Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common preventable risk factor for heart disease .
Over 1 billion people around the world have high blood pressure, which is defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) values (the top number) of 130 mm Hg or more, diastolic blood pressure (DBP, the bottom number) of more than 80 mm Hg, or both.
Medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, are commonly used to reduce blood pressure levels. However, lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications, can help lower blood pressure levels to optimal ranges and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Following a nutritious, heart-healthy diet is suggested for all people with high blood pressure, including those on blood-pressure-lowering medications.
A healthy diet is essential for lowering blood pressure and maintaining optimal levels, and research has shown that including certain foods in your diet, especially those high in specific nutrients like potassium and magnesium, reduces your blood pressure levels.
1. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, including grapefruit, oranges, and lemons, may have powerful blood-pressure-lowering effects. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may help keep your heart healthy by reducing heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.
A 5-month study involving 101 Japanese women demonstrated that daily lemon juice intake combined with walking was significantly correlated with reductions in SBP, an effect that the researchers attributed to the citric acid and flavonoid content of lemons.
Studies have also shown drinking orange and grapefruit juice may help reduce blood pressure. Yet, grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with common blood-pressure-lowering medications, so consult your healthcare provider before adding this fruit to your diet.
2. Salmon and other fatty fish
Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which have significant heart health benefits. These fats may help reduce blood pressure levels by reducing inflammation and decreasing levels of blood-vessel-constricting compounds called oxylipins.
Research has linked higher intakes of omega-3-rich fatty fish to lower blood pressure levels.
A study in 2,036 healthy people found that those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fats had significantly lower SBP and DBP than those with the lowest blood levels of these fats. Higher omega-3 intake has also been associated with a lower risk of hypertension.
3. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a leafy green that’s packed with blood-pressure-regulating nutrients, including potassium and magnesium. One cup (145 grams) of cooked chard delivers 17% and 30% of your daily potassium and magnesium needs, respectively.
In people with high blood pressure, every 0.6-gram per day increase in dietary potassium is associated with a 1.0 mm Hg reduction in SBP and a 0.52 mm Hg reduction in DBP. One cup (145 grams) of Swiss chard packs 792 mg of this important nutrient.
Magnesium is also essential for blood pressure regulation. It helps reduce blood pressure through several mechanisms, including by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker, which blocks the movement of calcium into heart and arterial cells, allowing blood vessels to relax.
4. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds may be small, but they pack a punch when it comes to nutrition.
They’re a concentrated source of nutrients important for blood pressure control, including magnesium, potassium, and arginine, an amino acid needed for the production of nitric oxide, which is essential for blood vessel relaxation and blood pressure reduction.
Pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to be a powerful natural remedy for high blood pressure. A study in 23 women found that supplementing with 3 grams of pumpkin seed oil per day for 6 weeks led to significant reductions in SBP, compared with a placebo group.
5. Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, such as fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Numerous studies have shown that eating beans and lentils may help lower high blood pressure levels.
A review of 8 studies that included 554 people indicated that, when exchanged for other foods, beans and lentils significantly lowered SBP and average blood pressure levels in people with and without hypertension.
Berries have been associated with a variety of impressive health benefits, including their potential to reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure. Berries are a rich source of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which are pigments that give berries their vibrant color.
Anthocyanins have been shown to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood and reduce the production of blood-vessel-restricting molecules, which may help reduce blood pressure levels. However, more research in humans is needed to confirm these potential mechanisms.
Blueberries, raspberries, chokeberries, cloudberries, and strawberries are just some of the berries that have been associated with blood-pressure-lowering effects.
Eating whole grains like amaranth may help lower your blood pressure levels. Studies show that diets rich in whole grains may decrease your risk of high blood pressure.
A review of 28 studies found that a 30-gram per day increase in whole grains was associated with an 8% reduced risk of high blood pressure.
Amaranth is a whole grain that’s particularly high in magnesium. One cooked cup (246 grams) provides 38% of your daily magnesium needs.
Pistachios are highly nutritious, and their consumption has been linked to healthy blood pressure levels. They’re high in a number of nutrients essential for heart health and blood pressure regulation, including potassium.
Crunchy, sweet, and nutritious, carrots are a staple veggie in many people’s diets. Carrots are high in phenolic compounds, such as chlorogenic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids, that help relax blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which may help lower blood pressure levels.
Although carrots can be enjoyed cooked or raw, eating them raw may be more beneficial for reducing high blood pressure. A study that included 2,195 people ages 40–59 found that raw carrot intake was significantly associated with lower blood pressure levels.
Celery is a popular vegetable that may have positive effects on blood pressure. It contains compounds called phthalides, which may help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure levels.
The same study that associated raw carrot intake with reduced blood pressure found that among commonly consumed cooked vegetables, cooked celery intake was significantly associated with reduced blood pressure.