Changing your diet can become just as effective as taking medications to treat your hypertension. Arguably one of the best things you can do is minimize your salt intake and unhealthy fats. But once you’ve excluded these, what are you left with to eat?
Here are 101 heart healthy foods you can make part of your meals to help lower your blood pressure.
What Are the Best Foods for High Blood Pressure?
Food has such a major impact on blood pressure that an entire diet was created for people with or at risk for hypertension to follow called the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension).
The DASH diet generally includes healthy eating principles with a focus on many of the choices discussed here, especially fruits, vegetables, fish, and low fat dairy. It also minimizes foods that increase blood pressure such as salt and saturated fats. The DASH diet is widely recommended by healthcare authorities including the AHA and mayo clinic (14).
Eating the right amount in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is also important for blood pressure control and overall health.
Bottom Line: A healthy diet and regular exercise can often lead to effective blood pressure control without the need to be dependent on medications.
To get the most out of your heart healthy diet, here are some of the best types of foods for blood pressure:
- Beets & Other Nitrate Rich Foods
- Bananas & Other Potassium Rich Foods
- Salmon & Other Omega 3 Rich Foods
- Oats & Other Whole Grain Foods
- Beans & Other Fiber Rich Foods
- Almonds & Other Magnesium Rich Foods
- Yogurt & Other Calcium Rich Foods
Beets & Other Nitrate Rich Foods
Beets contain high levels of something called nitrates (NO3) that clinical trials suggest might be responsible for a beneficial effect on blood pressure. After you eat nitrates they are converted into nitric oxide by the body. Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels - and thus relieves some of the pressure they're experiencing. Not to mention vegetables like beets are also packed with micronutrients, phytochemicals and other antioxidant goodness.
How many beets should you be consuming? There’s really not enough evidence to know. However studies that looked at their effect on blood pressure used anywhere between about 1/3rd to 2 cups each day of beetroot juice (70 mL to 500 mL) (1).
10 Foods Naturally Rich in Nitrates
- Leafy Greens
- Bok Choy
Bananas & Other Potassium Rich Foods
Potassium rich foods have been shown to help lower blood pressure, potentially in part by helping battle the bad effects of sodium. Some studies suggest that systolic blood pressure is most influenced by getting enough potassium in your diet.
Bananas are the classic example, but many other food options are potassium rich.
20 Potassium Packed Items
- Kidney Beans
It is possible to get too much potassium if it's taken in the form of supplement, especially in people with chronic kidney disease. So while food sources are usually considered safe, it’s always important to talk to your doctor for specific medical advice before taking any potassium supplements.
Salmon & Other Omega 3 Rich Foods
15 Omega 3 Fatty Acid Options
- Chia Seed
- Kidney Beans
It's recommended that men eat at least 1.6 grams and women eat at least 1.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily.
Your doctor may recommend that you also take omega-3 fatty acid supplements if you have risk factors for heart disease (6).
Oats & Other Whole Grain Foods
Whole grains have a lot of scientific support in promoting long term heart health. In fact, some studies have shown that people with diets high in whole grains are more likely to live longer. Other studies support that whole grains may help to decrease the risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes and even some types of cancer.
Whole grains are unrefined grains that are eaten when they are in their ‘whole form’, meaning they contain all 3 parts of the kernel - the bran, germ and endosperm. The whole grain stamp can make finding them easier in the grocery store (7).
15 Foods with Whole Grain Goodness
- Whole Flower
In general it’s recommended to eat 2-3 servings of whole grains daily.
Beans & Other Fiber Rich Foods
Foods high in fiber - like beans may also help lower blood pressure. Beans specifically are also rich in potassium, magnesium and other micronutrients. Eating high fiber foods also helps control both cholesterol and blood glucose levels and has been linked to healthy weight loss (8).
20 High Fiber Foods
- Whole Oats
- Sesame Seeds
The FDA recommends getting at least 25g of fiber each day from food.
Almonds & Other Magnesium Rich Foods
Some studies suggest that magnesium rich foods may help lower blood pressure. This mineral may accomplish this in a variety of ways, including the promotion of nitric oxide formation as well as combating the bad effects of salt (10, 11).
10 Choices Enriched with Magnesium
- Lowfat Yogurt
While more research needs to be done for scientists to figure out the specifics, currently recommended dietary intakes for adults are around 300mg each day of magnesium.
Yogurt & Other Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and may help control blood pressure in a variety of ways including helping to dilate blood vessels (12).
Some people theorize that low fat dairy products may independently improve blood pressure to a greater extent than just containing calcium. However, the influence of dairy products on blood pressure is still controversial. Some clinical trials have reported that low-fat dairy foods may reduce your risk of hypertension by as much as 16%. However, other studies don’t show as much of an impact. It’s also unclear if some of the improvements noted are confounded by the correlation of people who choose low-fat products also leading generally healthier lifestyles (13).
10 Calcium Sources
- Orange Juice
- Cottage Cheese
- Turnip Greens
It's recommended that adults get at least 1000 mg of calcium daily.
Clinical trials on flaxseed have shown promise in helping hypertension. It’s possible these effects are from fiber and other important micronutrients. However it also contains compounds called α-linolenic acid and lignans that may be beneficial as well. Flaxseed comes in a variety of forms including in an oil, sometimes called linseed oil, ground and in whole seeds (14).
For more tips on how to lower your blood pressure, read this article.