Sooner of later, high blood pressure is bound to sneak up. 50% of adults have it by age 60. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to depressurize with diet.
The deep purple of blueberries is the signature of a powerful class of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins relax the blood vessels, allowing them to enlarge and carry more blood flow.
A study of women with borderline high blood pressure who ate the equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries per day had a 7 point drop in blood pressure after only 8 weeks. This changes is very significant and consistent with a 2013 study showing a 1/3 reduction in heart attacks in those who eat 4 servings of blueberries or more per week. That’s one powerful purple medicine!
Take away tip: Aim for a cup of blueberries a day-consider having a bowl of blueberries for breakfast (or mixing them into yogurt or a smoothie), adding them to a salad for lunch, or having a blueberry dessert after dinner.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of protein for building muscle. What is not as commonly appreciated is the link between protein, especially plant-based protein, and lower blood pressure.
It’s interesting to note that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than omnivores. One reason is that vegetable protein tends to be packaged with other nutrients known to lower blood pressure, like magnesium and fiber.
Another study found that swapping protein for carbs was especially helpful to lower blood pressure. A likely explanation is that cutting carbs leads to lower insulin levels, a known trigger for high blood pressure.
Take away tip: Look for ways to add more plant protein to your diet-even better is to swap them in place of starchy carbs. Consider having beans as a side-dish when you might normally have rice or potatoes. For snacks, go for nuts in place of cookies or cake.
Potassium is the yin to sodium’s yang. Sodium in the diet tends to push blood pressure up, while potassium brings it down. A potassium rich diet can even blunt some of the ill effects of too much sodium.
But as it turns out, foods loaded with sodium, like bread, pizza, and cold cuts, tend to not be the healthiest for other reasons and are best minimized. Just the opposite is true with potassium rich foods, that tend to be among the healthiest choices. Foods groups that pack a particular potassium punch include: greens, beans, and fruit.
Take away tip: Add more high potassium foods to your diet with foods like swiss chard, spinach, kidney beans, navy beans, avocados, and low fat yogurt.
There’s so much you can do to lower your blood pressure with diet. Look for opportunities to load up on blueberries, healthy vegetable protein including beans and nuts, and high potassium foods.
Despite an outstanding diet, many people with very high blood pressure will need medication to get readings under control. Nevertheless, the right diet could allow your doctor to lower the dose of your medication or avoid adding a second blood pressure drug. Please-never make any changes to your medicine without the advice of your health care professional.