What Types of Foods Lower Blood Pressure? 20 Options
Aug 19, 2023
Eating a healthy diet is one way to help lower high blood pressure (hypertension) and prevent complications, such as heart disease or stroke.
In particular, studies show that certain foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fatty fish can lower your blood pressure.
This article discusses foods to include and avoid to lower high blood pressure.
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One review of studies found that a fruit intake of 530–600 grams per day (about four medium apples) can prevent high blood pressure.
Whole apple consumption can improve risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol and inflammation. Research also found that eating at least one whole apple per day decreases the risk of hypertension by 9%.
Apples may lower blood pressure due to their flavonoids, which improve endothelial function by boosting nitric oxide production, which signals blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure.
Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes) contain hesperidin, a flavonoid that may lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
One study found that about 2 cups of orange juice effectively lowered systolic blood pressure (the top measurement number) in pre-hypertensive or stage-1-hypertensive individuals. These effects were primarily attributed to hesperidin and its potential to improve endothelial function and inflammation.
Bananas are relatively high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure by increasing the amount of sodium you process out of the body. It can also ease tension in your blood vessel walls.
Research linking banana consumption to reduced blood pressure is mixed. Some studies saw improvements, while others had negligible effects.
One study found that adults with moderately elevated blood pressure improved after eating kiwi. Participants who ate three kiwi fruits per day for eight weeks experienced more significant improvements in blood pressure than those who ate one apple per day.
These effects may be due to the potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants present in kiwi.
Blueberries may help lower blood pressure due to their anthocyanins (a polyphenol). In one study, participants who drank a beverage made with freeze-dried wild blueberry powder daily (a little more than 1 cup) saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group. They also experienced improvements in blood vessel function and cognitive function.
Drinking pomegranate juice may help improve systolic blood pressure regardless of the amount consumed or the duration. Researchers found that having more than 1 cup of pomegranate juice may reduce diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). Be sure to choose 100% juice without added sugar.
Though evidence remains mixed, nuts contain several essential nutrients that may aid in blood pressure control.
One study found that participants who consumed around 2–3 ounces of walnuts daily as a snack experienced lower central diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure moving toward the heart, brain, and kidneys.
Researchers believe these effects may be due to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition, in addition to the nut's antioxidants, which can help improve blood flow.
Adults with high cholesterol found consuming about 1.5 ounces of pistachios daily reduced systolic blood pressure during acute mental stress and at rest. The study also found that replacing low‐fat snacks with pistachios equal to around 20% of a person's total daily calorie intake (about 3 ounces) improves blood pressure in adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.
Almonds contain antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, which may help reduce blood pressure. One review of studies found that consuming more than 43 grams of almonds daily for six weeks led to considerable improvements in diastolic blood pressure.
Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit heart health. Experts recommend consuming fatty fish at least twice a week as part of a healthy diet to reduce your heart disease and stroke risk.
The optimal intake of omega-3 fats for blood pressure control is around 3 grams, which is equivalent to 4–5 ounces of Atlantic salmon. Individuals at high risk of developing heart disease may benefit from higher amounts.
One study found 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.5 mmHg.
One recent study highlighted that in addition to omega-3s, sardines contain other nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and zinc, which can help lower blood pressure. One cup of canned Atlantic sardines provides nearly 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.
Vegetables contain potassium, antioxidants, and other compounds that can help reduce blood pressure.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, cabbage, and spinach are a rich source of nitrates, which can lower blood pressure.
One study found that consuming 60 milligrams of dietary nitrate, which is equivalent to 1 cup of leafy greens per day, may help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research suggests beetroot juice can help reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow, improving heart health, likely due to its high nitrate levels. The researchers suggest consuming beetroot juice daily for at least two weeks for sustained results.
Carrots are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds that can help manage blood pressure. One study found that 100 grams (about 1 cup) of grated carrots eaten daily reduced the risk of high blood pressure by around 10%.
Garlic may help reduce blood pressure by improving blood flow. One review found that garlic, especially Kyolic aged garlic extract, can help lower blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and cholesterol levels.
These effects have mainly been observed in people taking high-dose garlic supplements. Adding a few cloves of garlic to your meals is unlikely to lead to noticeable improvements in blood pressure.
Though you may not see significant improvements in blood pressure after adding ginger to meals, there is evidence that ginger supplements can regulate blood pressure.
One review noted that ginger supplements in doses greater than 3 grams can significantly improve systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults younger than 50.
One observational study noted that a daily intake of about 1 cup of cooked legumes (peas, beans, or lentils) was associated with a decreased risk of high blood pressure. Researchers suggest legumes can inhibit ACE activity and increase nitric oxide production, lowering blood pressure.
Tomatoes contain lycopene and potassium, which may affect heart health. A review found taking 10–15 milligrams of tomato extract with lycopene daily significantly improved systolic blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure.
However, no improvements were seen with other forms of tomato, including tomatoes in the diet and synthetic lycopene.
Adding whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice can improve heart health. Whole grain consumption can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Numerous studies associate oats and oatmeal with improved cholesterol levels and weight control. Newer studies suggest it may also help with blood pressure regulation.
Researchers found significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure when enough oats were consumed to yield at least 5 grams of beta-glucan (soluble fibers in oat and barley grains). Meanwhile, 1.5 cups of cooked oatmeal provides around 4.8 grams of beta-glucans.
One study found a 60% reduced risk of high blood pressure in people who reported frequent consumption of whole grains compared to those who reported no consumption.
Participants were assessed by how often they consumed brown rice, germinated rice, or a wheat/millet mix with rice. Those who responded "sometimes" or "always" were grouped into the frequent consumption category. Researchers believe it may be due to their fiber concentration and other plant compounds.
Fermented foods like yogurt may also help reduce blood pressure. Researchers found frequent yogurt consumption decreased systolic and arterial pressures in adults with high blood pressure. No statistically significant benefits were seen in adults without high blood pressure.
Non-food ways to lower blood pressure include:
Blood pressure medication, such as beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors, may be prescribed if your blood pressure does not improve with diet and lifestyle modifications.
Decreased water intake is associated with high blood pressure. Therefore, drinking water may help lower your blood pressure, especially if you aren't hydrated.
Following a balanced diet and limiting foods that increase blood pressure can help keep your blood pressure healthy.
Foods to limit or avoid with high blood pressure include:
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes and a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish can help you avoid high blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease. In contrast, alcohol, salt, processed foods, and fatty foods may worsen high blood pressure and its complications. Talk to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to develop a blood-pressure-friendly diet that works for you.
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By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LDLindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.