What to eat to keep your blood pressure down
The foods you choose to eat can help, or hinder, healthy blood pressure.
More than six million Australians have high blood pressure, according to the Heart Foundation, and this is a key risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
But there are a number of steps you can take to maintain healthy blood pressure, such as eating a balanced diet.
“It’s not just one type of food that helps blood pressure and heart health – you need to have an overall healthy eating pattern – this means eating a variety of foods regularly,” says Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong.
So, which foods support healthy blood pressure?
From carrots and cauliflower to beans and broccoli – eating a vegetable rainbow is good for blood pressure, says dietitian Milly Smith, of Dietitians Australia.
“Vegetables are high in antioxidants and potassium that help prevent high blood pressure. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables and snack on them throughout the day,” she says.
Potassium-rich vegetables include spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, mushrooms, leafy greens, zucchini and pumpkin.
Fruits also contain potassium, magnesium and fibre, which have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.
Eat different coloured fruits and have two pieces a day by enjoying fruit as an afternoon snack or sprinkling it on breakfast cereal or yoghurt.
Tea, cocoa, apples and berries
These are packed with flavanols, which UK researchers believe can help lower blood pressure, particularly in people with high blood pressure.
“Flavanols are phytochemicals that reduce inflammation in the body. In recent studies they have been shown to have some effect on blood pressure by dilating our blood vessels,” Milly says.
“More research needs to be done in this area, and we are better off looking at our diet as a whole when looking to reduce our blood pressure.”
Fish and seafood
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can be found in oily fish like tuna and salmon.
Studies show oily fish help keep arteries supple, and ideally should be eaten a few times a week.
“Fish doesn’t have to be fresh, you can get the benefits from canned fish,” Sian says.
“But choose fish in olive oil or springwater, not in brine.”
Nuts, seeds and olive oil
Unsalted nuts and seeds are also helpful as they are packed with protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 30g of nuts daily.
“Snack on nuts and seeds during the day, and sprinkle some on breakfast cereal or enjoy on a salad for extra crunch,” Sian says.
Herbs and spices
Instead of adding flavour with salt, use herbs and spices.
“Too much salt can raise blood pressure, so flavour food with citrus such as lemon, chilli, ginger, garlic, rosemary, oregano or coriander,” Sian suggests.
What to know about salt and your blood pressure
Too much salt raises blood pressure, usually listed as sodium on food nutrition information panels.
“Highly processed foods like ham, bacon, sausages, takeaway pizzas and burgers and commercially made sauces contain a lot of added salt,” Sian says.
“Some foods that don’t taste salty, like pastries, muffins and cakes can also be high in salt.”
Choose low-salt products containing less than 120mg of sodium per 100g or reduced-salt products with less than 400mg per 100g.
Written by Sarah Marinos.