5 foods that keep blood pressure down
Your life may depend on your blood pressure. Hypertension — high blood pressure (HPB) — hits around 50 million people in the United States and a billion worldwide. It can trigger coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. HPB causes two-thirds of the strokes, almost half of all heart attacks, and is the biggest risk factor for death in the world.
Two key ways to control HPB are to lose weight and watch what you eat, but doctors sometimes prescribe medication for mild high blood pressure just because they know most people won’t follow their diet and exercise advice. You might avoid those expensive little pills by simply adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Diets that keep blood pressure down are heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber, and light on salt, red meat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium are also important, as are vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
1. Score another victory for broccoli
This glorious green vegetable seems to be good for everything, and your blood pressure is no exception. Broccoli sends at least four important fighters into the battle against high blood pressure — calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Countless studies show that people with low levels of these nutrients tend to have raised blood pressure. Calcium and potassium help your body get rid of sodium through your urine. Potassium and magnesium relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that also strengthens your blood vessels. Get the most out of your broccoli by steaming it or eating it raw. Water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C are lost when you boil it or microwave it in water.
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2. Nibble on dried apricots
They make a great snack, and they give you iron, potassium, magnesium, beta-carotene and copper — high-voltage nutrients that help control blood pressure and prevent heart disease. The potassium alone in apricots does wonders for your heart. It protects your blood vessels from damage, prevents dangerous irregular heartbeats, and keeps your blood pressure down. If you like fresh fruit better than the dried kind, look for fresh apricots from California and Washington on your grocer’s shelves during June, July, and August.
3. Season with garlic and onions
It’s a good way to cut back on the salt that is so dangerous for your blood pressure. But garlic and onions do more than just add flavor to your food. Sulfur compounds in both these members of the allium family fight poor circulation by keeping blood platelets from clumping together and making your blood sticky. Quercetin and other flavonoids in onions also help stop LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and blocking your arteries. So spice up your meals with these flavorful additions to your menu. And watch out when eating packaged or restaurant foods. Experts recommend no more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day, and some may be packed with it.
4. Go for guava juice
What you drink can affect your blood pressure just as much as what you eat. Juice is a good way to get the goodness of guava, because once it’s ripe, the fruit itself only lasts a couple of days. Guava is a delicious tropical fruit that is packed with potassium and more than twice the vitamin C of an orange. Potassium helps your heart beat steadily, and vitamin C keeps your small blood vessels healthy. Research shows this winning combination can lower blood pressure several points.
5. Snack on sunflower seeds
They’re loaded with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that stops LDL cholesterol — the bad kind — before it can form plaque that clogs up your arteries. It has other anti-clotting powers, too, so it’s easier for your heart to pump blood and keep your blood pressure down. Vitamin E also guards against hardening of the arteries, stroke, and heart attack. Remove the tasty sunflower morsel from its shell, or buy the little seeds already shelled to sprinkle on salads or munch by the handful.
- FC&A Staff Writer