Good Diet Foods: High Blood Pressure

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kids love blueberries

Good diet foods for high blood pressure include blueberries, flax meal, hibiscus or jamaica tea, and beet juice. But high blood pressure management starts with measuring it accurately: I recommend the Omron Series 7 for home.

These foods all have very good peer-reviewed medical research that shows their effectiveness in lowering blood pressure over both short and long term.  Several have been tested against prescription medication, and found to be as effective (here, for example, is a hibiscus-captopril study).

Even their mechanisms of action appear to be similar:

  • blueberries promote the release of nitric oxide in arterial walls, allowing them to relax and blood to flow more easily and smoothly;
  • beets contain plant-based inorganic nitrate, which is converted to nitric oxide by the body, allowing that same, better blood flow, less arterial stiffness, better arterial lining function (vs sodium nitrate, a processed meat preservative, which when heated is carcinogenic)
  • hibiscus’ anthocyanins (the colorful compounds which the tea’s beauty and brightness) appear to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme, as does captopril, a commonly prescribed and effective medication. And
  • flax…the mechanism there is unknown–in fact all of these mechanisms are postulated instead of proven–but may include the presence of alpha lipoic acid, lignans, insoluble fiber and specific anti-inflammatory peptides, or protein.

In my Fox 11 TV segment on Foods that Lower High Blood Pressure and Boost Energy Level, I didn’t, of course, get to explain mechanisms or specific uses, but here are some of the details. (there is some thought that magnesium is the missing mineral, but it’s more complex than just that.)

Knowing how food is grown and works as medicine–culinary medicine–and where it is from, and how much to use can add to the pleasure of the table, and create better health, without the costs or side effects of prescription medication.

Three recipes are easy–so easy that they hardly count as recipes.  Here they are, and the supporting research:

Apple Beet Juice on the Rocks: just 8 ounces of beet juice (no additives, please, though one study tested it cut with apple juice, which is a nice flavor complement); a 3:1 ratio gives you exactly the drink that lowered blood pressure 4-5 points systolic, in men.  Though 8 ounces of straight beet dropped blood pressure 8 points/3 points average for both men and women.  Drink every morning, and watch any other sugar intake for the day: it’s very sweet.

Hibiscus Tea is even simpler: 1.25 grams of hibiscus (you can use a red zinger tea: or even better, use the organic hibiscus flower sepals instead of a tea bag) in 8 ounces of hot water, simmered up to 20 minutes, three times daily, or you can use a modestly stronger tea, once daily, dropping blood pressure significantly…up to 23 points in one study. Be careful here!

And then there is Blueberries over Greek Yogurt with Local Honey and Toasty Flax: just 1 cup each of blueberries and plain lowfat or full fat yogurt, drizzled with a tablespoon of local honey and garnished with a sprig of mint and 2 tablespoons of toasty flax meal…that’s it!

You’re under 400 calories, and you have a breakfast that will keep you full til lunch, lower blood pressure up to 15 points systolic and 9 points diastolic (not a misprint, for flax), and 7 points systolic and 5 points diastolic for blueberries…and gives you barely 100 mg of sodium and 28 grams of protein, which you need to build muscle, and the anti-inflammatory fuel to run your engine cleanly.   Enjoy!