High blood pressure: The five best fruit and veg to lower a high blood pressure reading
High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition whereby the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is consistently too high. This pressure means your heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body; a precondition to serious cardiovascular problems. Fortunately, you can lower a high blood pressure reading by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The importance of packing fruit and veg in your diet is self-evident but these staples offer specific benefits for high blood pressure.
“Fruit and veg contain potassium, a mineral which is essential for keeping your body ticking over and helps to lower your blood pressure,” explains Blood Pressure UK.
As the health body explains, eating fruit and veg directly counters the effect of salt, which contains sodium, which raises your blood pressure.
“They’re rich in different vitamins and minerals which keep your body healthy, plus they’re low in calories and high in fibre which helps with digestion and heart health.”
So, what are the best fruits and veggies for lowering high blood pressure?
According to Blood Pressure UK, you should opt for the following fruit and veg choices:
- Canned fruit and veg – choose options in natural juices or water rather than syrup, and without any added sugar or salt.
- Juice and smoothies – unsweetened fruit juice, smoothies and vegetable juice all count, but only as one portion no matter how much you drink. Because they are high in calories without filling you up, and the sugar can damage your teeth.
- Dried fruit – A 30 to 40g portion of dried fruit also counts, but as they’re high in sugar, it’s best to only eat them at mealtimes to minimise tooth decay.
- Pulses – beans, peas and lentils all count and are a good source of protein and fibre, but they only count as one portion.
- Root veg – potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain are considered starchy foods so they don’t count towards your five-a-day, but sweet potatoes and other root veg such as turnips, parsnips and swedes do.
What the evidence says
The associations between fruit and vegetable consumption and high blood pressure among adults are well studied.
The magic ingredient is potassium and the beneficial effects of this mineral have been expounded in a review published in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas – and even coffee – could be key to lowering blood pressure, according to Alicia McDonough, PhD, professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).
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For the review, McDonough explored the link between blood pressure and dietary sodium, potassium and the sodium-potassium ratio.
She identified several population studies demonstrating that higher dietary potassium was associated with lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake.
Interventional studies with potassium supplementation also suggested that potassium provides a direct benefit.
In interventional studies, the researcher actively interferes with nature – by performing an intervention in some or all study participants – to determine the effect of exposure to the intervention on the natural course of events.
McDonough also reviewed recent studies in rodent models, from her own lab and others, to illustrate the mechanisms for potassium benefit.
These studies indicated that the body does a balancing act that uses sodium to maintain close control of potassium levels in the blood, which is critical to normal heart, nerve and muscle function.
“When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion,” McDonough said.
“Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic.”
In addition to increasing your intake of potassium-rich items, you should also shun dietary decisions that raise your reading.
According to the NHS, regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.
“Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure,” advises the health body.
UK guidelines are as follows:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
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