Have High Blood Pressure? Eat These Specific Foods
A list of foods that will improve your blood pressure reading the most
Adopting my Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet will certainly help reduce high blood pressure and improve both your general cardiovascular health and overall health. But adding several specific foods to your diet on a regular basis can help you reap even more blood-pressure benefits. Fill your plate with these 11 foods as you strive to lower your blood pressure:
Results from two studies show that soy can help lower blood pressure. The first study was a three-month double-blind investigation of 40 men and women with mild hypertension that compared the anti-hypertensive effects of soy milk to cow’s milk. The soy milk achieved phenomenal blood pressure-lowering results, decreasing systolic blood pressure as much as 18 points and diastolic blood pressure as much as 15.9 points. Any time you can get blood pressure readings to move even 5–10 points, you’re doing well. In the second study, men who ate soy foods ended up with significantly lower systolic blood pressure than those who consumed low-fat dairy foods. But because allergies to soy are common, and the over-consumption of soy can raise the potential for adverse reactions in people who are sensitive to it, I don’t recommend eating soy on a daily basis, but rather two or three times per week. Keep in mind that there are fermented and unfermented soy foods, with fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, miso, fermented tofu, and natto, tending to be healthier options.
Natto is a traditional cheese-like fermented soy product that’s popular in Japan. It’s made by boiling or steaming soybeans and then fermenting them with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto. Natto and nattokinase, a supplemental form of natto, are thought to promote healthy circulation—and therefore benefit blood pressure—because they help break up fibrin—one of the elements in the blood that causes clotting. Sold at most Asian grocery stores and in some health food stores, natto is frequently served as a condiment or with miso, cabbage, eggs, or mixed in salads. Be aware, however, that if you’re taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin (warfarin), you should not eat natto or take nattokinase. That’s because Coumadin also has an effect on fibrin, and doubling up with natto may thin the blood too much.
Apples and Onions
Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are abundant in nature, especially in fresh fruits and vegetables. These free-radical scavengers are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and they show great promise in supporting healthy circulation, blood pressure, and vein health. In fact, research has confirmed that the OPC quercetin is particularly effective at lowering blood pressure.
Two of the most quercetin-rich foods are apples and onions. For best medicinal results, you should eat onions raw—cooked onions don’t have the same effect. For optimal health benefits, when preparing food I recommend combining onions with other ingredients that can help lower blood pressure, such as garlic and olive oil.
I recommend crushed flaxseed for supporting healthy blood pressure because it contains the two key types of essential fatty acids: 19 percent activated omega-6s and 48 percent of an omega-3 precursor, alpha linolenic acid. And on top of these blood pressure–lowering benefits, you’ll also be rewarded with healthier skin, lower cholesterol levels, improved digestion, and a cleaner bowel.
In general, freshly ground or crushed flaxseed is better than flax oil because you’re assured the oil in the seed is fresh, plus you’re getting extra fiber and plant lignans. Enjoy flaxseed raw by mixing it into your cereal, yogurt, or smoothies.
Over the past several years, the body of research on cocoa and dark chocolate has been building, and the latest studies have shown that the darkest confections can help lower blood pressure. My favorite brand of dark chocolate is Chocolove, a premium Belgian chocolate sold online (www.chocolove.com) and in select natural foods stores, including Whole Foods Markets. Chocolove products have a high cocoa content, but their “strong dark” bar with 70 percent cocoa provides the best balance between taste and health benefits. I eat dark chocolate at least once a week, but no more than one ounce at a time, savored slowly. However, if you are sugar sensitive, you should not eat any form of chocolate.
After eight weeks of eating a soluble, fiber-rich whole grain such as oatmeal every morning, one study of men and women with high blood pressure found that more than 70 percent were able to lower their blood pressure medication by at least half. More than one-third eliminated it completely. Make it your breakfast of choice—and add some flavor by mixing in fresh organic berries.
Avocados and Cold Water Fish
Omega-3 fats and other healthy (monounsaturated) fats, such as those in avocados, cold-water fish, olive oil, and organic nuts and seeds, are especially important because they stimulate the production of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a compound produced by the endothelium (the thin layer of cells lining your arteries) that keeps arteries properly dilated, and counteracts the vasoconstricting effect of stress that can cause high blood pressure. The protein in fish may also help lower blood pressure. For best results, eat cold-water fish, such wild-caught Alaska salmon, three times per week.
Wakame is the most popular seaweed in Japan. Eating 3 grams of dried wakame daily for four weeks may reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 14 points and diastolic blood pressure by up to 5 points. And the edible Asian red-brown algae called Ecklonia cava has been found to contain natural plant compounds that help dilate blood vessels and, therefore, also benefit blood pressure. I personally eat seaweed on a regular basis, and I am particularly fond of the offerings of the Maine Seaweed Company—the purveyors of some of the purest products around—available from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables at www.seaveg.com.
Celery, celery extract, and celery oil all contain apigenin, which relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Consuming four stalks of celery per day, eight teaspoons of celery juice three times daily, or an equivalent amount in the form of supplemental celery seed extract (1,000 mg twice a day) or oil (one-half to one teaspoon three times daily in tincture form) provides a blood pressure–lowering effect.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Diet and Blood Pressure
Which specific seasonings can help lower your blood pressure? Find out how to season your meals to perfection and combat high blood pressure at the same time.
Does excess salt cause high blood pressure? Learn why you need to watch your salt intake to lower blood pressure.
Does excess sugar cause high blood pressure? Get the details on how a high-sugar diet can raise your blood pressure reading.
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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