In this present modern society, where we are surrounded by high technologies and sciences, our food habits have also drastically changed. Instead of enjoying and eating natural food items like fruits or vegetables we rely more on burgers, fast foods, cheese etc. Human body can withstand such foods to some extent, but excess intake may lead to obesity or increase in cholesterol level that raises blood pressure and finally invites heart attack or stroke. Indeed there’s great connection with food and blood pressure.
There’s difference in cholesterol level among different countries, which apparently depends on their eating habits and lifestyle. When nation as a whole will switch to less fat or focuses more on exercise, blood cholesterol level will eventually drop and coronary heart rate declines. One of the best to control blood pressure is to knock out sodium and invite potassium in body. It means avoid food with high sodium and fat level. Rate of heart diseases were found to be less in Italy, France, Greece, japan because their diet includes more of fruits, vegetables, sea woods and olive oil as compared to Americans. However, it will be wrong to generalise that diet for high blood pressure only means that you have to stick to green leafy stuffs and fruit, you can even control blood pressure by selecting foods which you love , provided it gives good impact on heart. Focus more on quality of life then quantity of life.
Diet for High Blood Pressure
We require complete balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates for staying healthy. Researches have shown that combination of fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products are good for heart and best option for reducing blood pressure. The medication requirement reduces to large extent if you start healthy diet.
Studies have shown that best diet for high blood pressure patient is Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet in general doesn’t helps to lower blood pressure but it reduces chances for heart attacks (myocardial infarction). This diet converts fat calories to carbohydrates, thus reduces extra fat and play effective role in weight loss. One Mediterranean diet involves daily 8 servings of whole grain beans or cereals, 6 servings of fruits, 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of low fat dairy products. On a weekly basis, it includes 5-6 servings of fish and seaweeds, 4 poultry products, 2-4 servings of olive oil, nuts and beans, 3 serving of potatoes and 3 servings of eggs. Apart from diet, lifestyle also impacts our heart. Daily morning exercise, red wine in dinner, quitting smoking and alcohol can minimises blood pressure.
One of the biggest studies undertaken to study effect of blood pressure and diet was conducted by US National Institute of health which involves DASH diet, standing for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH diets incorporates more amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes and low fat dairy products in order to ensure almost all key nutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium, fibre and protein are supplied to body. DASH diet supplies 2000 calories per day. This diet was effective in reducing systolic blood pressure by 5.5mmHg and diastolic by 3 mmHg.
Let us now discuss in details various type of foods and health benefits.
Diet for High Blood Pressure : Fruits
Fruits have mysterious power to control blood pressure. The presence of large no of components in fruits like fibres, potassium, calcium, pectin, flavonoids etc. has contributed to its cardio protective action. The fibre level in fruits is higher in comparison to vegetables and cereals. Certain fruits also contain antioxidant which increases level of prostacyclin, a special type of prostaglandin eicosanoids, that prevents clotting and dilation of blood vessels and thus lower blood pressure.
We require up to 80grams of fruit per day which covers intake of one average apple, a half banana, half cup of apple sauce, 2 tablespoons of raisins or 6 ounce glass of juice.
A fresh fruit adds nutrient, vitamins, antioxidants and much lesser amount of calories. Fruits are one of the best diets for high blood pressure people. Large varieties of fruits are suggested for reducing blood pressure. Some of the fruits with its nutritional benefits are listed below.
Berries : Blue berry, Strawberry, Raspberry ripens in summer and is considered to be very effective in maintaining blood pressure as they are rich sources of fibres, vitamin C, potassium and various other plant components like flavonoids. Raspberry is having highest fibre content, strawberry consists more of vitamin C and blue berry is rich in compound called Pterostillbene that prevents formation of plaque in arteries. 1 cup of raspberry delivers around 33% of daily fibre need and strawberry delivers around 136% of daily vitamin C.
Berries are also associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity. The dark red colour itself suggests presence of antioxidants that play key role in reducing risk of strokes and cancer.5 Berries can be consumed with milk, or in fruits salads, frozen preparation of berries are also available. You should include at least 1 serving of berries per day.
Vitamin C rich fruits : Vitamin C plays very important role in lowering blood pressure. Diet deprived of vitamin C level may enhance blood pressure level. Citrus fruits, green peppers, sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes are rich source of vitamin C. Oranges and lemons are citrus fruits and best source for vitamin C. oranges is high in nutrition and consists around 326mg of potassium, thus play very effective role in lowering blood pressure. Lemons are blended with certain nutrients like potassium, calcium, phosphorous, fibres, folate and vitamins.
Melons are another type of citrus fruits and good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine and potassium. One cup of melons balls constitutes around 484 mg of potassium which serves 14% of daily potassium requirement.
Cantaloupe is a fruit that belongs to melon family and excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. 494.5 mg potassium is present in one cup of cantaloupe (160g) and always wash the fruit before eating as bacteria might have grown on surface.
Tomatoes : Tomatoes are fabulous source of antioxidant called ‘lycopene ’, a beta-carotenoid which gives red colour to tomatoes. This antioxidant property enables use of tomatoes in lowering blood pressure by inhibiting attachment of cholesterol to arteries wall, thus preventing narrowing of arteries and also facilitates oxidation of LDL. Tomatoes may reduce systolic blood pressure by 10mmHg and diastolic by 4mmHg. Around 4 servings of tomatoes are recommended in order to achieve its beneficial effect but there are number of ways via which you can include tomatoes in your diet like as tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato salads etc. it is a staple crop and can be easily grown in your yard. Apart from tomato Lycopene is also present in apricots, guava, watermelon and papaya.
Avocado : The characteristics feature of avocado is presence of fatty alcohol i.e. avocadene, which has curative property for various ailments including hypertension. Besides it is rich in vitamins, potassium, fibres and monosaturated fat. So instead of having butter which is rich in saturated fat and salt, you can include avocado in breakfast. One cup of avocado consists around 727mg of potassium (21% of daily recommended value for potassium) and 10.5 mg of sodium.
Banana : Banana is having highest potassium level than any other fruits. It serves around 422 mg of potassium and 17% of daily recommended value of vitamin C per banana. You can consume it as whole or add slices of banana in morning cereals or in fruit salads.
Apricots : Apricot is very rich source of potassium as 1 cup of apricots contains around 2202 mg potassium. Is also provides vitamin A and fibres. 3 Avoid using dried apricots as it has high sugar level.
Some peoples say that they are tired of eating fruits or they forget to eat fruits. Here are some suggestions to increase your fruit intake. Keep fruits in basket in dining table or in front of the fridge so that you are more likely to notice it and eat it, go for new fruits each day, choose fruits which have different colours like yellow, orange, red or green fruits, fruits salad is best way of eating fruits.
Diet for High Blood Pressure : Vegetables
Vegetarians have lower blood pressure than meat eaters. More vegetables you consume lessen the risk of heart diseases. Thus eating vegetables is an excellent diet for high blood pressure. Daily intake of vegetables should be around 77 grams, which includes half cup serving of cooked vegetables, one cup of raw veggies or glass of tomato, carrot or other vegetable juice.
You should have two different varieties of vegetables in your meals and one of the best ways to consume more vegetables is by having soups daily before dinner. Similar to fruits, wide variety of vegetables are recommended as an part of regular diet for high blood pressure patients like:
Leafy green vegetables : Green and leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, dandelion, lettuce, celery, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards are very effective in lowering blood pressure. This leafy vegetable facilitates production of nitric acid which relaxes blood vessels, maintains its smoothness and thus regulates blood flow and blood pressure.
Dandelion has been used for centuries especially in Asia and Europe, as an ailment for various diseases. Almost all parts of plants are edible starting from roots to leaves. Dandelion is associated with diuretic activity which promotes excretion of sodium and maintains potassium levels. It also loaded with magnesium which dissolves blood clots and stimulates production of nitric acid. Dandelion is also effective for eyes, liver and skin. Dandelion is very good for health so try to incorporate in your diets daily. You can eat fresh leaves in salads or add dried dandelion in teas.
Celery consists of phytochemicals known as phthalides which relaxes arterial walls, thus maintains blood flow and blood pressure. Eating at least 4 stalks per day is effective for lowering blood pressure.
Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie and is associates with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties. Broccoli is the most famous ingredient which is recommended for hypertension. It is loaded with many vital nutrients like fibre, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium. One steamed cup of broccoli serves around 220% of daily need of vitamin C. have at least one serving of broccoli per day like in raw form, or steam with olive oil and lemon.
Kale, collards, spinach can be easily grown in our yards and are rich source of iron, fibres and vitamin A, with low sugar level. They reduce blood pressure by facilitating release of nitric oxide.
Fenugreek, most commonly called as methi in India, contains choline and beta-carotene which helps to reduce blood pressure.
Beets : Beet is very nutritious in nature especially its roots and green beets are good for heart. Beets are rich in potassium, manganese and folates. They prefer cold environment for growth. Researches have shown that, blood pressure can be significantly reduced by drinking at least 500ml of beetroot juice per day .This is due to presence of nitrates in beetroot which is converted to nitric oxide in body, that facilitates relaxation of blood vessels.
Sweet potatoes : Sweet potatoes contains fibre, antioxidant and vitamin A. sweet potatoes thrives well in warm temperatures and require long growing season to achieve maturity so plant them earlier.
Green peas : Green peas consist of vitamins and fibres. Green peas are easy to grow, plant them early in springs because they can’t grow in warm climates and tends to wither and dwindle as temperature rises.
Diet for High Blood Pressure : Fish & omega-3-fatty acid supplements
Certain cold water fish are rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3-fatty acid. An omega-3-fatty acid is divided into 3 types- eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), docohexanoic acid (DHA) and alpha linoleic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found fishes but ALA is a plant origin components. Omega-3-fatty acid is very famous for its cardiovascular benefits. It prevents formation of blood clots and increases level of HDL cholesterol and at the same time it reduces level of triglycerides (form in which fat is transported from gut to liver) in blood. It brings disturbed heart rhythms to normal and promotes blood flow in arteries by reducing resistance in arteries and thus lowers the blood pressure.
Wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, trout, herring and sardines are among the best source for omega-3-fatty acid. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings of fish per week to sustain the health benefits of fatty acid. Various fish oil supplements are available for people who don’t eat fish. Daily intake Fish oil capsules adds 3gm of omega-3-fatty acid , ethyl ester form of EPA and DHA are also available in which you require only 1 gram per day.
Diet for High Blood Pressure : Pulses, cereals and nuts
However strict vegetarian diets may lead to deficiency of proteins which are present in cheese, meats and eggs. In such cases vegetarian can rely on pulses (beans and peas) and nuts for protein.
Legumes : Legumes are rich source of fibre and proteins which is important for regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The characteristic feature of legume is the presence of folate or folic acid (vitamin b complex), which helps in relaxing blood vessels and improves blood flow and thus lowers blood pressure. A daily serving of at least 400 microgram is recommended for its effective action.
Oats : Oats is also rich in magnesium and fibres. Oats lower blood pressure by preventing or slowing down of atherosclerosis which involves formation of plaques in blood vessels. A daily intake of three fourth cup of whole grain oats or at least six serving per week is recommended.
Walnuts: Walnut is an excellent source of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which is type of omega-3-fatty acid. Even Nuts like pista, pea cans have minute quantities of omega-3-fatty acids, but almonds are deficient of any such compounds.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oils consists of omega-3-fatty acids.
Certain beans like green soy beans, kidney beans boost up the level of omega-3-fatty acid in body.
Coffee, cola and tea
We already know that caffeine present in coffee, cola, chocolates and tea increases blood pressure to certain extent. Even then almost every community consumes beverages like coffee and tea. Initially caffeine increases blood pressure, but routine drinking develops resistance and then blood pressure is hardly affected by caffeine.
The harmful effects of coffee depend on source and its method of preparation. In France, people prepare coffee, by adding coffee beans into boiling water. Such process leads to release of two chemicals called diterepens which increase LDL cholesterol level. Drip can be used as remedy for such cases as it involves no use of boiling water.
People who love decaffeinated drink should prefer Arabica beans instead of Robusta beans because Robusta beans increase level of LDL cholesterol. More than two servings of coffee decreases blood flow to the heart during exercise. So drink only one cup of coffee before exercising. As caffeine content in teas is less than coffee, so no much harmful effects were observed on tea consumption.
Studies have proven dark chocolates lowers cholesterol level in body due to the presence of flavonoids. Darker the chocolates, greater will be the level of flavonoid. Dark chocolates can lower systolic blood pressure by 11.9mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 8.5mmHg. However this doesn’t mean that you can start daily eating of chocolates because certain drawbacks are also associated with chocolates like100gm of chocolates adds 580 calories and 48gm of fats, out of which 27.5 gm. is saturated fat.
Low fat dairy products
Various low fat dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt play an effective role in maintaining blood pressure. At least 3 servings per day are recommended for such products. Moderate amount of fat is essential in such products because helps in increasing bioavaibility of calcium and facilitates its rapid absorption. The potassium and magnesium content in such products helps in lowering blood pressure. Butters and all sorts of cheese except cottage cheese contains large amount of salt. So such products should be avoided by hypertensive patients.
So in the end always try to intake moderate level of any food. It’s not necessary to stop your favorite food items. But do take care of your heart. Improve lifestyle by regular exercise, meditation and quitting of cigarettes and alcohol.