20 Best Food For Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Making better food choices can help to maintain and even lower blood pressure. Here are 20 of the best food to consume when you have hypertension (high blood pressure).

by Pragalath Kumar

20 Best Food for Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a very common ailment among Malaysians. It is also a catalyst that leads one to have other serious medical conditions such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. Individuals who are consistently having a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg would be diagnosed with hypertension. In Malaysia, a consistent reading of 140/90 mmHg would be sufficient to be diagnosed with this ailment.

It is also a major risk factor for the development of serious illnesses such as stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure, and end-stage renal disease. 

There are two major dietary factors that contribute to hypertension – salt or sodium and body weight. The higher your salt intake means a higher probability to have hypertension. The same equation can be used for body weight. The higher your body weight, the higher chances for you to get hypertension.

This is why it is pertinent for one to maintain normal blood pressure through diet. One way of keeping the blood pressure in check is through diet since Malaysia is a nation where one is spoilt for choice when it comes to food.

  • Low-fat milk and cheese

A study conducted in France revealed that there was no risk of hypertension in the consumption of dairy products among middle-aged women. There was no association between the allele associated with lactase persistence and the risk of hypertension. Lactase persistence was associated with milk intake. 

Another study revealed that milk provides calcium, vitamin D, potassium and phosphorus. The presence of calcium in the milk is vital in the protection against hypertension. The result of this study revealed low-fat milk providing 1000 mg calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D per day for 2 years did not change the blood pressure levels among men.

Consuming semi-fat hard cheese, Grana Padano daily for two months improved blood pressure of those with hypertension by 5 to 8 mm of mercury in Italy. 

Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium but there are concerns since it is often high in saturated fat and salt. There are certain types of cheese that would help to reduce blood pressure. One should know the difference to ensure that they are not “cheesing” up their blood pressure. The best type is mozzarella cheese. It has lower salt, lower-fat cheeses and half fat options. Other cheese options include feta, cottage cheese or reduced-fat cheeses. Goat cheese is also known to lower blood pressure.

  • Berries

Berries – especially blueberries – are rich in natural compounds called flavonoids that prevent hypertension and lower blood pressure. Increased consumption of dietary antioxidants such as flavonoids would decrease the end-organ damage rate that is secondary to hypertension. Strawberries too will do the trick. Anthocyanin – a powerful antioxidant present in both strawberries and blueberries helps open blood vessels. That smoothes the blood flow and lowers the risk for hypertension. The reduction in blood pressure was more pronounced among those who are below 60 of age.

  • Plain rice and pasta

Rice is part and parcel of everyday meals for Malaysians among all the different races. There are generally three types of rice: – white, brown and wild. White rice is milled, refined and polished products. Brown rice is not milled. Only the husk is removed. It contains a higher level of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and folate compared to white rice. Wild rice is actually the seed of wheatgrass. 

Whole grains such as brown rice are high in fibre. Brown rice contains more minerals such as potassium and magnesium which helps to control the effects of salty food. It also curbs a protein known as angiotensin II. This protein is the primary villain those narrows arteries, resulting in higher blood pressure and forcing the heart to work harder. It also thickens and stiffens the walls of the heart and blood vessels. 

Wild rice contains more protein, zinc and potassium in comparison with brown and white rice. Its folate and vitamin B contents too are significantly more than the other rice variety.

Pasta is good in the sense that it is associated with systolic blood pressure. The isoflavone enriched pasta significantly improved stiffness in the arteries and reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

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  • Fruits

Citrus fruits are known to be essential in reducing blood pressure due to their key nutrients which are made up of potassium, magnesium and fibre. Examples include apples, apricots, cantaloupe, raspberries, oranges, pears and prunes. Even bananas contain high levels of potassium.

  • Beetroot

It is a root vegetable also known as red beet, table beet, garden beet, or just beet. It is packed with essential nutrients, and beetroots are a great source of fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C.

Beetroot has been used to treat ailments since the Middle Ages for issues related to blood and digestion. Recent studies have concluded that one glass of beetroot juice daily is sufficient to reduce the blood pressure of those having hypertension even for those who are not on medication.

  • Seeds (flax, chia and pumpkin)

Consuming certain seeds are also beneficial in reducing blood pressure. Flax is the most nutritional in maintaining stable blood pressure. Flax contains protein, carbs, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium and other minerals.

A 100 grams of flaxseed contains 813 mg of potassium which negates the effects of sodium. Sodium or salt exerts pressure on blood vessels which then shoots up the pressure. Potassium removes the extra salt in urine. The fibre protects layers of cells in the blood vessels that keep the pressure levels in check. The alpha-linolenic acid and lignans ensure blood pressure doesn’t shoot up.

Chia seeds are known to be powerful antioxidants. Its high fibre content helps lower high blood pressure. Have a glass of chia seed infused lemon water to manage your hypertension. Antioxidants and magnesium in pumpkin seeds also help in reducing hypertension. It lowers the diastolic blood pressure by about 7 per cent.

  • Oatmeal

Beta-glucan – a form of fibre – within oats lowers both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.

  • Fatty fish

Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and mussels are rich in polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 which lowers high blood pressure. It relaxes the blood vessels.

  • Yoghurt

Yoghurt reduced the risk of hypertension for middle-aged women over a period of 18 to 30 years by about 20 per cent.

  • Cinnamon

This helps to reduce hypertension in the short term and you can add it into your meals.

  • Pistachio

Pistachios are nuts that help reduce hypertension, especially those that are caused by stress.

  • Pomegranates

This fruit can either be eaten or taken as juice. It is especially useful in the short term due to its antioxidant content.

  • Garlic

A natural antioxidant with allicin as its main ingredient, garlic increases nitric oxide production which relaxes muscles and dilates blood vessels.

  • Dark chocolate

High-quality dark chocolates with 70 per cent cocoa content reduce blood pressure for those having hypertension and prehypertension.

  • Amaranth

Whole grains such as amaranth reduces hypertension by 8 per cent if 30 grams are consumed daily over a period of time.

  • Carrots

The high components of chlorogenic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids in carrots relaxes blood vessels and thus reduces blood pressure. Raw carrots are more beneficial in curtailing blood pressure.

  • Celery

Phthalides in celery help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure levels.

  • Tomatoes

The carotenoid pigment – lycopene – in tomatoes reduces heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure. 

  • Kiwis

Kiwi fruit is more effective than apples. Eating 3 kiwis a day in contrast to an apple a day reduced hypertension more significantly. Vitamin C in kiwis also improves blood pressure readings.

  • Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and fennel contain nitrates. Just 1 to 2 servings of leafy green vegetables are effective in reducing hypertension for a day.

Food to avoid

While including the above as part of the meals that we partake, it is also vital to keep the salt intake in check. A long term reduction, even as long as one month, would be able to reduce both diastolic and systolic readings. 

Avoid consuming too much coffee since two cups of strong coffee is more than enough to increase the blood pressure in 3 hours.

In short, one must undertake a healthy diet and lead a healthy lifestyle since hypertension is also a catalyst that would lead to other related illnesses. Regular exercises are also a must to ensure one is healthy.

It is not an easy effort to overcome hypertension. It is a lifelong commitment that is a necessity to ensure one live a healthy life. It is extremely vital to choose what goes into your body because as the saying goes, what you sow is what you reap. 

Consume food with more salt and you would have more risk of hypertension. Ultimately it is up to you to decide to risk it or not. It is hoped that you would make the right choice for the sake of your health.

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References

Zaki, N. A. M., Ambak, R., Othman, F., Wong, N. I., Man, C. S., Morad, M. F. A., … Baharudin, A. (2021). The prevalence of hypertension among Malaysian adults and its associated risk factors: data from Malaysian Community Salt Study (MyCoSS). Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, 40(Suppl 1), 8.

Soedamah-Muthu SS, Verberne LDM, Ding EL, Engberink MF, Geleijnse JM. Dairy consumption and incidence of hypertension: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Hypertension. 2012;60(5):1131–7.

McGrane, M. M., Essery, E., Obbagy, J., Lyon, J., Macneil, P., Spahn, J., & Van Horn, L. (2011). Dairy consumption, blood pressure, and risk of hypertension: An evidence-based review of recent literature. Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports, 5(4), 287–298.

Moline, J., Bukharovich, I. F., Wolff, M. S., & Phillips, R. (2000). Dietary flavonoids and hypertension: is there a link? Medical Hypotheses, 55(4), 306–309.

He, F. J., Li, J. and Macgregor, G. A. (2013) “Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials,” BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 346(apr03 3), p. f1325.

About the Writer
Pragalath Kumar
K Pragalath is an independent writer. He was a former journalist with a number of Malaysian news sites. He watches elections like how people watch football but dozes off over the matches.
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