemicals called nitrates. When we eat nitrate-rich beets, our bodies convert those nitrates into nitric oxide, which is excellent at lowering blood pressure.

Research demonstrates that adding beetroot juice to your diet can help to encourage healthy blood pressure in your arteries.

More specifically, beet juice appears to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure for healthy subjects as well as those that are pre-hypertensive or already diagnosed with hypertension. [4]

If you’re not a big fan of beet juice, eating roasted beets is another great option. For optimal benefits, cold roasted beets make a delicious addition to a salad with a homemade apple cider vinegar dressing.

5. Dark chocolate

When it comes to foods that lower blood pressure, can dark chocolate actually help to fight high blood pressure? Yes, if you choose wisely, dark chocolate can be an antioxidant-rich treat that actually helps to lower blood pressure.

One meta-analysis of 13 studies found that dark chocolate lowered systolic hypertension and diastolic prehypertension better than a placebo. [5]

Dark chocolate has the most cocoa content, which means it contains the most health-promoting polyphenols. Aim for vegan dark chocolate that is at least 70 to 80 percent pure cocoa.

Savoring a small square of dark chocolate regularly is a healthy way to satisfy a craving for sweets and keep those BP numbers in check.

6. Garlic

Garlic is another one of the top foods that lower blood pressure, and here’s why: Research shows that garlic supplements can decrease blood pressure in people diagnosed with hypertension. Garlic supplements have also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and boost the immune system. [6]

Fortunately, garlic is easy to incorporate into a healthy diet since it’s often a starter ingredient for all kinds of dishes from soups to stews to main courses.

If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure numbers, you can aim to include more fresh garlic in your meals on a daily basis.

Garlic supplements are also an option you can consider (as with all supplements, talk to your doctor to see how these supplements may or may not react with your current medications).

7. Kiwis

Believe it or not, kiwi is another one of the foods that lower blood pressure. Eating a daily dose of kiwi may help to manage blood pressure, especially if your blood pressure isn’t too high.

A randomized controlled study compared eating an apple each day versus eating three kiwis daily for a total of eight weeks. Researchers found that the subjects who ate the kiwi had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings compared to the apple eaters. [7]

Don’t skip on apples because they are great too, but kiwis may be a little better when it comes to foods that lower blood pressure.

8. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashew nuts, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds are all rich in magnesium, which is a mineral known for its blood pressure aiding ability.

Research also shows that increased magnesium and potassium intake combined with decreased sodium intake is “is often as effective as one antihypertensive drug in treating hypertension.” [8]

Flaxseeds also make the list of foods that lower blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found flaxseeds’ potential to reduce blood pressure (especially diastolic blood pressure) may be more likely when consumed as a whole seed and for more than 12 weeks. [9]

Nuts and seeds are healthy foods to lower blood pressure, but just remember to watch out for their added salt content. Opt for unsalted or mildly salt them yourself with sea salt.

9. Pears

I’ve talked before about the benefits of eating pears which includes this tasty fruit’s ability to lower blood pressure.

A 2019 study of 40 men and women (ages 45-65) reveals that eating two medium-sized pears daily for 12 weeks led to a 4-point reduction in systolic blood pressure along with a 3-point reduction in pulse pressure. [10] Pulse pressure is the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Another study published in 2021 also demonstrates how regular consumption of flavonoid-rich foods like pears, apples, and berries can help to lower systolic blood pressure as well as pulse pressure. [11]

10. Spinach

If you’re following a high blood pressure diet, you’ll definitely want to reach for leafy greens like spinach. Loaded with potassium, spinach can help to balance your intake of sodium and promote optimal blood pressure.

Spinach and other leafy greens offer calming nutrients like calcium and magnesium, which can help counter the negative effects of stress on the heart including elevated blood pressure levels . Spinach contains heart-boosting vitamin K, too.

If you’re struggling with stress or mood issues (which can both negatively impact blood pressure), research even points towards spinach’s ability to provide mood-boosting benefits by lowering blood cortisol (stress hormone) levels. [12]

 

Foods that lower blood pressure - Dr. Pingel

 

Foods to Avoid

Now that you know some of the top foods that lower blood pressure, let’s take a look at foods to limit or foods to avoid with high blood pressure.

Red and Processed Meat

If you’re looking for foods to lower blood pressure, you’re not going to find yourself in the meat section of your grocery store. That doesn’t mean all meat is bad, but meat is just not a top choice for a high blood pressure diet.

Meats that are highly processed and high in sodium like cold cuts and sausage are especially unhelpful if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure.

The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study followed 5,115 young (aged 18 to 30 years) men and women over a 15-year time period and monitored them for the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

A CARDIA sub-study of 4304 subjects specifically focused on hypertension showed “a dose-dependent inverse relationship between plant-based food consumption, including fruits, whole grains, and nuts, and blood pressure.”

The research also revealed the opposite when it came to meat—greater red and processed meat intake was associated with higher blood pressure. [13]

Canola Oil

Canola oil is not only hydrogenated (aka highly processed), but it’s also often sourced from GMO crops. Plus, animal research demonstrates how phytosterol-rich canola oil may increase blood pressure while it also reduces health-promoting antioxidant levels. [14]

If you’re following a high blood pressure diet, unrefined cold pressed olive oil is a much better choice.

In fact, research shows that olive oil’s high oleic acid and antioxidant polyphenol content, makes it an “optimal fat choice in the management protocols for hypertension in both healthy and cardiovascular disease patients.” [15]

Excess Sodium

High sodium foods are certainly foods to avoid with high blood pressure. But don’t be scared of salt all together! Salt is a very important part of any healthy diet.

Salt intake often gets a bad reputation when it comes to blood pressure. The truth is that when salt is consumed in moderate amounts, it not only helps to keep blood pressure numbers healthy, it’s also crucial to fluid balance in the blood as well as muscle and nerve function.

What you definitely want to avoid is an excess of salt, which can definitely raise blood pressure levels, especially when you’re not getting enough potassium in your diet.

When you opt for high quality salt (think Celtic or Himalayan sea salt), you are getting a natural source of sodium that is also rich in minerals. Try to avoid the super white salt that, like sugar, is ultra-processed, deficient in nutrients, and often even has unhealthy additives.

So what are low-sodium foods? All of the foods to lower blood pressure listed above are naturally low in sodium (just make sure you opt for nuts and seeds that are unsalted, low-sodium, or moderately salted with sea salt). Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are all naturally low in sodium.

Added Sugar

Everyone tends to demonize salt when it comes to high blood pressure, but sugar intake is as concerning, if not more problematic if you’re struggling with hypertension. 

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials reveals how a higher dietary sugar intake significantly increases both systolic (6.9 mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (5.6 mm Hg).

In addition, when studies that received funding from the sugar industry were taken out of the analysis, the amount of blood pressure increase was even more pronounced—7.6 mm Hg for systolic BP and 6.1 mm Hg for diastolic BP on average. [16]

Alcohol

When it comes to drinks and foods to avoid with high blood pressure, alcohol always makes the list because of its undeniable ability to raise blood pressure, especially in excess.

According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure.

Alcohol consumption can also contribute to weight gain, which increases hypertension risk.

Processed Foods

Consuming processed foods easily increases your intake of added salt and sugar to your diet. Even “healthy” processed foods can be hiding a surprisingly high amount of salt and/or sugar so it’s always a good idea to read labels carefully.

One of the best ways to avoid getting excess sodium and sugar in your diet is to steer clear of processed foods as much as possible. Aim to consume a diet consisting mainly of whole foods that lower blood pressure naturally, which are also foods that boost overall health in every way!

 

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t necessarily have to be dependent upon medications to manage blood pressure because there are several foods that lower blood pressure.
  • Some of the top foods that lower blood pressure include: apple cider vinegar, bananas, beans and lentils, beets, dark chocolate, garlic, kiwis, nuts and seeds, pears, and spinach.
  • While there are lots of plant-based foods that lower blood pressure, there are also some foods known to increase blood pressure. These include: red and processed meat, canola oil, sodium, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods.

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