To lower blood pressure, I highly recommend my anti-inflammatory Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet, as well as cutting back on the use of salt. However, not everyone's hypertension is caused by their salt intake. For those who are salt sensitive, many complain that foods taste too bland without it.
That doesn’t need to be the case. If you are salt sensitive there are a number of savory salt substitutes that you can regularly include in your diet to maximize your ability to control your blood pressure reading naturally and make your meals tastier. If you season your meals to perfection with these four ingredients—you’ll enjoy great flavor and lower your blood pressure at the same time:
Four Tasty Salt Substitutes
You may not have heard of curcumin before, but you probably have heard of turmeric—the spice that is best known as an ingredient in Indian curry and yellow mustard. Turmeric has been my No. 1 cardiovascular spice for years, and its yellow color comes from curcumin—a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that’s been found to reduce the excess platelet aggregation that occurs in sticky, clot-forming blood. Plus, animal research suggests that it may reduce cardiomyopathy, but more human research is needed in the hypertensive population. That’s why I recommend cooking with plenty of turmeric, and especially as a salt substitute. If you wish to take curcumin as a nutritional supplement, try 500–750 mg daily.
Ginger—the smart man’s aspirin—is a potent blood thinner and anti-inflammatory agent that can help you lower your blood pressure. You can try commercial organic ginger teas, or make your own from ginger root. Simply chop the root into small pieces and boil for about five minutes. You can also use sliced or grated ginger to spice up any dish, as I frequently do with wild salmon.
Like ginger, garlic is an excellent natural blood thinner. So effective, in fact, that I instruct some patients to lay off garlic—as well as ginger—if they are on a pharmaceutical blood thinner like Coumadin. As for garlic’s effect on blood pressure, a recent Australian review of 11 studies in which patients with high blood pressure were randomly given garlic or a placebo found that garlic can lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs. Dosages taken by the subjects in the studies ranged from 600 to 900 mg over a period of three to six months.
There’s an old saying among Italian chefs that there’s never enough garlic in a dish. I agree. I love to cook, and I always chop up at least one clove when I make spaghetti sauce (I suggest you include this salt substitute in your salads and sauces). Four cloves of garlic (about four grams) daily are required to achieve a noticeable blood pressure-lowering effect. If you have an aversion to garlic’s trademark odor, then try an odor-free garlic supplement. I like enteric-coated softgel garlic capsules (softgels are better absorbed in the body). Take 500–1,000 mg daily in divided doses.
The key compound in cayenne pepper is a pungent substance called capsaicin, which is the main active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter “hot creams” for joint and muscle pain. Capsaicin creates the sensation of heat through a thermogenic effect that raises body temperature and boosts circulation in the area where it’s applied.
Over the years, patients have told me that capsaicin—which is available as a supplement—has helped alleviate angina and improve heart failure. I don’t know the precise reason why, but I suspect it has vasodilating properties, which explains why it increases circulation (and temperature) wherever it’s applied. Capsaicin is also an antioxidant known to reduce lipid oxidation and decrease platelet stickiness. As a supplement, you can take 2,000–4,000 mg of cayenne every other day. You can also cook with red pepper in chili or other dishes once a week. Just don’t overdo it. Too much cayenne may be harmful to DNA.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Diet and Blood Pressure
Which specific foods can help lower blood pressure? Discover the foods that will improve your blood pressure reading the most.
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.