What if You Could Ditch Your Blood Pressure Medication for Good?

Have you or someone you love been told you need to “get your blood pressure down?”

Whether you have been told you need to reduce your blood pressure or are just trying to maintain a healthy level, REAL food can be the perfect medicine!

nutrition blogNearly half of all adults in the United States have some type of cardiovascular disease. This is according to the American Heart Association’s annual report, Heart and Stroke Statistics, which defines cardiovascular disease as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke or high blood pressure.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be, which can put your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys at risk. When you have high blood pressure, there are usually no signs or symptoms, which is why it is so dangerous. The good news is it can be managed!

What causes high blood pressure?

There are several risk factors for high blood pressure, including being overweight or obese, using tobacco, not being physically active, eating too much salt (or sodium), eating too little potassium, drinking too much alcohol, and stress.

So, can food help naturally lower blood pressure?

The answer is YES! And, no shocker here…REAL foods are the key! REAL foods are naturally low in sodium while being loaded with nutrients that help keep blood pressure – and weight – at a healthy level.

Which are the best foods to eat for a healthy blood pressure?

1. Potassium-rich foods (aka plant foods!)

Foods rich in potassium encourage your kidneys to excrete sodium, leading to lower blood pressure. You may be thinking, “No problem, I’ll just eat more bananas!” Although bananas aren’t a bad idea, there are other foods that provide even more potassium, while also being high in beneficial antioxidants. Like these:

  • Fruits, especially cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, oranges, raisins and dates.
  • Veggies. A variety of fresh or frozen vegetables will help boost your potassium. Especially beneficial are parsnips and beets!
  • Tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes contain potassium, and you can get even more potassium in the form of tomato sauce, tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Leafy greens. Spinach, bok choy and Swiss chard are excellent sources.
  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils. White beans are among the best!
  • Potatoes. Sweet and other types of potatoes pack more potassium than a banana ounce for ounce.

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If you are into counting, aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day. Most Americans are lucky to get 2,000-3,000 mg, simply because they don’t eat enough veggies. (In fact, 98% of American diets are potassium deficient.) Next time you look at your plate, triple up on vegetables, and scale down your portion of meat. And, let fruit, yogurt, and dark chocolate be your dessert! (Note: people with kidney disease may need to limit potassium. If this is you, consult with your doctor.)

2. Calcium-rich foods

Often, people with low calcium intake can have high blood pressure. While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets have, especially when these high-calcium foods are also high in potassium and magnesium. Focus on including foods high in calcium — and keep nutrition blogin mind, this list goes way beyond dairy!

  • Yogurt is a great source of calcium AND potassium, while also providing beneficial bacteria for good gut health!
  • Milk and cheese are good sources of calcium, but since the benefits of a plant-rich diet are well known, try to keep their intake to about 1 cup per day.
  • Greens high in calcium include bok choy, kale, collard and turnip greens.
  • Go nuts! All nuts are beneficial, with almonds having the highest amount of calcium.
  • A variety of vegetables will give you a calcium-rich diet, with okra and broccoli being especially high on the list!

3. Dark chocolate or cocoa

nutrition blogThe urge to satisfy a sweet craving happens to all of us! However, instead of reaching for processed cakes, brownies or cookies, indulge in an ounce of dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher) or sweet treats with cocoa powder as a main ingredient (such as Chocolate Chia Energy Bites).

Both dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate. Studies have shown that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure!

Note: When picking dark chocolate or cocoa, avoid products that have been processed with alkali to get the most nutritional benefit.

4. Tea time!

nutrition blogSay yes to hibiscus tea such as Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger. Delicious hot or cold, this “red” tea is not only vibrant in flavor and color, it’s the highest in antioxidants of any tea, or any other beverage for that matter!

Studies show that 3 cups a day of this prized tea can reduce blood pressure levels by 7%.

What foods should you cut back on?

1. High-sodium foods

What is responsible for up to two-thirds of Americans’ sodium intake? It’s not the salt-shaker, but rather, processed foods. Not only are processed foods extremely high in sodium, but they are also often stripped of nutrients like potassium and magnesium that help counterbalance blood pressure. While we should be eating less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, most people eat much more. You can successfully limit high-sodium foods with these tips:

  • Processed meats do more harm than good! Cut back on ham, bacon, lunchmeat, and the ever-popular takeout and delivery pizza. Meals from chain and fast food restaurants can be astonishingly high in sodium as well.
  • Reduce the amount of bread you eat! You might be surprised that bread products are a large contributor of sodium to the American diet. Swapping out a potato for bread or a salad for sandwiches will go a long way to help lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  • Read those ingredient labels! High amounts of sodium can be hiding in bottled salad dressings, canned soups, peanut butter, instant oatmeal, and even cooked rotisserie chickens.

2. Added sugar and refined carbs

In addition to sugary foods’ ability to rack up calories and make you gain weight, they also do a good job of helping raise your blood pressure! And it’s not just sugar. All refined and processed carbs, such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your blood stream. So again, the best solution is to eat REAL whole foods!

Lifestyle habits also play an important role in keeping blood pressure in check!

  • nutrition blogMaintain a healthy weight. Following a REAL food diet will naturally fill you up with fewer calories, helping you lose weight “the right way.”
  • Exercise. Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure, plus more exercise helps reduce it further. The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.
  • Learn to manage stress. Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:
  • Listen to soothing music. Calming music can relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
  • Work smarter. Working excessively, and stressful work situations in general, are linked to high blood pressure.
  • Limit alcohol. While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, those benefits may be from the act of “relaxing and connecting with others” while the alcohol itself imparts more negative effects. Drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. Limit your intake to no more than one drink a day for women, two for men.

Focusing on REAL food can be the key to reducing blood pressure and keeping it within a healthy range. Wouldn’t it be great to say…

“I Don’t Need A Prescription…My Medicine Is REAL Food!”

Please share this with someone you know who might need it and, in case you missed it, check out April’s disease-dodging tip on managing cholesterol.