According to the UK government 1 in 4 adults worldwide have high blood pressure and high blood pressure is projected to affect more than 1.5 billion people by 2025. Meanwhile, Healthline says, “there are a number of factors effecting blood pressure including the meals you eat”. Based on this we thought it would be good to find out more about, blood pressure lowering foods. Below are the golden nuggets from an interview with Holistic Heart specialist, Dr Chris Pickard.
What is High Blood Pressure and why is it important?
Blood pressure quite simply is the is the pressure that blood pumping around the arteries puts on the artery walls. When your heart contracts it creates higher pressure. When you have a blood pressure reading you get two parts, the higher part is when the heart is contracting – this is called the systolic blood pressure; and then when it’s relaxed you get the lower of the two pressures – this is called the diastolic blood pressure.
The heart pumps oxygen and gets nutrients pumped around the body.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. The more force that is exerted on the artery walls the more the artery walls actually have to harden and as they harden it starts causing further problems, for instance they’re more likely to be damaged and little cracks can appear in them and this is when cholesterol starts getting into the gaps and then as cholesterol gets into these gaps it kind of plasters over the cracks and it can start compacting and
You get bigger and bigger bits of plaster and then it can constrict. Then the pressure goes up it can start damaging the artery walls and you start getting damage and then the body starts to function less well. This is why blood pressures known as the silent killer because you don’t necessarily have any symptoms.
High blood pressure is now recognized as the second leading cause of death in the world, after poor diet. Overall, it’s the leading cause of heart disease, strokes and kidney failure.
What effect does food have on blood pressure?
As I mentioned, after a poor diet, high blood pressure is seen as the leading cause of death. But a leading cause of high blood pressure is simply a poor diet.
The main reason that it’s related to high blood pressure is because many people have too much salt (sodium). Too much salt starts putting a pressure on the kidneys. Because the kidneys are really important in regulating blood pressure the salt it starts causing more problems, but there’s also make deficiencies as well.
As sodium goes up potassium tends to go down and you need potassium to lower your blood pressure. This means that many people having too much sodium and not enough potassium. This causes blood pressure problems.
Also, however, there are other nutritional deficiencies as well and there’s the types of food that causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can start causing artery wall problems.
Does salt cause high blood pressure?
Luckily, it’s more the addition of salt you are adding to your food and you can choose not to buy ordinary table salt and start just buy some potassium based sea salt and maybe use less of it.
Also be aware that salt is added to so many processed foods to improve the flavour and this is one of the reasons why many meat products are so bad for us – it’s not necessarily the meat, it’s what’s been added in the form of some preservatives. Crisps and snacks also have salt added.
What are the best blood pressure lowering foods?
The first thing is to start by getting rid of all the junk food and processed food. You can then start to think about blood pressure lowering foods as well.
Start by eating more Whole Foods – such as fruits and vegetables and more green food – but then there are different food groups that are more beneficial.
Potassium – like avocados – or magnesium, as well nuts, seeds, and shellfish, but there’s other foods that seem to have a dramatic effect on blood pressure as well. These foods have got high levels of nitrates.
Nitrates are different from nitrites. Nitrites are added to things like processed meats, such as salami, slices of ham and bacon. Nitrates are added a preservative.
Nitrates can be found in foods such as: rocket, Swiss chard, spinach, nuts like walnuts and you find it in meat too.
Nitrates are needed to make something called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is one of the most important chemicals that your body makes. It literally dilates blood vessels and if you haven’t got enough nitrates you can’t make very much nitric oxide and so your arteries tend to stay constricted.
When you have you enough nitrates your blood vessels dilate and there’s less pressure.
Nitric oxide has a huge amount of other health benefits so it’s great for the brain and it helps kill bugs bacteria in the body.
Other foods that are high in nitrates include beetroot, both the bulb and the leaf, kale and spinach, red cabbage and red lettuce.
Then there are other foods that seem to help with the nitric oxide in your body such as watermelon which is full of something called citrulline. Walnuts are good to make arginine in.
If you eat something like rocket, watermelon and walnuts you’ve got yourself a recipe for building nitric oxide.
You can look further, for example Pomegranate has a number of substances in it that help lower blood pressure and regulate nitric oxide. You can use honey as a salad dressing and that seems to help regulate nitric oxide. Celery has a compound in it that helps lower blood pressure and so do herbs and spices like thyme and oregano and mint.
What are the surprising causes of high blood pressure?
There are two surprising causes of high blood pressure:
- Air pollution
- Food pollution – pesticides and herbicides
We now know that air pollution is causing 60-90 ninety heart attacks each day in the United Kingdom. Different pollutants in the air actually start causing inflammation in the lungs and nitric oxide is one of the things that helps decrease inflammation.
When your lungs are attacked it starts interfering with the proper enzymes of nitric oxide which then starts interfering with the heart and blood pressure so it’s really important that you do things to help lower your exposure to air pollution, such as using an air filter next to your bed at night so make sure the cleanest possible air.
There are different pesticides and herbicides and they interact when you start ingesting them even in small amounts that were thought to be safe previously.
When you take a small amount of one herbicide or pesticide that’s safe and then you add it to another herbicide or pesticide that is also supposedly safe and then you add others, all of a sudden, they interact and cause a different chemical reaction which can cause high blood pressure.
Air pressure, food pollution and bad diet all work together and these things seem to affect our immune system. For many years it’s been suspected that high blood pressure has a link to put immune problems through stress and the nervous system.
Research in Edinburgh found that when your immune system isn’t working, when it’s inflamed by pollution or when it’s not working properly because you’ve got a poor diet there’s a particular chemical called endothelium. When you’ve got higher levels of endothelium your blood pressure goes up, but when your immune system is working properly and it’s not inflamed it literally eats the endothelium and the blood pressure normalizes. That’s why there is a huge link between high blood pressure your immune system. And if your immune system isn’t working properly you are going to be more at risk than to anything related to immune problems whether it’s a cold and flu or virus.
What supplements can we take to lower blood pressure?
The big one big one is going to be vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is needed for helping lower inflammation in the body and also help regulate blood pressure. Sunshine basically converts cholesterol to vitamin D3, so sunshine is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol, which in turn helps blood pressure.
Most people are magnesium deficient, especially in times of stress. Stress burns up magnesium like crazy.
My favourite supplements are things that basically help donate nitrates and other regulating compounds. My favourite is a mushroom known as the Reishi mushroom. Make sure it’s organic. Reishi helps regulate nitric oxide, but it also has a number of other effects on bringing down inflammation and helping the system work better.
My favourites kind of supplements are food powders. Things like pomegranate and beetroot. If you get the powders then you can have lots of the nutrients without actually having too many calories.
You can just pop the powders into a smoothie or juice.
Using the information about Blood Pressure lowering foods and making it practical
Start by trying to get more nitrate containing whole foods in your diet twice a day.
- A cup of Beetroot juice
- A cup of pomegranate juice
- A quarter to half of a watermelon.
- Blend it together and it’s full of nitrates and it’s also going to have citrulline.
- Add a bit of ginger if you want to for a bit more oomph because again ginger helps bring down inflammation good for the digestion.
Another option is to try a vegetable omelette for breakfast rather than a cereal.
For those that want something really simple go and buy some superfood powders and just stick some superfood powder in water and drink it with your current breakfast.
You can also try to have a big salad once a day. Chard is great, spinach too with a bit of grated beetroot.