Although it often presents with no symptoms, high blood pressure (or hypertension) is a risk factor in cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and stroke. It's important to keep an eye on your blood pressure and make sure it stays under control. As a rule of thumb, 120/80 mmHg or below is considered a healthy blood pressure. While hypertension is a complex issue with many causes, there are a number of steps you can take to keep it low including exercise, stress management, and diet. Check out these 4 tasty foods that have been shown to reduce blood pressure in evidence-based research:
Good news for all the chocoholics out there! Research shows that daily chocolate consumption can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure. More specifically, dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants like flavanol and polyphenols which can relax the arteries to reduce hypertension and inflammation.
How much: 25-30g (about 1/4 of a chocolate bar) per day
Look for: 70% cocoa or higher
Flax seed contains omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans which also help to reduce blood pressure. You can sprinkle them over yogurt or cereal, or add them to your favorite baked goods like cookies, breads, and muffins.
How much: 3 tablespoons per day
Look for: ground flaxseed may be easier to digest than whole seeds
Side note: Fish oil is another great source of omega-3's. Check out this post for tips on choosing the best fish oil supplement.
Many root vegetables like beets, carrots, and turnips are a good source of nitrates. These produce nitric oxide which can relax the blood vessels and reduce arterial stiffness. I like to do a roasted root vegetable medley, but you can also drink beetroot juice to gain the benefits.
How much: Aim for 1-2 cups of root veggies several times a week
Look for: Or consider drinking 8 oz. of beetroot juice daily
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids that help lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. To prevent oxidation, olive oil is best consumed cold as in salad dressings and veggie dips.
How much: 2 tablespoons per day
Look for: Organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
R. Estruch, M.A. Martínez-González, D. Corella: Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med.
S. Khales, C. Irwin, M. Schubert: Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. J Nutr.
J. Kobayashi, K. Ohtake, H. Uchida: NO-rich diet for lifestyle related diseases. Nutrients.
D. Taubert, R. Roesen, E. Schömig: Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 167 (7):626-634 2007 17420419