Over a billion people suffer from some form of high blood pressure worldwide. That’s a staggering figure.
While there isn’t a clear-cut cause for high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle factors that can increase your risk. One of the most influential is diet. This may seem a little daunting, thinking you may need to completely change the way you eat but instead, think about the fact that food can aid you in lowering your blood pressure. Research shows that certain plant-based foods containing specific nutrients help decrease high blood pressure.
Want to learn a bit more? Read on!
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a pretty simple concept when it comes to deciphering anatomical and medical processes.
Blood pressure is a medical reading “that shows how strong your blood is pressing against the sides of blood vessels as your heart pumps it through your body.” As your heart beats, “blood is pumped through your body, providing energy and oxygen it needs, and as the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels.” Your blood pressure simply refers to the “strength of this pushing.”
A normal or healthy blood pressure reading should read around 120/80 mm Hg. Once your blood pressure drastically steps out of these norms — whether that’s higher or lower — it’s an indication that your body needs attention in some form.
Breaking the “out of the norm” down further, per the American Heart Association, there are five different blood pressure categories: normal, elevated, hypertension stage 1, hypertension stage 2, and hypertensive crisis. In addition, there is also low blood pressure called hypotension.
If you fall into any category aside from normal, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
Understanding the Health Risks of High Blood Pressure
While understanding the mechanism of blood pressure is simple when it comes to using this number as a barometric for your overall health, it gets a little more complicated.
Most commonly, people suffer from high blood pressure.
When your blood pressure is too high — generally at or above 130-139 systolic or 80-90 mm Hg diastolic, 140/90 mm Hg or higher is officially the hypertension stage two — “it puts extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.” A high blood pressure reading can also be a sign of “elevated stress and anxiety or an unhealthy diet.”
High blood pressure manifests in startling symptoms, including “possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, [and] change in vision or difficulty speaking.” It’s also a condition that oftentimes reveals an underlying condition — such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) — or a reaction to a medication. Plus, some existing health conditions generally go hand-in-hand with high blood pressure, such as “cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol levels.”
Plant-Based Foods for Healthier Blood Pressure
Maybe you have high blood pressure or simply want to avoid the condition altogether, what can you do? While there are a handful of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, switching to a primarily plant-based diet is a great place to start.
For instance, an extensive medical report — researched, written, and compiled between four medical professionals from Rush University Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, and the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies at New York University — found a strong and positive connection between healthy blood pressure, diet, and exercise.
Even the American Heart Association highlights the benefits of switching to a plant-forward, including being beneficial for blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and even many cancers. In particular, the AHA “attributes a plant-based diet to a decrease in consumption of meat — which is ‘often loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, which have starring roles in poor heart health,’ — as well as a decreased consumption of processed meats such as ‘deli meat, bacon, and sausage,’ which are oftentimes loaded with sodium.”
10 Plant-Based Foods that Encourage Healthy Bood Pressure
While pretty much any plant-based diet will jointly add dense nutrients and decrease processed, high-saturated fat ingredients, there are a few specific plant-based compounds that can target healthy blood pressure.
Plant-based foods that are rich in potassium, — such as “avocados, spinach, and squash” — high in phytonutrients, — such as “colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains, and many spices” — and satiating foods that promote healthy weight management, — such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fat foods (think extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil!).
There is a lot to love and to know about avocados, but to lower blood pressure, you’ll want to hone in on one special fact: avocados are super rich in potassium! Even though you may decide to go for the banana, avocados have more potassium without the added fructose (or sugar). How much, you may ask? In a single 100-gram serving, you’ll get around “14 [percent] of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), compared to 10 [percent] in bananas.”
When cooking with avocados, make sure to keep it simple and full of color as avocados can be used for more decedent — and less healthy — recipes due to their creamy texture: Fresh Sushi Spring Rolls, Chickpea Shackshouka With Avocado and Fresh Herbs, Grilled Vegetable Farro Bowls, or these Zucchini Boats.
Lentils are a hearty, versatile, and nutrient-dense legume that is oftentimes a central piece of a well-rounded plant-based diet. When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, you can thank the high quantities of “fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and protein.” Due to this nutrient profile, per the India Times, various studies show “lentils have been found to reduce blood pressure.”
Make the most of your lentils by making them the central piece of the dish or harnessing their heartiness to make some of your classic favorites such as this Lentil and Beet Meatballs with Pasta, Hearty High-Protein Lentil, Kidney Bean, and Chickpea Chili, Homemade Lentil Pasta, or this Heart-Healthy Burger.
Magnesium is an incredibly important nutrient for a variety of health benefits. It’s hit the health scene with a bang recently, touting its ability to help with sleep. Yet, this wonderful nutrient is also excellent at lowering high blood pressure. At the same time, you can get magnesium from many plant-based foods, nuts top the list! On top of magnesium, nuts are filled with healthy fats, which help satiate.
Walnuts are rich in oil, making them the perfect meat substitute in classic recipes. Of course, you can also simply throw a few raw nuts on top of your favorite salad or oats and be good to go!
Leafy greens are a great plant-based ingredient to boost your nutrient intake and lower your blood pressure. These foods are “rich in nitrates, which help to manage blood pressure.” While you can pretty much go with any leafy green available — kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, etc. — spinach is an excellent, classic option! Not only is spinach one of the more affordable options, but it’s also rich in other blood pressure-lowering nutrients such as potassium.
If leafy greens aren’t your jam, then try one of these layered recipes that helps you sneak in the greens with a blast of flavor! Classic Spinach Crepes, Green Soup, Spinach ‘Chicken’ Curry, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas, Wild Green Quinoa Salad, or this High Protein Matcha Lime Cheesecake.
Much like lentils, beans are a hearty addition to a plant-based diet! They provide an excellent source of fiber and protein, along with a slew of other nutrients. Research has also shown that legumes, in general, may have a positive effect on lowering both blood pressure and cholesterol.
Whether you go with the ready-to-eat canned variety or soak from dried, beans are incredibly easy to cook with and add to almost any recipe! Try this 15-Minute Rainbow Chard, Red Bean, and Peanut Stew; White Bean Baked Burritos; Black Bean Fudge Brownies With Sweet Potato Caramel; Beer Chili; or these Bean Ball Sandwiches.
Oats, oats, the wonderful food! Make them dry, make them creamy, make them savory, or make them sweet. Oats are a must-have when it comes to filling your tummy, whether it’s first thing in the morning or an even treat. When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, “oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which may reduce [blood pressure, as well as] blood cholesterol levels.” In particular, beta-glucan targets “both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.”
Oats can be used in a variety of ways, yet going with classic oatmeal is a great way to introduce oats to your daily routine: Pumpkin Overnight Oatmeal, Citrus Carrot, and Cranberry Oatmeal, Mint Chocolate Smoothie, Frosted Gingerbread Baked Oatmeal, or this Roasted Cauliflower and Coconut Overnight Porridge Pots.
You may not think too much about spices as boons for health, but cinnamon — Ceylon cinnamon in particular — is a well-known and popular spice that also happens to be super healthy. Research has shown that cinnamon may provide short-term blood pressure reduction. In particular, it was found that cinnamon may decrease “short-term systolic blood pressure by 5.39 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.6 mm Hg.”
The uses for this spice are pretty much endless as well! It can be used to sweeten something neutral or even balance out a savory dish.
Try this Chaga Mushroom Tea, Almond Cinnamon Yeast Strudel, Roasted Acorn Squash, Sage, and Pecan Sauce with Rice Noodles, Cinnamon Crunch Granola, Gingerbread Chia Pudding, or these Cinnamon Turmeric Sweet Potatoes.
Whether you’re new to the kitchen or a cooking veteran, it’s a given that garlic should be somewhere in the pantry. This aromatic food is a key ingredient in many flavorful, savory dishes! On top of that, garlic is a “natural antibiotic and antifungal food. Its main active ingredient, allicin, is often responsible for associated health benefits.” Garlic has also been found to reduce high blood pressure due to its ability to increase “the body’s production of nitric oxide, which helps the smooth muscles to relax and the blood vessels to dilate.”
Boost the aroma and flavor profile of your dish by adding some garlic! Get practicing with these super simple garlic recipes: Root Vegetable Chowder, Crispy Buffalo Tofu Bites, Sweet Chili Cauliflower Wings, Crispy Oil-Free Garlic Fries, or these Garlic Knots.
Pomegranates are a truly underrated fruit! They’re not only beautiful — those glistening little rubies — but pomegranates are filled with nutrients including vitamins — C, E, K, folate, and choline — minerals — calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. When it comes to lowering blood pressure, it’s been found that consuming pomegranate juice may provide a reduction in the short term. Research has found that participants who consumed “one cup of pomegranate juice daily for 28 days” lowered their high blood pressure.
With that said, it’s important to note that if you choose to go with pomegranate juice, make sure to select one that’s low in sugar. This makes a great argument for going all-natural with the raw fruit like in these recipes: Pomegranate Beet Citrus Smoothie With Mint and Ginger, Avocado Pomegranate Salad, Mixed Berry Pomegranate Popsicles, or this Savory Citrus Arugula Steel Cut Oats.
Kiwis may be well-known for their high fiber content, but they also happen to be great for lowering blood pressure. A specific study looked at participants who consumed “three kiwis a day for [eight] weeks,” which “resulted in a more significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” Turns out that kiwis have a few special components, including “bioactive substances” and vitamin C, both of which could contribute to low blood pressure.
Kiwi is both sweet and sour, giving it a special place when it comes to your kitchen! Try a few of these kiwi-rich recipes: Antioxidant-Rich Kiwi Juice, Thai Seared Tofu with Kiwi, Kiwi Spinach Popsicles, or these Coconut Kiwi Pops.
Looking to learn a bit more about plant-based foods and healthy blood pressure? Here are a few articles to get you on your way!
- 15 Plant-Based Recipes with Blood Pressure Lowering Ingredients
- How a Plant-Based Diet Can Reduce High Blood Pressure and Cognitive Decline
- 8 Plant-Based Recipes to Maintain Your Blood Pressure During the Holidays
- How Plant-Based Foods Can Help Manage Blood Pressure
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes, it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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