Regardless of location or income level, the leading cause of death worldwide is heart disease. (1) One of the most common conditions leading to heart disease and stroke (the No. 2 killer) is the all-too familiar issue of high blood pressure. A shocking one in three individuals in the United States has high blood pressure. (2) The good news is that high blood pressure can usually be reversed naturally, specifically through lifestyle changes and consuming foods that lower blood pressure.
Even though it’s closely related to dietary and lifestyle habits, many people try to rely on medication alone to solve their blood pressure problems.
One of the most popular prescription drugs for hypertension, Lisinopril, names side effects including “blurred vision, confusion, dizziness and unusual tiredness or weakness.”
To me, that sounds pretty undesirable for something you can easily correct with a high blood pressure diet and lifestyle changes. In fact, I’m going to tell you about 13 foods, including everything from snacks to juice to herbs, that have been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.
Instead of rushing toward conventional medicine, give these foods that lower blood pressure a try.
High Blood Pressure Causes and Symptoms
Blood pressure is defined as the pressure at which your blood moves through your arteries, away from the heart. It’s not uncommon to have normal changes in blood pressure during exercise or stressful moments, but when you develop hypertension, it means you have chronically high pressure that increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions.
The causes of high blood pressure can be complex but are generally related to lifestyle and diet. For example, people who eat high-sodium diets are at a much more elevated risk of high blood pressure. (3) Hypertension is also closely associated with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obesity, smoking and sedentary lifestyle. (4, 5, 6)
High blood pressure is often referred to as a “silent killer,” due in large part to the absence of high blood pressure symptoms. Most people don’t know they have high blood pressure until they have been diagnosed by a health care practitioner. (7)
That’s why it’s so important to regularly check your blood pressure to avoid any disastrous events like a hypertensive crisis. Unlike general high blood pressure, hypertensive crises often appear with symptoms, such as severe headache, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, severe anxiety, and even loss of consciousness or heart attack (and several other extremely dangerous conditions) when it isn’t treated quickly enough.
But don’t lose heart! If you’re at risk for high blood pressure or have already started experiencing high levels, implementing natural ways to lower blood pressure and eating these foods that lower blood pressure is a great place to start.
Foods that Lower Blood Pressure
The top 13 foods that lower blood pressure include:
- pomegranate juice
- beetroot juice
- olive oil
- dark chocolate
- flax seed
- purple potatoes
- sesame oil
- hibiscus tea
1. Pomegranate Juice
While most traditional fruit juices are laden with processed sugar and practically devoid of useful nutrients, 100 percent pomegranate juice is actually one of the healthiest juices on the planet.
One of the most desirable benefits of pomegranate juice includes the ability it has to lower blood pressure naturally. The science is in: Pomegranate juice has major blood pressure-lowering ability, both in short- and long-term studies. (8, 9, 10, 11)
It has also been tested for its ability to reduce blood pressure in patients with diabetes, patients undergoing kidney dialysis and those with carotid artery disease, all with the same successful results. (12, 13, 14)
We’ve all known for a long time that spinach is a crazy healthy food and helps seriously reduce disease-causing inflammation. The awesome antioxidants it contains land it on this list of foods that lower blood pressure. (15, 16)
A subject of relatively new research, coriander has been used traditionally for years to treat a number of conditions.
In 2009, a revolutionary study began attempting to define what exactly coriander can do. Researchers found that it exhibited several positive benefits, including a hypotensive (blood-pressure lowering) effect. (17)
They’re not just a snack anymore; pistachio nutrition is no small thing when it comes to heart health.
Nuts tend to have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure as a group, but when compared to other types of nuts, pistachio came out on top. (18) Pistachios are on the list of foods that lower blood pressure even for those suffering from high cholesterol. (19)
5. Beetroot Juice
Beet benefits span a variety of items, from maintaining a healthy sex drive to blood detoxification. Its juice, referred to as beetroot juice, has been used since the Middle Ages to treat a number of conditions.
However, just a folk remedy this is not — beetroot juice has been the subject of extensive scientific research for its health benefits, not least of which its ability to lower blood pressure.
6. Olive Oil
Since Bible times, olive oil has been regarded as one of the healthiest staple foods, especially in areas such as the blue zones. It’s a common part of the Mediterranean Diet, a well-known diet associated with longer life spans and less instances of common diseases (like heart disease). (26)
This antioxidant-rich, delicious cooking oil can be used in so many recipes, and that’s a good thing because it’s a food that lowers blood pressure. (27, (28) A 2015 scientific review conducted in Spain even found that “virgin olive oil significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease clinical events,” suggesting that it’s good for the heart on a much broader level than just high blood pressure. (29)
Olive oil is one of the healthy fats you definitely want to include in your regular diet.
7. Dark Chocolate
Perhaps the most controversial item on my list of foods that lower blood pressure is dark chocolate. One reason for the controversy is related to how commonly dark chocolate is available combined with a huge amount of sugar.
When you’re able to find dark chocolate that isn’t totally soaked in unnecessary sugar, enjoy it. It’s great for your heart.
There are some small studies that disagree, but when tested on a large scale, dark chocolate is consistently correlated with a lowered risk of high blood pressure. (30) This is most significant in larger populations with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions associated with dangerous health issues, including stroke, diabetes and heart disease. (31)
The best results when working to lower blood pressure by eating dark chocolate will always come from chocolate high in flavonols (sometimes called “flavonoids”), specific phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. (32, 33) Even though this isn’t something you’ll find on a label, you can get close by looking for organic chocolate that lists a high amount of “cocoa solids” (somewhere close to 80 percent is best).
8. Flax Seed
Possibly due to the beneficial omega-3s found in flax seed, it ranks on this list of best foods that lower blood pressure. (34) It can even lower blood pressure in patients who have already developed peripheral artery disease, a common condition hallmarked by fatty deposits and calcium buildup within artery walls. (35)
The best results have been found when flax seed is consumed regularly for over 12 weeks. (36) Scientists have been so impressed by these transformations that a 2013 study in Canada said that “flaxseed induced one of the most potent antihypertensive effects achieved by a dietary intervention.” (37)
You probably know by now that you burn more calories eating celery than you consume, but did you know that it’s good for high blood pressure? Every time you eat celery, its nutrients help to keep high blood pressure in check. (38)
It’s interesting to note that at least one study found that cooked celery had more blood pressure-lowering potential than raw. (39)
This most popular berry/veggie, laden with the heart-healthy nutrient lycopene, has been shown to lower high blood pressure significantly, sometimes rendering drug treatments completely unnecessary. (40, 41, 42)
The best hypotensive effects of the tomato will be found when eaten raw.
11. Purple Potatoes
Trying to make sure you get a wide variety of colors in your diet? You’ll probably enjoy trying out the vibrant purple potato. Loaded with antioxidants (including anthocyanin pigments that give this sweet potato its color), purple potatoes help significantly lower blood pressure. (43, 44)
12. Sesame Oil
With the exceptions of olive, coconut and sesame oil, I generally try to stay away from vegetable oils. However, the oil of sesame seeds has been popular in ancient medicines for millennia and has some serious heart-healthy properties.
Sesame seed oil lowers blood pressure and helps protect against cardiac hypertrophy, a thickening of the heart muscle usually caused by high blood pressure. (45) A lot of research focuses on sesame oil’s ability to increase potassium levels while decreasing sodium in the blood. (46, 47)
These effects seem to apply in both the short and long term, so cooking with sesame oil on a regular basis may help protect against high blood pressure in the first place. (48)
13. Hibiscus Tea
Another slightly controversial item on my list is hibiscus tea. This tart herbal tea contains a large number of antioxidants and has been found to effectively decrease blood pressure, including in patients with diabetes. (49, 50, 51)
Unlike most of the foods mentioned above, there are a few minor risks to consider when consuming hibiscus tea, although it’s generally recognized as safe. There is some evidence that at extremely high doses, hibiscus tea could potentially interfere with some liver functions. (52)
Because of its extremely effective results in lowering blood pressure, it’s also not recommended for pregnant/nursing women or patients taking certain medications, including diabetes medications, high blood pressure medications and chloroquine (used to treat malaria). (53)
How Do These Foods that Lower Blood Pressure Do It?
While each individual food has its own mechanisms for lowering blood pressure, there are some commonalities shared between them.
First, fruits and vegetables are foods that lower blood pressure because they’re associated with a protective effect on developing high blood pressure. In general, people who eat 400 grams per day (the recommendation from the World Health Organization) or more of fruits and vegetables have significantly lower instances of high blood pressure than people who eat less than that. (54)
All 13 of these foods also contain at least somewhat large amounts of antioxidants. It’s a well-known fact that fighting free radical damage by eating high-antioxidant foods is an important way to prevent the development and spread of a broad number of diseases. (55)
Coriander, beetroot juice, pistachios, celery and flax seed all contain significant fiber grams per serving. A high-fiber diet is correlated with lowered blood pressure, which is worth considering. Most people on a standard American diet don’t come anywhere close to their daily recommended fiber consumption. (56)
Another vital nutrient in maintaining healthy blood pressure is vitamin K, found in pomegranate juice, spinach, olive oil, dark chocolate, celery, tomatoes and purple potatoes. Not only does vitamin K reduce blood pressure, but it also decreases your chance of heart attack.
And, of course, we couldn’t talk about lowering blood pressure through dietary means without discussing the complex topic of nitrates. Most people think of nitrates as antinutrients in processed deli meats, but only about 6 percent of our nitrate intake comes from these meats. The remaining portion is consumed through eating fruits and vegetables.
Nitrates are only dangerous when converted in the body to nitrosamines, which are dangerous chemical compounds considered mostly carcinogenic. However, nitrates can powerfully lower blood pressure when consumed safely.
To avoid consuming an overload of nitrates, first, do what you can to maintain an alkaline environment in your body. Second, buy organic whenever possible to avoid unnecessary nitrates from pollution and pesticides.
Now, back to the good stuff. At least two of these food items, spinach and beetroot juice, contain dietary nitrates that significantly lower blood pressure and improve other heart functions. (57, 58, 59)
Adiponectin, a hormone found in abundance in foods commonly eaten on the Mediterranean Diet, including pistachios, is associated with lowered blood pressure and is especially important for people with diabetes. (60)
It’s interesting to note that although olive oil doesn’t contain adiponectin, it helps increase the amount of adiponectin found in the blood without increasing inflammation. (61)
Other Benefits of Foods that Lower Blood Pressure
I encourage you to check out the articles relating to each of these foods individually because there are a ton of benefits that each of them has to offer. However, I’ll show you a few other ways in which they can improve the health of your cardiovascular system.
These foods are all parts of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, also known as the DASH diet. I am generally a fan of the basic tenets of DASH, with the exception of an insistence on low-fat dairy (which I’ll show you in just a moment).
Following a heart-healthy diet like DASH is good for more than just your heart: Eating these foods and other DASH foods reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and “all-cause mortality.” (62, 63)
As you look at each of these specific foods, you’ll see that many of them, including pistachios and sesame oil, help improve what is known as endothelial dysfunction. (64, 65) This is a broad term for a physical response that involves an imbalance between the substances affecting the inner blood vessel lining. Endothelial dysfunction is a predictor of heart conditions like atherosclerosis. (66)
How to Follow a High Blood Pressure Diet
While it can feel like a tall order, adjusting your lifestyle and food choices to lower your blood pressure naturally is worth it to protect your health. Plus, it may be simpler than you expect.
Before you get to food, you should know that a sedentary lifestyle is a large contributor to high blood pressure. Introducing more physical activity and exercise into your life can make a big difference in your overall health, including normalizing your blood pressure. (67)
It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol while you’re trying to fight hypertension, as alcohol consumption is a factor in developing high blood pressure. (68)
On the subject of dairy, the DASH diet suggests consuming low-fat dairy products, which is not something I usually recommend. Low-fat dairy products often have higher levels of sugar than their full-fat counterparts and are actually associated with obesity and type II diabetes in some people. (69, 70)
Since healthy fats are an important for proper bodily function, my advice is to eat raw, fermented dairy from organic, grass-fed goats or sheep if you can find it. Coconut milk and almond milk are easier-to-find alternatives. If you want to keep drinking cow’s milk, always go organic and try to find milk from Jersey or Guernsey cow breeds. Otherwise, try the non-dairy healthy fats that will keep your ticker running well.
Fortunately, a higher-fat DASH diet is still associated with the same great hypotensive effects. (71)
When it comes to dietary needs, I start by recommending high-potassium foods, like spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, avocados and unsweetened, organic dairy. Try to get at least two to four servings of fruits like kiwi and apples each day, and get about 20 percent to 30 percent of your total calories from lean proteins, such as grass-fed meats, wild-caught salmon and pasture-raised eggs.
Another 25 percent to 35 percent of your diet should include the healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil (sounding familiar?).
While DASH says to eat 100 percent whole grains, I would try to focus more on organic produce, lean protein and healthy fats. However, eating some great gluten-free ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa should serve you well.
You should also aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day.
It may sound like a lot, but there are some simple methods to use when adjusting your lifestyle. For instance, cooking more at home is automatically associated with a decrease in blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors because you can more easily avoid processed, sodium-rich food.
When grocery shopping, learn to look at labels. Increasing your fiber intake, lowering the amount of sodium you consume and getting plenty of potassium will help you on your way to avoiding high blood pressure.
Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
There are a variety of natural ways to lower blood pressure in addition to diet and exercise. For instance, there are several essential oils associated with a reduction in blood pressure, including: (72)
If you’re interested in supplements that can help you reduce blood pressure, I would try cod liver oil. This anti-inflammatory powerhouse has incredible health benefits and can help to effectively lower blood pressure. (76, 77)
High Blood Pressure Stats
“Why all of the hype around high blood pressure?” you may ask. Should we really be getting this worked up?
Absolutely, we should. As I mentioned earlier, high blood pressure affects one in three people in the U.S. alone — that’s 75 million people. Only a little over half of those people properly manage their condition, which is a major precursor to dangerous things such as stroke, heart attack and coronary artery disease.
One major reason you should be aware of your blood pressure is the same reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to it as the “silent killer” — there are almost always no symptoms of high blood pressure, and it can turn serious very fast.
According to the Framingham Heart Study, a major study on the impacts of environment on heart health over several years, predictors of high blood pressure include age, gender (men tend to have high blood pressure more often than women), BMI, genetic disposition (if your parents had high blood pressure) and smoking. (78)
Obesity, an epidemic in our country, is closely linked with hypertension because of how commonly these two conditions appear together. Obese people suffering from hypertension tend to die earlier and commonly develop diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease. (79)
High blood Pressure vs. Low Blood Pressure
Compared to high blood pressure, low blood pressure is less common and doesn’t have the same types of strict delineations as high blood pressure (meaning it’s not as well-defined in terms of when you can be diagnosed).
The American Heart Association says that most doctors wait to diagnose chronic low blood pressure as cause for concern until symptoms appear, such as dizziness, nausea, fainting, concentration issues and blurred vision.
There are various risk factors for low blood pressure, but some of them include prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, hormone dysfunctions, hypertension medications and lack of proper nutrition.
Precautions with High Blood Pressure and Foods that Lower Blood Pressure
Any dietary changes that may affect your blood pressure should be discussed with your physician. If you are already on or considering taking medication to manage your high blood pressure, you’ll need to ensure your doctor closely monitors your blood pressure so it does not drop too much.
As a brief note, I would also caution the recommendation of the DASH diet to eat lean pork products, as it is my belief that you should avoid pork entirely for a large number of other reasons related to health.
Final Thoughts on Foods that Lower Blood Pressure
- High blood pressure affects an astoundingly high one in three people in the United States alone, and only about half of those people have their condition under control.
- It is relatively easy to lower blood pressure naturally by adjusting your diet and lifestyle, such as following a high blood pressure diet and exercising regularly.
- By implementing the 13 foods that reduce blood pressure found in this piece, as well as other foods found on the DASH diet and other high blood pressure diet recommendations, you may be able to lower your blood pressure to safe levels.
- Many foods that lower blood pressure do so because of the high presence of antioxidants they contain, as well as by activating nutrients such as nitrates, lycopene and adiponectin.
- Following a high blood pressure diet includes eating potassium-rich foods, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated.
- You can also try introducing essential oils and a cod liver oil supplement into your routine as other natural methods to lower blood pressure, in addition to adding more foods that reduce blood pressure.