Today I’ll be sharing a range of foods and nutrients that lower blood pressure.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important because hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most significant risk factor for developing heart conditions, heart attack, stroke, and end stage kidney disease. The best thing is, it is a modifiable risk factor, meaning we can change it.
So we’ll be covering these foods, nutrients and dietary strategies that have shown great benefit in helping to lower blood pressure. These strategies are effective to keep blood pressure in a good range, or if you have hypertension they can help to lower it.
If you don’t know what normal blood pressure is, you might like to read this article first.
Nutrients And Foods That Lower Blood Pressure
- Reduced sodium
- Increased potassium
- Increased magnesium
- Increased calcium
- Decreased energy intake
- Moderate alcohol
So let’s take a closer look at why and how plus some practical strategies to implement today.
Reduced sodium is the most popular strategy to implement and you’ve probably heard of this before. Why? Well although sodium is found naturally in foods, most of the sodium chloride in our modern diet comes from added salt. In many studies it is a nutrient that has been associated with increased blood pressure. The body does need sodium but too much is not good so it has an osmotic effect, meaning it draws water into the body. This happens to ‘water down’ the blood but when the blood volume increases, blood pressure increases.
On average studies have shown a decrease in blood pressure of 12.1/6.8 by following a no added salt diet. No added salt to foods, not eating salty foods, and keeping salt below 5g a day. Some studies have shown a rapid decrease is not good, so try to make the change to a better diet over a 1-2 month time period.
It’s not just the high salt intake that causes problems in the body because parallel to this is the reduced potassium intake that normally occurs. Our kidneys maintain our blood pressure balance and when there is even a mild potassium deficiency, the kidneys will retain sodium rather than excrete it, this raises blood pressure. Generally speaking the place where we get most of the added salt is from processed and packaged foods. These types of foods do not contain the nutrients we need, including potassium. We get potassium predominantly from fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, beans and legumes. When these aren’t present in the diet blood pressure can increase. Like I pointed out, it is normally alongside increased sodium and the two don’t make a good combo as far as blood pressure is concerned.
In the case on magnesium studies have shown conflicting results but they do suggest there is a dose dependent effect that helps to reduce blood pressure by 4.3/2.3. What this means is that when people have increased their magnesium intake there has been a reduction.
Though the studies are mixed, it is suggested that in people who have a low calcium intake, increasing calcium can assist in lowering blood pressure. Though the results only show a modest decrease of 1.44/0.68, this could be an added advantage to someone who needs to lower blood pressure. Calcium does not just come from dairy products but is also found in many non dairy sources.
Decrease energy intake
An increased energy intake (food intake) often leads to gaining weight and blood pressure is generally higher in overweight and obese people. It is very easy to eat processed and packaged foods in large amounts, right?!
Our fat fat cells are very metabolically active and this process could be directly associated with increased blood pressure. There is elevated hormonal activity of the renin angiotensin aldosterone system with obesity. The renin angiotensin aldosterone system is the hormonal system located from the kidneys that helps regulate and maintain blood pressure. This irregular hormone activity causes lots of changes to occur. There are also various changes with other hormones in the body as weight increases and these are thought to promote increase blood pressure as well.
With a 10kg (22lb) weight loss there is a 20.5/20 reduction in blood pressure, which is quite a lot!
When you drink alcohol there is an acute rise in blood pressure. The good thing is it does seem to fall again afterwards. However there is also a time dependent blood pressure response. If you drink too much alcohol on a frequent basis then there is more of a chance this will raise blood pressure on an ongoing basis. If you have hypertension you want to limit your drinking to a maximum of 2 standard drinks a day, or even better don’t drink every day.
So there you have it, these are the nutrients and foods that have been shown to lower blood pressure the most. The most significant out of them all is sodium and potassium. The things to focus on are reducing intake of processed and packaged foods that contain way too much sodium (salt) and increasing intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans and legumes.
3 Easy Practical Action Steps To Take
- Decrease your intake of processed and packaged foods because this is where most of the sodium comes from in the form of added salt. Decreasing processed and packaged foods will also naturally decrease your energy intake.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly vegetables and this will naturally increase your potassium and magnesium and reduce your energy intake.
- Keep a log of your alcohol intake – it’s easy to overconsume so make a pact to drink no more than 2 glasses a day, less if you can.
Taking these 3 simple action steps will definitely help start you on the right track to reducing your blood pressure.
You might also be interested in reading about what causes high blood pressure over here.
Hope you find this information helpful and if you do please share it around
Nutrition & Health Coach
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