Nutrition & Blood Pressure: The 8 Best & Worst Foods to Eat for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) by Dr. Vikki Petersen
Did you know that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure, and are taking medication to help combat it? Even though it affects such a large population, only about 24 percent have their hypertension condition under control.
Many assume that medication is the only solution in helping combat high blood pressure, however, there are other common lifestyle factors that can drastically affect blood pressure levels, especially your diet. What you eat, and don’t eat, has a strong influence on your blood pressure. Your blood pressure is not only a monitor of your cardiovascular health and risk of stroke but also your kidney and brain function.
What are some common foods that can increase blood pressure? Here are four of the worst foods for hypertension:
- Salt: Salt, or sodium, is everyone’s top of mind culprit for causing high blood pressure. However, healthy salt for flavoring your food can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. Excess salt pulls water into your blood vessels to help balance the excess sodium, and the result is increased blood volume which in turn increases blood pressure.
- Sugar: Sugar, especially fructose, can have a direct effect on elevating your blood pressure. Fructose decreases your levels of healthy nitric oxide, a dilator and a relaxor to your blood vessels. Nitric oxide also keeps your vessels elastic, another factor in reducing blood pressure.
- Deli Meat: Deli meat is cured with sodium and, therefore, contains a very high quantity. The mechanism is the same as discussed above in how salt increases blood pressure, but deli meats further aggravate inflammation due to all the preservatives and chemicals they contain.
- Trans Fats and Unhealthy Saturated Fats: Trans fats and unhealthy saturated fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol. The latter is responsible for removing bad cholesterol from your body, which is important for preventing high blood pressure. Trans fats are found in many prepackaged foods, while saturated fats are found in red meat, butter, chicken and cream.
What are some foods that are good for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels? Here are four of the best foods for hypertension:
- Fruit: Fruit is rich in phytonutrients that can decrease your blood pressure. Specifically, they are rich in fiber, magnesium and potassium which lower the tension in your blood vessels. Potassium can help your body get rid of sodium.
- Vegetables: Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, are rich in nitrates that are known to relax your vessels and lower blood pressure. Similar to fruit, vegetables are rich in healthy fiber.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are rich in potassium, which as we mentioned earlier can help lower your blood pressure by ridding your body of sodium. Realize that a true whole grain is completely unprocessed, such as steel-cut oats (gluten-free preferably), quinoa and buckwheat.
- Beans: Beans, along with nuts and seeds, are rich in magnesium which relaxes vessels and lowers blood pressure.
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