Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to 2018 data from the American Heart Association, and the number of deaths from high blood pressure increased by almost 38 percent. The good news: in many cases, it can be controlled by dietary changes alone. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet—which avoids salt, alcohol, and caffeine, and emphasizes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains—has been shown to reduce blood pressure in just two weeks. Some foods are especially beneficial, so load your plate with these eight and protect yourself from heart attack and stroke.
8 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure
1. Beet Greens
Are rich in magnesium, antioxidants, and potassium, a mineral that balances the effects of sodium in the body. A number of studies link dietary potassium with reduced blood pressure, and several meta-analyses show that high potassium intake drops the risk of stroke by about 25 percent. Other high-potassium foods include potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, lima beans, zucchini, and tomatoes.
Recipe Tips: Chop beet greens and sauté with leeks, garlic, black olives, and red pepper flakes; toss whole beet greens with diced sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and olive oil, and roast until tender; mix beet greens with steamed green beans, tomatoes, and feta cheese, and drizzle with a garlicky lemon dressing.
Are high in polyphenols, antioxidants with a beneficial effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In one study, people who drank a cup or more of pomegranate juice daily showed a decrease in both systolic (the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating) and diastolic (the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats) numbers.
Recipe Tips: Toss pomegranate seeds with shaved Brussels sprouts, chopped pecans, and a lemon-olive oil dressing; make salsa with pomegranate seeds, chopped grapefruit segments, red onion, serrano peppers, and lime juice; toss grilled shrimp with pomegranate seeds, shaved carrots, and arugula.
Is high in omega-3 fats, lignans, and fiber, all of which help protect against high blood pressure. In one study, people with hypertension who ate flax for six months showed a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Whole flax seeds have a more powerful effect than flax oil. Other seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds, are also high in potassium and magnesium, and may have similar effects on blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.
Recipe Tips: Grind flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, and use as a healthy breading for grilled chicken or fish; add ground flax, yogurt, and pistachios to waffle mix; stir flax seeds into almond butter for a crunchy sandwich spread.
Are rich in healthy fats, plus magnesium, potassium, and other compounds that reduce blood pressure. In one study, people with high LDL cholesterol who ate one serving a day of pistachios had lower systolic blood pressure. Additional studies have suggested that other nuts may also have beneficial effects on blood pressure and blood vessel function.
Recipe Tips: Toss baby spinach leaves with toasted pistachios, dried cherries, grapefruit segments, and low-fat goat cheese; make pesto from pistachios, basil, spinach, olive oil, and garlic; purée low-fat yogurt, honey, cardamom, saffron, and pistachios, and freeze in an ice cream maker for healthy ice cream with a Middle Eastern flair.
Are high in polyphenols and nitric oxide, a compound that reduces inflammation and promotes vasodilation (widening of arteries) to reduce blood pressure. In one study, people who drank beet juice mixed with apple juice showed a reduction in systolic blood pressure only six hours later; other studies have shown similar results. Leafy greens and garlic also help increase nitric oxide in the body, reduce blood pressure, and protect against hypertension.
Recipe Tips: Thinly slice beets, toss with olive oil and minced rosemary, and roast until crispy; mix beet, carrot, and apple juice for a healing morning beverage; purée cooked beets with tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin, and top with black sesame seeds for a vibrant hummus.
6. Hibiscus Tea
Is rich in phenols and anthocyanins, antioxidants that help normalize cholesterol and lower blood pressure. In one study, people who drank three servings a day of hibiscus tea showed reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In another study, hibiscus tea was as effective at lowering blood pressure as the blood pressure medication Captopril. It was also more effective than hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), a diuretic used to treat hypertension, without causing the electrolyte imbalances associated with the drug.
Recipe Tips: Mix pomegranate juice, cooled hibiscus tea, and sparkling water for a refreshing mocktail; freeze strong-brewed hibiscus tea and mint leaves in ice cube trays and add to sparkling water; simmer hibiscus and rooibos tea leaves with ginger slices and cinnamon sticks, then strain and serve hot with honey.
And other dairy products may protect against high blood pressure. One review found a link between low-fat dairy, especially yogurt, and a reduced risk of hypertension; cheese did not show the same effect. In another study, women who ate five or more servings of yogurt per week showed a 20 percent reduction in their risk for developing high blood pressure. Researchers believe calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other nutrients in dairy play a role. In addition, dairy products contain peptides, compounds with bioactive properties shown to affect blood pressure.
Recipe Tips: Whisk yogurt with tomato sauce, garlic, and rosemary, and simmer for a creamy pasta sauce; combine yogurt, quick oats, flax seeds, and honey, and refrigerate overnight for instant breakfast oats; sauté baby spinach with garlic, curry powder, and cumin seeds, and stir in yogurt for a creamy Indian side.
8. Wheat Berries
And other whole grains are high in fiber and other compounds that protect against high blood pressure. In one study, people who ate three servings of whole wheat or other whole grains had reduced systolic blood pressure. Other studies show similar effects, and whole grains in general are linked with a reduction in the risk of overall cardiovascular disease. Enjoy if you're not sensitive to gluten-containing grains or grains in general.
Recipe Tips: Soak wheat berries in water overnight, then add to salads or oatmeal for a chewy, intriguing texture; cook wheat berries until tender, then sauté with wild mushrooms, leeks, thyme, and walnuts for a healthy pilaf; combine cooked or soaked wheat berries with green onions, diced carrots, red peppers, arugula, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Try our Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranates & Pistachios recipe.