Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common preventable risk factor for heart disease.
Over 1 billion people around the world have high blood pressure, which is defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) values (the top number) of 130 mm Hg or more, diastolic blood pressure (DBP, the bottom number) of more than 80 mm Hg, or both.
Medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, are commonly used to reduce blood pressure levels. However, lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications, can help lower blood pressure levels to optimal ranges and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Following a nutritious, heart-healthy diet is suggested for all people with high blood pressure, including those on blood-pressure-lowering medications.
A healthy diet is essential for lowering blood pressure and maintaining optimal levels, and research has shown that including certain foods in your diet, especially those high in specific nutrients like potassium and magnesium, reduces your blood pressure levels.
Here are the 17 best foods for high blood pressure.
- Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, including grapefruit, oranges, and lemons, may have powerful blood-pressure-lowering effects. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that may help keep your heart healthy by reducing heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.
A 5-month study involving 101 Japanese women demonstrated that daily lemon juice intake combined with walking was significantly correlated with reductions in SBP, an effect that the researchers attributed to the citric acid and flavonoid content of lemons.
Studies have also shown drinking orange and grapefruit juice may help reduce blood pressure. Yet, grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with common blood-pressure-lowering medications, so consult your healthcare provider before adding this fruit to your diet.
- Salmon and other fatty fish
Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which have significant heart health benefits. These fats may help reduce blood pressure levels by reducing inflammation and decreasing levels of blood-vessel-constricting compounds called oxylipins.
Research has linked higher intakes of omega-3-rich fatty fish to lower blood pressure levels.
A study in 2,036 healthy people found that those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fats had significantly lower SBP and DBP than those with the lowest blood levels of these fats. Higher omega-3 intake has also been associated with a lower risk of hypertension.
- Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a leafy green that’s packed with blood-pressure-regulating nutrients, including potassium and magnesium. One cup (145 grams) of cooked chard delivers 17% and 30% of your daily potassium and magnesium needs, respectively.
In people with high blood pressure, every 0.6-gram per day increase in dietary potassium is associated with a 1.0 mm Hg reduction in SBP and a 0.52 mm Hg reduction in DBP. One cup (145 grams) of Swiss chard packs 792 mg of this important nutrient.
Magnesium is also essential for blood pressure regulation. It helps reduce blood pressure through several mechanisms, including by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker, which blocks the movement of calcium into heart and arterial cells, allowing blood vessels to relax.
- Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds may be small, but they pack a punch when it comes to nutrition.
They’re a concentrated source of nutrients important for blood pressure control, including magnesium, potassium, and arginine, an amino acid needed for the production of nitric oxide, which is essential for blood vessel relaxation and blood pressure reduction.
Pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to be a powerful natural remedy for high blood pressure. A study in 23 women found that supplementing with 3 grams of pumpkin seed oil per day for 6 weeks led to significant reductions in SBP, compared with a placebo group.
- Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, such as fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Numerous studies have shown that eating beans and lentils may help lower high blood pressure levels.
A review of 8 studies that included 554 people indicated that, when exchanged for other foods, beans and lentils significantly lowered SBP and average blood pressure levels in people with and without hypertension (16).
Berries have been associated with a variety of impressive health benefits, including their potential to reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure. Berries are a rich source of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, which are pigments that give berries their vibrant color.
Anthocyanins have been shown to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood and reduce the production of blood-vessel-restricting molecules, which may help reduce blood pressure levels. However, more research in humans is needed to confirm these potential mechanisms.
Blueberries, raspberries, chokeberries, cloudberries, and strawberries are just some of the berries that have been associated with blood-pressure-lowering effects.
Eating whole grains like amaranth may help lower your blood pressure levels. Studies show that diets rich in whole grains may decrease your risk of high blood pressure.
A review of 28 studies found that a 30-gram per day increase in whole grains was associated with an 8% reduced risk of high blood pressure.
Amaranth is a whole grain that’s particularly high in magnesium. One cooked cup (246 grams) provides 38% of your daily magnesium needs.
Pistachios are highly nutritious, and their consumption has been linked to healthy blood pressure levels. They’re high in a number of nutrients essential for heart health and blood pressure regulation, including potassium.
A review of 21 studies found that among all the nuts included in the review, pistachio intake had the strongest effect on reducing both SBP and DBP.
Crunchy, sweet, and nutritious, carrots are a staple veggie in many people’s diets. Carrots are high in phenolic compounds, such as chlorogenic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids, that help relax blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which may help lower blood pressure levels.
Although carrots can be enjoyed cooked or raw, eating them raw may be more beneficial for reducing high blood pressure. A study that included 2,195 people ages 40–59 found that raw carrot intake was significantly associated with lower blood pressure levels.
Another small study in 17 people demonstrated that daily intake of 16 ounces (473 mL) of fresh carrot juice for 3 months led to reductions in SBP but not DBP.
Celery is a popular vegetable that may have positive effects on blood pressure. It contains compounds called phthalides, which may help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure levels.
The same study that associated raw carrot intake with reduced blood pressure found that among commonly consumed cooked vegetables, cooked celery intake was significantly associated with reduced blood pressure.
- Tomatoes and tomato products
Tomatoes and tomato products are rich in many nutrients, including potassium and the carotenoid pigment lycopene.
Lycopene has been significantly associated with beneficial effects on heart health, and eating foods high in this nutrient, such as tomato products, may help reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure.
A review of 21 studies concluded that consuming tomato and tomato products improves blood pressure and may help reduce your risk of heart disease and heart-disease-related death.
Broccoli is known for its many beneficial effects on health, including the health of your circulatory system. For example, adding this cruciferous veggie to your diet may be a smart way to reduce blood pressure.
Broccoli is loaded with flavonoid antioxidants, which may help lower blood pressure by enhancing blood vessel function and increasing nitric oxide levels in your body.
A study that included data from 187,453 people found that those who consumed 4 or more servings of broccoli per week had a lower risk of high blood pressure than those who consumed broccoli once a month or less.
- Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a nutrient-dense dairy product that’s packed with minerals that help regulate blood pressure, including potassium and calcium.
A review of 28 studies found that consuming 3 servings of dairy per day was associated with a 13% lower risk of high blood pressure, as well as that a 7-ounce (200-gram) increase in dairy intake per day was associated with a 5% reduction in hypertension risk.
- Herbs and spices
Certain herbs and spices contain powerful compounds that may help reduce blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax.
Celery seed, cilantro, saffron, lemongrass, black cumin, ginseng, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet basil, and ginger are just some of the herbs and spices that have been shown to have blood-pressure-lowering potential, according to results from animal and human research.
- Chia and flax seeds
Chia and flax seeds are tiny seeds that are teeming with nutrients that are essential for healthy blood pressure regulation, including potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
A small, 12-week study that included 26 people with high blood pressure found that supplementing with 35 grams of chiaseed flour per day led to blood pressure reductions in both medicated and unmedicated people, compared with a placebo group.
Additionally, results from a review of 11 studies suggested that eating flax seeds may help lower blood pressure levels, especially when consumed in their whole seed form for 12 weeks or longer.
- Beets, beet greens, and beet juice
Beets and beet greens are exceptionally nutritious, and eating them may help promote healthy blood pressure levels. They’re high in nitrates, which help relax blood vessels and may lower blood pressure.
Some research has shown that adding beets and beet products to your diet may help promote healthy blood pressure levels.
For example, a 2-week study in 24 people with high blood pressure found that consuming both 8.4 ounces (250 mL) of beet juice and 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of cooked beets significantly reduced blood pressure, although it found that the beet juice was more effective.
Although other studies have also linked beet and beet juice intake to positive effects on blood pressure, not all studies have shown positive results.
Some studies have suggested that the effects of beets on blood pressure are short lived and may not make a substantial difference on long-term blood pressure control.
Nevertheless, beets, beet juice, and beet greens are all highly nutritious and may help improve overall health when added to your diet.
Like beets, spinach is high in nitrates. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, making it an excellent choice for people with high blood pressure.
In a study in 27 people, those who consumed 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of a high nitrate spinach soup daily for 7 days experienced reductions in both SBP and DBP, compared with those who consumed low nitrate asparagus soup.
The spinach soup also decreased artery stiffness, which may help reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.
The bottom line
Along with other lifestyle modifications, adopting a healthy diet can significantly lower blood pressure levels and help reduce your heart disease risk.
According to research, adding certain foods like leafy greens, berries, beans, lentils, seeds, fatty fish, citrus fruits, and carrots to your meals and snacks may help you reach and maintain optimal blood pressure levels.
If you have high blood pressure levels or are looking to maintain healthy blood pressure, adding a few of the foods listed in this article to your diet may help.