top of page

How a Plant-Based Diet Helps to Control Blood Pressure and the Top 10 Plant-Based Foods to Lower Blood Pressure


blood pressure cuff

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can sneak up on you and lead to various health complications if not managed properly. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When it's high, your heart is working harder than it should, and your risk for stroke and heart disease increases.

 

Risk Factors

french fries

Lifestyle factors that increase risk of high blood pressure include lack of exercise, obesity, unhealthy eating habits, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, sleep deprivation and chronic stress. Many with high blood pressure will not feel any symptoms, making this condition tricky to detect. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noticeable symptoms of high blood pressure may include headaches, blurred vision, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect you may have high blood pressure or are unsure of your baseline blood pressure, consider consulting with your healthcare provider. If left untreated, high blood pressure can put you  at risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.


The Good News

girl eating an acai bowl

The lifestyle factors that influence blood pressure are within your control. By exercising regularly, implementing stress management techniques, optimizing sleep hygiene, minimizing or avoiding alcohol, and consuming a healthy diet — one that includes a wide variety of plant-based foods — you can greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure and the lifestyle diseases that accompany it. 


If you’d like to explore stress-relieving techniques, consider visiting our article, 7 Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature. For movement ideas, visit Walking Your Way to Physical and Mental Well-Being. To learn how to create a healthy sleeping routine, visit Do You Want a Healthy Body and Happy Mind? Good Sleep Can Help With That.


In this article, we will discuss how consuming plant-based foods can be beneficial, provide the top foods to lower blood pressure, and leave you with tips for adding more plant-based foods to your plate. 


How eating more plant-based foods can help to manage blood pressure

plant-based food
Photo Credit: Unsplash, Nadine Primeau

Nutrient Dense

Plant foods are naturally low in total fat, saturated fat, and salt, and have zero cholesterol. They are also good sources of essential minerals, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These essential minerals help to manage blood pressure by acting as electrolytes, maintaining fluid and blood volume.  Some studies show an inverse relationship between calcium, magnesium, and potassium with blood pressure — higher intake of these minerals may result in lower blood pressure. 


Plant-based foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium include dark leafy greens, bananas, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds, and more.  

 

High in Fiber

Consuming a diet rich in fiber is linked to lower cholesterol levels and helps manage weight by helping you feel more full and satisfied. Lowering cholesterol, especially LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and managing weight contribute to a reduction in blood pressure. All plant-based foods contain various types of fiber. The key to getting enough fiber to foster good health, including normal blood pressure, is to eat a variety of plant-based foods every day. 

 

Packed with phytochemicals  

Research suggests that certain phytochemicals, compounds made by plants that are also known as phytonutrients, may help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Some phytochemicals act like antioxidants and scavenge free radicals to protect against heart disease while other serve other functions. For example, quercetin, a compound found in onions, grapes, berries, cherries, broccoli, and citrus fruits, helps relax and dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow.

 

How do you get enough phytochemicals to help with blood pressure? You’ve probably heard of the phrase, “Eat the rainbow.” Eating a wide array of colorful plant-based foods can ensure you'll get many health-promoting, blood pressure-supporting phytochemicals. To explore more about phytochemicals' powerful benefits, visit Phytonutrients: 6 Plant-Based Colors You Should Add to Your Diet


Contain nitrates 

Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds in certain foods, especially dark leafy green vegetables. Nitrates consist of nitrogen and oxygen found in the soil where plants grow.

Your body converts nitrates from vegetables into nitric oxide, a substance which plays a part in dilating the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and improving blood flow.


Side note: You may have also heard of nitrates and nitrites that can be found in meat and processed foods — these are very different from the nitrates that are found naturally in plant foods. These types of nitrates act as preservatives to prevent food from spoiling and meat from changing color, and can be potentially harmful to human health. In fact, research shows that nitrites and nitrates used in the curing and processing of meat may be linked to certain types of cancer.

 

Top 10 plant-based foods for lowering blood pressure

All of the foods below are fiber-rich and nutrient-dense. We noted a few specific features of each that really makes them stand out for their blood pressure-lowering ability.


Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens, like mustard greens, collards, and kale are excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. 


leafy greens
Photo Credit: Unsplash, Nutriciously

Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries are all chock-full of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

blueberries

Whole grains

Whole grains, like farro, buckwheat, oats, and brown rice contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help to manage blood pressure.


buckwheat

Legumes

Lentils, beans, and peas are high in fiber as well as plant-based protein, plus they’re low in saturated fat, making them an excellent substitute for meat.


lentils

Nuts

All nuts, like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, provide plant-based protein, healthy fats, and plenty of phytochemicals.


almonds

Seeds

Seeds, such as hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds contain minerals like magnesium and calcium.


chia seeds

Avocado

Avocados contain heart-healthy fats and are a good source of potassium.  


avocado salad

Herbs and spices

Consider all of the colorful spices in your spice cabinet — those colors indicate that spices are packed with blood pressure supporting phytochemicals. Fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, and parsley can be good sources of potassium and antioxidants. 


spices

Sweet potato

This orange-colored sweet and savory treat is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. 


sweet potato

Dark chocolate

Phytochemicals in dark chocolate, called flavonoids, promote nitric oxide production, aiding in improved blood flow and lowered blood pressure. Dark chocolate is also packed with prebiotic fiber.


dark chocolate

Tips for adding more plant foods to meals

The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables this time of year makes it easy to add color and variety to your meals. Boost your intake of whole grains, fresh fruits, vibrant vegetables, hearty legumes, and filling nuts and seeds by checking out the tips below.

 


smoothie with cacao
Photo Credit: Unsplash, LyfeFuel

Smoothies

Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to incorporate plant foods into your diet. Adding kale, spinach, or avocado to smoothies is a great way to consume vegetables in the morning — an awesome and energizing way to start the day!

 

Breakfast and Snacks

Adding fruit to oatmeal, plant-based yogurt, or buckwheat pancakes is an excellent way to add some vibrant color, pops of flavor, and lots of nutrition to your breakfast or snacks.

 

Salads

Build a salad that includes more than just greens! Layer on the whole grains, lentils or chickpeas, other colorful veggies, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit for a salad that not only looks vibrant but also helps you feel vibrant when you consume it!

 

Bulk cooking

Cooking whole grains in bulk and storing them in the fridge so they can be added to a variety of meals, like salads, stir fries, and grain bowls, throughout the week is a great way to ensure healthy fiber from whole grains. Tip: Try crisping leftover cooked grains in the oven to add to salads, spreads, and other foods for a nice crunch full of fiber. Spread the cooked grains on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees F until lightly browned (about 10 minutes), or cook them in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until they're just slightly browned and smell fragrant.


Beans

Beans make a great addition to many dishes! Add lentils to salads, bake chickpeas for a crispy snack, or make black bean tacos for Taco Tuesday (or any day of the week!).

 

 

Including more plant-based foods daily can help manage blood pressure and support heart health. If plant-based eating is new to you, consider making small sustainable changes to your diet. Every small step can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Embrace a plant-forward diet for better health! 




dietetic intern

Hello! I'm Simran James, a Graduate Nutrition Student at Georgia State University. I'm deeply passionate about cooking and have a particular interest in creating plant-based recipes. My career goal is to work as a dietitian in research and development with a major food company that shares my enthusiasm for innovative recipes. In my free time, I love being near or on the water, whether it's kayaking or just enjoying the view.

Comments


bottom of page