Blood Pressure and Your Diet
Some specific foods that can help you manage and prevent hypertension
A few issues back in the My Healthy Lifestyle newsletter we offered some information on the DASH diet, which was developed as a life-long approach to healthier eating through a balance of food groups that can, in addition to help lowering blood pressure, contribute to weight loss, lower cholesterol and a reduced risk for certain types of cancer.
While this comprehensive dietary strategy can definitely (as the acronym DASH – Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension -- would infer) help with managing blood pressure, there are also individual foods that are important to keep in mind. For example:
Yogurt: This nutrient-rich dairy product can be beneficial to blood pressure control and hypertension prevention. According to research the "secret ingredient" would appear to be calcium. However, taking calcium substitutes doesn't seem to have the same effect. Also keep in mind that the advantage only works for low-fat yogurt since the full-fat version can raise level of "bad" cholesterol. Because calcium seems to be the key, other low-fat dairy products are beneficial, too, but since the live cultures in yogurt restore balance to the gastrointestinal tract and may also improve heart health, you might as well go for the extra health bonus.
Blueberries: Large scale studies show that just one serving of blueberries a week can help cut your risk of hypertension. Raspberries, strawberries and pomegranates will work, too. These treats of nature all contain natural compounds called anthocyanins. The term refers to the type of pigment that gives blueberries their distinctive color, as well as the flavenoids that are also found in teas, wines, egg plants, plums, black currants, cocoa and olive oil.
Spinach: The magic bullet in spinach is potassium and magnesium, minerals that help the body become more efficient at getting rid of excess sodium – which can raise blood pressure. A healthy balance of these minerals, or foods high in either one, can be important dietary components when it comes to promoting healthy blood flow. Other foods high in potassium and/or magnesium include sweet potatoes, beans (black, white, navy, lima, pinto and kidney) and that old stand-by for people on the go, bananas. These foods also improve heart health and relatively speaking, are fairly inexpensive.
Salmon: Now we're talking about omega-3 fatty acids which can help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. If you're not a salmon fan, there's always halibut, snapper, cod, shrimp, herring, scallops and trout with the wild-caught varieties being preferred over fish that are farmed. And if seafood in general isn't for you, other foods with high levels of omega-3's include ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, cauliflower, cabbage, soybean products (including tofu) and olive oil.
Apples: One of our state's best known food products is rich in quercetin, a plant-based chemical that early studies show may be linked to stabilizing small blood vessels. Unlike calcium and blood pressure management, dietary supplements containing quercetin appear to offer the same benefit. But when it comes to sheer enjoyment, you may prefer to get your quercetin in foods like red onions, red grapes, cranberries, broccoli, kale, green tea and capers. And when it comes to apples, the red delicious variety appears to have higher concentrations of quercetin.
National Blood Pressure Awareness Month is a good time to remind ourselves to eat these healthy foods that have a particularly beneficial effect on managing and preventing hypertension, and the other 11 months give us plenty of time to enjoy them.
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