Keeping your blood pressure in check is important for your health.
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If it’s too high, your blood pressure can lead to serious conditions like stroke or heart disease.
While medications like beta-blockers can help lower your blood pressure, did you know that certain foods and nutrients can help as well?
Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, shares how certain foods can help lower your blood pressure.
Types of food that can help lower blood pressure
Antioxidant-rich foods may have a small impact on blood pressure levels. Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, selenium or L-arginine are good options if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and can reduce inflammation, which, in turn, can keep blood pressure in control.
1. Foods high in vitamin C
Foods high in vitamin C can protect against oxidative stress, which causes inflammation. Good options include:
- Brussels sprouts.
- Sweet potatoes.
- Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes.
2. Foods high in vitamin E
The fat-soluble nutrient acts as an antioxidant to help protect cells from free radical damage. Try the following foods:
- Sunflower seeds.
- Peanut butter.
3. Foods high in potassium
Potassium aids in blood pressure reduction by relaxing your blood vessels’ walls and helping your body remove excessive sodium. Foods include:
- Nuts/seeds like pistachios, almonds and flax seeds.
“Bananas are high in potassium, which helps your body get rid of sodium,” says Zumpano. “Eating foods high in sodium can increase your blood pressure.”
4. Foods high in selenium
Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect your body from oxidative stress. Choose these foods for selenium:
- Seafood like tuna, halibut and shrimp.
- Brazil nuts.
5. Foods high in L-arginine
L-arginine helps make nitric oxide, a chemical that aids in relaxing muscle cells. Some research shows these foods can help lower blood pressure:
- Nuts/seeds like pumpkin seeds, walnuts and peanuts.
- Beans like chickpeas and soybeans.
- Dairy like milk, yogurt and cheese.
6. Foods high in calcium
Studies have shown that meeting the recommended dietary allowance for calcium of 1,000 milligrams and getting up to 1,500 milligrams per day can improve blood pressure. Foods rich in calcium include:
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese.
- Dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
- Dried beans and peas.
- Fortified tofu.
- Fortified orange juice.
- Fortified nondairy milks like almond, soy, coconut and oat.
Other foods that may help lower your blood pressure
Garlic may also help lower your blood pressure. Garlic has been shown to help reduce inflammation. Using garlic to add flavor to your food also helps you reduce salt, which can also help lower blood pressure.
Moderate amounts of alcohol have also been shown to help lower blood pressure. Women shouldn’t exceed one drink per day, while men shouldn’t have more than two drinks per day. Keep in mind, consuming greater quantities of alcohol can cause blood pressure to rise.
Some people should drink less than this amount, or not at all, though. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can interfere with certain medications and can increase your risk of other chronic conditions, including certain cancers and osteoporosis. Ask your healthcare provider if drinking alcohol is safe for you.
Do supplements work?
Certain supplements can help. But Zumpano warns that you should talk to your doctor before adding a supplement. Getting nutrients from whole foods is best.
Supplements can be risky, based on the type of supplement and the concentration taken, and may also interfere with certain medications.
The following supplements have shown promise:
- Omega-3 fatty acids.
“You can find omega-3 fatty acids naturally in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel,” advises Zumpano. “Certain plants are also good sources like chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and soy.”
When it comes to CoQ10, the antioxidant may help your body’s total peripheral resistance, which can affect your blood pressure.
And you can also get a dose of magnesium without supplements by having a diet rich in nuts, seeds, whole grains, greens and dairy.
Adding these nutrients to your diet is a win-win situation. If you’re currently on a beta-blocker medication, you should talk to your doctor first.
“Getting the benefits naturally from foods is the best option,” says Zumpano. “Eating foods rich in antioxidants and nutrient-dense foods can improve your overall heart health.”
While including certain foods in your diet can aid in blood pressure reduction, your lifestyle choices can help, too.
“It’s very important to note exercise, stress reduction, a low-salt diet and maintaining a normal body weight can also positively influence blood pressure,” says Zumpano.