There are dozens of treatments for high blood pressure, from prescription medications to exercises to stress management techniques. But like many other health conditions, research suggests that one of the most simple and sustainable ways to combat high blood pressure starts in the kitchen.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is the leading risk factor for heart disease, affecting more than a billion people around the world. But the good news is that it’s preventable with lifestyle changes—specifically changes to your diet.
Adding certain foods to your diet, especially ones high in magnesium and potassium, can naturally lower your blood pressure levels. In this article, we’ll explore 15 foods you might want to add to your grocery list if your goal is to combat hypertension.
Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that’s great for heart health. One randomized, clinical trial involving patients with hypertension found that eating oat cereal every day for six weeks significantly lowered blood pressure, compared to those who ate low-fiber cereal.
2. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens are loaded with nitrates, which widen blood vessels to improve blood flow. A 2021 study in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that eating one cup of leafy greens per day lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Here are some leafy greens to add to your grocery list:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, are a great source of anthocyanins—a type of flavonoid known for their ability to interfere with lipid metabolism, decrease platelet adhesion, and improve endothelial function.
A 14-year study involving 34,000+ hypertension patients found that those with the highest intake of anthocyanins had an 8% lower risk of high blood pressure than those with a lower intake.
For reference, a serving of blueberries is about 1 cup and a serving of strawberries is about 7 strawberries.
Bananas are loaded with potassium, a mineral that reduces the effects of sodium and relieves tension in the walls of your blood vessels.
The recommended daily intake of potassium is 3,400 mg for men and 2,600 mg for women. A medium-sized banana contains about 422 mg of potassium.
5. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics: good bacteria that are believed to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. A 2020 study analyzing 11,566 adults found that women who ate fermented foods had a lower risk of hypertension—although the same results weren’t replicated for men.
Here are some fermented foods to consider adding to your diet:
- Apple cider vinegar
If you’re not a fan of fermented foods, you can also take a probiotic supplement.
Lentils and other pulses are packed with protein and fiber, which researchers suggest promote cardiovascular health. A 2014 review found that eating pulses may lower blood pressure for patients with hypertension.
In addition to lentils, other types of pulses like beans and peas offer similar benefits for your heart.
Pomegranates have antioxidant properties that may reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular complications. One study from 2012 found that adults who drank one cup of pomegranate juice for 28 days were able to lower their blood pressure.
Just make sure that if you buy pomegranate juice, you don’t get the kind with added sugar.
For centuries, people have used cinnamon in traditional medicine to treat heart conditions, including hypertension. Experts aren’t quite sure how exactly the compounds in cinnamon help the heart, but animal research suggests it relaxes blood vessels.
A 2020 review found that consuming up to 2 mg of cinnamon per day for at least 8 weeks lowered the blood pressure of patients who had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
Kiwi is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and magnesium—all of which are involved in regulating blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
A 2022 study of healthy adults found that eating two kiwis every day for seven weeks significantly lowered blood pressure compared to a control group.
Nuts are a great source of healthy fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants. This makes them one of the most powerful foods to fight high blood pressure.
A 2016 review notes that eating pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts, improves endothelial function, which can control blood flow throughout the body.
No matter what kind of nuts you consume, always opt for the unsalted variety. A high-sodium diet can increase blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
11. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon and mackerel are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower and regulate blood pressure. A randomized study in 2016 found that patients with high systolic blood pressure gained significant improvements after taking a daily fish oil supplement for 8 weeks.
Here are some of the best fatty fish to add to your diet:
- Albacore tuna
12. Unsweetened Yogurt
Yogurt is a great source of heart-healthy micronutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. A 2021 study conducted at the University of South Australia found that yogurt is very capable of reducing and regulating blood pressure.
“This study showed that for people with elevated blood pressure, even small amounts of yogurt were associated with lower blood pressure,” says researcher Dr Alexandra Wade. “And for those who consumed yogurt regularly, the results were even stronger, with blood pressure readings nearly seven points lower than those who did not consume yogurt.”
Garlic’s main active compound, allicin, has antibiotic and antifungal properties which can improve heart health. A 2020 meta-analysis of 12 trials published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine confirmed that consuming garlic lowered blood pressure and improved arterial stiffness in hypertensive adults.
Beets contain dietary nitrates, which relax arteries to improve blood flow. A 2015 study found that people with hypertension were able to lower their blood pressure by drinking about one cup of red beet juice every day for four weeks.
In addition to drinking beet juice, you can also add a cup of beets to a salad or prepare them as a side dish.
Carrots are packed with phenolic compounds which are proven to decrease inflammation in blood vessels, thereby reducing systolic blood pressure.
A new study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that the risk of high blood pressure decreased by 10% for every 100 grams of carrots eaten daily.
Cooking carrots can diminish some of their nutrients, so it’s best to eat them raw to get the maximum benefit.
It’s Also Important to Know What Not to Eat
Just as eating the right foods can lower your blood pressure, eating the wrong foods can cause blood pressure to rise over the long and short term. For instance, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet recommends steering clear of alcohol, caffeine, excessive sodium, and processed foods.
When it comes to your heart health, there are certain factors outside your control. But one that’s definitely under your control is what you eat throughout the day. Small choices can make a huge impact when they compound over time, so bookmark this blog next time you go for a grocery run.