Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH for short, is a well-studied eating plan for lowering blood pressure. The DASH plan encourages people to cut back on sodium (salt), and include more foods that are a source of blood pressure-lowering nutrients like fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium. People who follow the DASH diet have seen blood pressure lowered by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, blood pressure can drop by up to 14 points and may reduce the need for blood pressure medication. Interested in getting started? Start by including these 16 foods that lower blood pressure naturally [pdf] into your diet.
16 Foods that Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
1. White Beans
One cup of white beans provides 15% of the calcium, 30% of the magnesium and 25% of the potassium you need each day. Use them in soups or salads, or mash them into a spread.
Filled with key blood-pressure lowering nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium and protein, studies show that having 2-3 servings of milk products each day can lower blood pressure. Enjoy a cup as your morning latte or use it to make soup.
Swimming in omega-3 fats, fish like salmon, trout and mackerel can help lower blood pressure. Studies show that just 2-3 portions of fish each week can reduce blood pressure enough to equate to a 20% reduction in heart disease risk. Choose canned or fresh fish.
High in nutrients but low in calories, kale and other leafy greens like spinach and collards can fill you up without filling you out. Keeping weight in check is one way to manage your blood pressure. Enjoy stir-fried greens or leafy salads.
Crunchy and satiating, almonds make a great snack and are a smart substitute for salty potato chips or pretzels. They provide the same tempting crunch with the added benefit of potassium and without all of the sodium. Aim for 1/4 cup a few times a week.
Well known for being high in potassium, each banana provides 10% of your daily need of this blood pressure-lowering mineral. Stir into yogurt at breakfast or enjoy with peanut butter as an afternoon snack.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
With an abundance of antioxidants including anthocyanins, berries are allies in the fight to reduce blood pressure. Studies show that people with a higher intake of anthocyanins have a lower risk of hypertension. Eat them by the handful!
These young green soybeans are chock-full of fibre, potassium and magnesium. They make a great afternoon snack on their own and can also be enjoyed in salads. Find them in your grocer’s freezer.
10. Olive Oil
Top your leafy greens with an olive oil vinaigrette. Studies link olive oil to lower blood pressure levels in people who suffer from hypertension. You can also drizzle olive oil on vegetables, pasta and whole grain bread.
11. Beet Juice
With super-high levels of potassium and calcium, yogurt is a perfect addition to the diet. Skip the sugary varieties and choose plain yogurt instead. Use it in place of sour cream or enjoy it blended with fresh fruit.
High in soluble fiber and low in sodium, start your morning with a bowl of oatmeal. Make it with milk and add berries and pumpkin seeds for a powerhouse blood pressure-lowering breakfast.
With its good-for-you fats and abundance of potassium, avocados are a great addition to the diet. Mash and spread on toast, or add to salads, tacos, burritos or sandwiches.
15. Wheat Berries, Whole Oats, Bulgur or Farro
In a clinical study, researchers saw that systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure were significantly reduced in people who ate whole grain wheat and oats (see oatmeal above) compared to those eating refined grains. Try wheat berries, whole oats, bulgur or farro for your next grain salad.
16. Dark Chocolate
One past study showed that eating a small square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure without weight gain or other adverse effects. Choose 70% dark chocolate (or higher) and keep portions small.
Editor’s note: For more information about the DASH diet, including daily and weekly DASH eating plan goals visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.