Five Foods To Beat High Blood Pressure

December 06, 2013

Want to lower your blood pressure with five simple and tasty foods? Find out what they are and more here...

High blood pressure (or hypertension) is known as the silent killer because it has virtually no symptoms. Years of elevated blood pressure increases the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke. High blood pressure has also been linked to a decline in cognitive function in otherwise healthy adults, starting in their late teens! Although researchers say the decline in cognitive function is relatively minor and manageable, they stress the importance of controlling blood pressure throughout our lives. This certainly extends what has been viewed as a problem of the elderly to all adults!

Sodium is usually the first target for those hoping to control their blood pressure, as the standard American diet (SAD) contains a hefty amount of sodium rich foods (i.e. fast food, take-out and frozen entrees - although the industry is currently in the process of reducing the sodium content of many foods). But sodium isn’t entirely to blame; controlling blood pressure is about balancing minerals, especially potassium and sodium. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes, which means they conduct electricity when dissolved in water; the 'potential' they create controls cellular communication and maintains health. Because many of us consume more sodium than potassium, it is important to increase the amount of potassium rich foods in our diets - vegetables! Magnesium is also an important mineral contributing to this balance, as well as helping with relaxation and toning the circulatory system.

Potatoes are rich in both, magnesium and potassium (650mg in the skin!), two vital nutrients for heart health. When potassium is low, the body retains extra sodium (and too much sodium raises blood pressure). On the other hand, when you eat a potassium-rich diet, the body becomes more efficient at getting rid of excess sodium. Like potassium, magnesium is also a key player in promoting healthy blood flow. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of both minerals can help keep blood pressure under control.

Dark Chocolate is rich in polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals proven to protect against heart and vascular disease. Flavonoids, a subclass of polyphenols, are found in high concentration in dark chocolate, as well as in fruits and vegetables. To satisfy your chocolate craving and lower your blood pressure, go with the real thing. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest concentration of flavonoids of any chocolate product, followed by unsweetened baking chocolate. If these options are too bitter, look for the darkest chocolate your palate can handle.

Avocado, another potassium powerhouse, the avocado, contains 975 milligrams! It also delivers a variety of other heart-healthy vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and monounsaturated fat. Try a ripe avocado on a sandwich instead of other spreads or having some guacamole as a mid day snack.

Beans, nutritious and versatile, beans, (including black, white, navy, lima, pinto, and kidney) are chock-full of soluble fiber, magnesium, and potassium, all excellent ingredients for lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health. Add beans to your favorite salads, soups, or wraps; as a bonus, they’re pretty inexpensive.

Celery, crunchy and delicious contains phthalides a category of phytonutrients that provides potential cardiovascular benefits. Researchers have demonstrated that celery phthalides can act as smooth muscle relaxants, most likely through their impact on the flow of calcium and potassium inside cells and related nervous system activity involved with muscle relaxation. Of course, relaxation of smooth muscles surrounding our blood vessels allows them to expand and the result is a lowering of our blood pressure.

Fortunately, these five foods and more can be found in the supermarket and are good for our heart and circulatory system. A diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein and healthy fats including omega-3s - is a great way to keep our electrolyte balance in check. Cooking from scratch at home, planning ahead, and packing a lunch can help eliminate excessive intake of sodium, as can making it a habit to always read labels and choosing products low in sodium.

Browse the produce section of your local grocery store for the most colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables and if your favorites are out of season, check the frozen aisles for nutrient rich, most of the time less expensive, fruits and vegetables (do make sure there are no additives), or go ahead and try something new in the produce section.

As always, consult your physician before making any changes to your diet.

Sources include: 
University Of Maine. High Blood Pressure Related Decline In Cognitive Function Affects Adults Young And Old.
WH Foods
Joy Bauer