If you have high blood pressure, you’re well aware of the types of foods you shouldn’t be eating. Your doctor has probably shoved a lengthy list of don’ts down your throat: Don’t eat red meat; steer clear of too much salt. At a certain point, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What can I eat?” The good news is, there’s still plenty you can enjoy.
For folks with high blood pressure, it’s important to be cognizant of how diet will ultimately lower, or contribute, to their high blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) says, “Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health threats.”
We’ve done some digging, and have found 10 foods that will help keep those BP numbers where they need to be. Check it out.
You can’t go wrong with fruits and vegetables, no matter how healthy you are. But you may not know the reasons why these foods are key for a heart-healthy diet. As it turns out, foods high in potassium help manage high blood pressure because it can minimize the impact sodium has. When you consume lots of potassium, found in many fruits and veggies, your body is able to get rid of more sodium through your urine.
Bananas are one of your best options. The AHA says one medium specimen has about 420 milligrams of potassium, which is a significant amount for a relatively small amount of food. The daily recommended potassium intake for adults is 4,700 milligrams, so just one fruit will have you well on your way.
2. Whole grains
By now, most people know they shouldn’t be eating white bread and that whole-wheat or whole-grain options are better. Registered dietitian Keri Gans tells Health going for whole grains ensures you get all the good stuff — bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of the bran and germ. Luckily, there’s a long list of whole grains to choose from, including quinoa, barley, and brown rice.
3. Low-fat yogurt
Unless you also happen to be lactose intolerant, you’re good to go when it comes to dairy products. Some evidence indicates dairy is beneficial for lowering blood pressure, but you want to make sure you’re choosing the low-fat variety, as we know people with high blood pressure should avoid trans and saturated fats. Need more convincing? The DASH Diet, which has been praised for lowering blood pressure, encourages people to incorporate low-fat dairy products into their diets. This includes low-fat yogurt and fat-free milk.
Everyone needs their protein, but red meat definitely isn’t the way to go if you’re trying to control high blood pressure. Because fish contains less saturated fat, it’s a good option. Plus, according to the AHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The best options for a heart-healthy diet include halibut, tuna, and salmon.
Nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, so there’s little argument about their importance in a diet focused on lowering high blood pressure. Additionally, SFGate says certain nuts could lower cholesterol, which is often a huge offender among those with high blood pressure. So, whether you prefer pistachios to walnuts, snacking on these staples will help keep your heart healthy.
Legumes aren’t half bad, either. One study examined the role these fiber-rich foods play in controlling blood pressure among patients with diabetes. In a press release, lead study author Dr. David Jenkins said legumes have a “blood pressure-lowering effect in diabetic patients.” Not to mention, legumes are a great source of protein. Check out these delicious recipes, all starring the mighty bean.
7. Olive oil
In addition to being good for those with arthritis, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats. According to Mayo Clinic, the healthy fats found in olive oil are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). These healthy fats can help lower total cholesterol, along with LDL (bad) cholesterol. The Arthritis Foundation recommends two to three tablespoons daily, and points out that extra-virgin olive oil is a better option, as it isn’t as heavily processed.
You know salt can harm cholesterol and blood pressure, so curbing your desire to sprinkle it on everything is a must. The AHA recommends a daily limit of 1,500 milligrams for most adults, so it’s time to start swapping salt for healthier alternatives. One way the organization recommends shaking your salt habit is by taking advantage of the wide variety of spices and seasonings available. For example, use basil on fish, lamb, and lean ground meats. Use nutmeg on fruits, potatoes, and chicken. And try rosemary on veal, lean pork, and lima beans. There’s a way to make your favorite foods tastier without salt, you just have to do some experimenting.
9. Lean chicken
Ditching burgers and steak for good is a tall order for meat lovers. But if you can find ways to swap it for chicken more often than not, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. According to the AHA, chicken has less cholesterol and saturated fat than red meats. Seeing as how cholesterol and saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse, this difference really does matter. Stick to lean, skinless cuts of chicken.
10. Leafy greens
Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, may help reduce blood pressure, thanks to magnesium. Research has found taking 300 milligrams of the mineral a day for one month can elevate blood magnesium levels and reduce blood pressure. Furthermore, a press release on the research reads, “High magnesium levels in the blood were linked to improvements in blood flow, another factor associated with lowered blood pressure.” Additional foods that are high in magnesium include whole grains, beans, and nuts.
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