18 best foods for high blood pressure

18 best foods for high blood pressure

Certain foods and overall diet can help people manage blood pressure.

In general, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers a serving to be:

  • 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables or fruit
  • 1 cup of 100% fruit juice
  • 2 cups of raw leafy salad greens
  • half a cup of dried fruit

For most ages, the USDA recommends consuming around 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables daily, although this varies slightly according to age and sex.

1. Berries

Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid.

A 2019 review suggests consistent findings to support the theory that anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich berries can lower blood pressure.

However, they emphasize that this outcome is not generalized and may depend on several factors, including study length, baseline characteristics, and dosage.

The review’s authors and other researchers suggest that further evidence is necessary to prove this claim.

To enjoy berries:

  • eat them as a snack or sweet treat after meals
  • add them to smoothies
  • sprinkle them on oatmeal for breakfast

A serving of blueberries is around 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries or half a cup of dried blueberries. A serving of strawberries is around 7 strawberries.

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2. Bananas

Bananas contain potassium, which can help manage hypertension. One medium-sized banana contains around 422 milligrams (mg) of potassium.

A serving would be 1 large banana, 1 cup of sliced banana, or two-thirds of a cup of mashed banana.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), potassium reduces the effects of sodium and alleviates tension in the walls of the blood vessels.

The Office of Dietary Supplements advises that adult males aim to consume 3,400 mg of potassium daily and adult females — 2,600 mg.

Other potassium-rich foods include:

  • apricots
  • lentils
  • prunes
  • acorn squash
  • potatoes

People with kidney disease should consult a doctor before increasing their potassium intake, as too much can be harmful.

3. Beets

Drinking beet juice may reduce blood pressure in the short and long term because it contains dietary nitrate.

According to a 2022 systematic review, research shows that nitrate from beetroot juice lowers systolic blood pressure in people with arterial hypertension but does not affect diastolic blood pressure.

Tips for use include:

  • drinking 1 glass of beet juice per day
  • adding beets to salads
  • preparing beets as a side dish

A serving of beet is around 1 cup of raw, cooked, or juiced beets.

4. Dark chocolate

Cacao, an ingredient in dark chocolate, contains flavonoids, an antioxidant. Flavonoids may help reduce blood pressure, according to the AHA.

However, it notes that a person may not be able to consume enough flavonoids in dark chocolate to experience significant benefits.

The AHA says that a small amount of chocolate from time to time can be part of a balanced diet. It advises, however, that people eat it because they enjoy it, not for health reasons.

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5. Kiwis

A daily serving of kiwi can reduce systolic blood pressure, among other benefits, according to a 2022 randomized control trial.

People who ate 2 kiwis per day before breakfast for 7 weeks had a reduction of 2.7 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) in systolic blood pressure compared to a control group.

Kiwis are also rich in vitamin C. A 2020 meta-analysis suggests that vitamin C supplementation significantly reduced blood pressure in people with primary hypertension.

Kiwis are easy to add to lunches or smoothies. One cup of kiwi, or 2-3 kiwifruits, makes up 1 serving.

Which other foods contain vitamin C?

6. Watermelon

Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline.

The body converts citrulline to arginine, and this helps the body produce nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and encourages flexibility in arteries. These effects aid blood flow, which can lower high blood pressure.

A small 2023 controlled crossover trial looked at the effects of watermelon juice on blood pressure in young, healthy adults. They found that watermelon juice lowered systolic blood pressure over two hours.

Similarly, a 2023 meta-analysis suggests research up to 2021 supports watermelon’s blood pressure-lowering effects. However, the authors highlight the need for more trials with larger sample sizes.

In a small 2019 study, 27 people consumed either watermelon juice or another drink before exercise. The females who drank watermelon juice did not experience a rise in blood pressure after exercise, although the males did.

People can consume watermelon:

  • as juice
  • in salads, including fruit salads
  • in smoothies
  • in a chilled watermelon soup

One serving of watermelon is 1 cup of chopped fruit or 1 slice of around 2 inches.

7. Oats

Oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which may benefit heart health, including blood pressure.

A 2020 rodent study found that beta-glucan and avenanthramide C, both present in oats, reduce levels of malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress in hypertensive rats.

These results suggest that ingredients present in oats can help prevent high blood pressure and protect heart health in other ways. However, further research on human subjects is necessary.

Ways of eating oats include:

  • having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast
  • using rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs to give texture to burger patties
  • sprinkling them on yogurt desserts

8. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are rich in nitrates, which help manage blood pressure.

Research from 2021 suggests that eating at least 1 cup of green leafy vegetables daily can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Examples of leafy greens include:

  • cabbage
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • mustard greens
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard

To consume a daily dose of green vegetables, a person can:

  • stir spinach into curries and stews
  • sauté Swiss chard with garlic as a side dish
  • bake a batch of kale chips

A serving of fresh leafy greens is 2 cups of fresh leaves or 1 cup of cooked leafy greens.

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9. Garlic

Garlic has antibiotic and antifungal properties, many of which may be due to its main active ingredient, allicin.

A 2020 review concludes that garlic in general, and specifically Kyolic garlic, can reduce:

  • blood pressure
  • arterial stiffness
  • cholesterol

Garlic can enhance the flavor of many savory meals, including stir-fries, soups, and omelets. It can also be an alternative to salt as a flavoring.

10. Fermented foods

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that may help manage blood pressure.

In 2020, researchers analyzed data from 11,566 adults ages 50 or older in Korea. The results suggest that women who had gone through menopause and ate fermented soy foods had a lower risk of hypertension. However, this did not appear to be true for men.

Sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure, and experts advise people to limit their salt intake. However, a 2017 study did not find that eating salt-fermented vegetables increased the risk of high blood pressure despite the high sodium content.

Fermented foods to add to the diet include:

  • kimchi
  • kombucha
  • apple cider vinegar
  • miso
  • tempeh

Probiotic supplements are another option.

11. Lentils and other pulses

Lentils provide protein and fiber, and experts say they may benefit the blood vessels of people with hypertension.

A 2022 study analyzed legume intake over 3.7 years in 7,522 people from the United Kingdom. Researchers associated higher legume consumption of 55-70 grams (g) daily with a lower risk of hypertension. Legumes included lentils, peas, beans, and more.

People can use lentils in many ways, including:

  • as an alternative to minced beef
  • adding bulk to salads
  • as a base for stews and soups

12. Natural yogurt

Yogurt is fermented dairy food.

A 2021 study looked at data for people with and without high blood pressure to see whether there was a link between fermented dairy products and hypertension.

The participants with high blood pressure who consumed more yogurt had lower systolic blood pressure and lower arterial pressure than those who did not.

To enjoy unsweetened yogurt:

  • add 1 spoonful to a plate of stew or curry
  • mix with chopped cucumber, mint, and garlic as a side dish
  • use it instead of cream on fruit and desserts
  • spoon it onto a combination of oatmeal, nuts, and dried fruit for breakfast

13. Pomegranates

Pomegranates contain antioxidants and other ingredients that may help prevent high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

A 2018 trial suggests that daily pomegranate juice consumption may reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with diabetes. However, the authors stress the need for further research.

A 2017 review of eight human trials found evidence that consuming pomegranate juice consistently lowered blood pressure.

People can consume pomegranates whole or as juice. When buying prepackaged pomegranate juice, check to ensure that there is no added sugar.

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14. Cinnamon

Cinnamon may help reduce blood pressure by a modest amount, according to a 2020 review. The authors found that consuming up to 2 g of cinnamon daily for 8 weeks or more reduced blood pressure in people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

To incorporate cinnamon into the diet, a person can:

  • add it to oatmeal as an alternative to sugar
  • sprinkle it on freshly chopped fruit
  • add it to smoothies

15. Nuts

Several studies have found that eating nuts of various types can help manage hypertension.

A 2019 study suggests regular walnut consumption reduces systolic blood pressure in older adults with mind hypertension.

A 2022 cross-sectional study also suggests that moderate nut consumption, 55-100 g daily, may help to manage hypertension in children.

Opt for unsalted nuts and:

  • snack on them plain
  • add them to salads
  • blend them into pestos
  • use them in main dishes, such as nut roast

People should not consume nuts if they have a nut allergy.

16. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits contain hesperidin, an antioxidant that may benefit heart health.

In a 2021 study, 159 people consumed 500 ml of orange juice, hesperidin-enriched orange juice, or a control drink per day for 12 weeks.

The results indicate that regularly consuming orange juice can help lower systolic blood pressure and that hesperidin contributes to this effect.

People can consume citrus fruits:

  • as drinks, for example, by making orange juice or squeezing lemon into water
  • whole or in fruit salads, in the case of oranges and grapefruit
  • as lemon juice, squeezed on salads for flavor instead of salt

17. Oily fish

The AHA recommends consuming 2 servings of 3 ounces (oz) of oily fish per week, as it may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A 2022 research report by the AHA suggests that consuming around 3 g of omega-3 fatty acids daily may help to reduce blood pressure. These are in fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, or fish supplements.

Examples of oily fish include:

  • anchovies
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • albacore tuna

Some fish contain mercury, and people should check the latest Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines to ensure they do not consume too much. They can also visit this website to check which fish is currently sustainable.

18. Tomato extract

Tomato contains lycopene, an antioxidant that may be beneficial for heart health.

A 2021 review found that consuming tomato extract can significantly lower systolic blood pressure in people with or without hypertension. However, including other forms of tomatoes in the diet did not produce the same results.

Other researchers have found that high doses of lycopene reduced systolic blood pressure while lower levels did not.