Welcome back to our cardiology blog! In our last article, we’d talked about different ways that you can help your cardiovascular health and lower your blood pressure through exercise. Today, we’re continuing that theme with dietary recommendations that are ideal for those suffering from high blood pressure (also known as hypertension).
Great Food for Hypertension
We are what we eat. And while spinach might turn you into Popeye, those greasy, salty things that we eat can turn us into blobs. So let’s talk turkey, and dig into the best food options (and foods to avoid) to improve your blood pressure.
Stave Off Salt
Salt isn’t terrible to consume, especially in moderation. However, it may increase your blood pressure, and many Americans are consuming salt by the proverbial handful. If you have high blood pressure, analyze your diet and consider your salt sources. Take a look at food product packages. Is salt a main ingredient? How much sodium does the nutrition label read? Strive to keep your daily intake to 2,000 mg or fewer—the average American often consumes 3,000 mg or more. Take note, African Americans, the elderly, and those genetically prone to have high blood pressure are at higher risk to have high blood pressure in correlation with their salt intake.
Eat Whole Grains
We’ve all heard that whole grains are healthier than processed grain products. That’s still true when it comes to your blood pressure. While processed grains may be void of all of the nutrients that your body needs to thrive, whole grains are full of heart-healthy fiber, as well as nutrients including potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and folate. Replace processed grain products with a whole-grain option.
Fruits & Veggies
Like whole grains, fruits and veggies are high in fiber and packed with nutrients. Strive to eat at least five portions of fruits and veggies per day. If your sodium levels are high, you can balance your diet by consuming plenty of potassium. Bananas, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, figs, avocados, and acorn squash can be especially helpful, but all fruits and veggies can aid your diet and lower your blood pressure.
In general, a low-fat diet can aid your blood pressure level. In addition, consuming low-fat dairy can further improve your health and reduce your hypertension. Since dairy products are rich with calcium, they’re an excellent source for the calcium your cardiovascular system needs to moderate blood pressure. We’ll talk a bit more in-depth about calcium and its role in your cardiovascular health in a moment…
Dark Chocolate Delight
Dark chocolate is good for you! Find a dark chocolate that’s high in cocoa content. Dark chocolate and cocoa contain flavanols that boost blood vessel elasticity, which can reduce one’s blood pressure. Milk chocolates are far more processed, and the detriments of milk chocolate’s sugars and fats far outweigh the benefits that cocoa may provide. Seek out dark chocolate with a cocoa content exceeding 70 percent.
Mind Your Saturated Fat & Cholesterol
Foods that have high amounts of saturated fat and/or cholesterol can harm your blood pressure level. Hypertension can be caused by red meats, butter, cheese, and other foods that are high in saturated fat. High blood pressure can also be caused by red meats, egg yolks, high-fat milk products, processed baked goods (including muffins, croissants, cakes, etc.), and fast food—all of which often contain high levels of cholesterol. Moderate your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and be mindful of the ingredients in the foods that you consume.
Consume a Potassium-Rich Diet
Potassium is crucial for cardiovascular health. Potassium and sodium are utilized within the kidney in order to filter out waste fluid from the body, ensuring that the body has balanced blood pressure levels. Potatoes, beans, leafy greens, apricots, acorn squash, fish, avocados, yogurt, mushrooms, and bananas all have plenty of potassium.
Eat Plenty of Magnesium Too
Magnesium is also necessary to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Magnesium is prevalent in beans, leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains.
Stay Away From Sugar
Sugar can cause blood pressure to spike. Avoid consuming too much sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners. Note that sodas, processed foods, and snacks are often packed with sugar, as well as alcoholic beverages.
Skip the Refined Carbs
Refined carbs (which are prevalent in common food products), can affect glucose and insulin metabolism, which can result in hypertension. Refined carbs are found in desert foods (like cookies and cakes), candy, jams, pasta, tortillas, sodas, cereal, and other foods.
Supplement Your Diet
There are numerous supplements that may be helpful in reducing hypertension. Be sure to speak with your cardiologist to develop a regimen that’s ideal for your cardiovascular health. All of the following supplements may be beneficial:
- CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a powerful antioxidant that can help to dilate blood vessels, thus lowering your blood pressure.
- Whey Protein: According to the Mayo Clinic, “early studies suggested that whey protein may help reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure, higher quality research suggests a lack of effect.”
- Berberine: Berberine is a chemical that is naturally prevalent in a variety of plants. Consuming berberine can cause the body to release nitric oxide, which makes arterial walls more flexible. Thus, berberine can be an effective supplement to lower your blood pressure.
- Aged Garlic Extract: Aged garlic may also, reduce blood pressure. The NCBI posted a study that showed a correlation between aged garlic consumption and lowered blood pressure levels.
In short, there are plenty of dos and don’ts when it comes to dieting to lower your blood pressure. And since there’s no black-and-white answer, it’s best to speak with a cardiologist to formulate a diet plan that suits your health and blood pressure. If you live here in the San Joaquin valley and foothills, feel free to take a visit to one of our cardiology offices. Ready to get healthy? Get in touch with us to schedule an appointment!