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11 Easy Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure as Much as Medicine Does

Natalie
Stein
March 6, 2020
11 Easy Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure as Much as Medicine Does|Veggie Cheese Lasagna|Breaded vegetable tofu|Ground nuts|Baked Chicken Sandwich
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Can You Lower Blood Pressure with Food?

These are 11 easy food swaps you can make to lower blood pressure without medication. The values given are for systolic blood pressure (SBP, which is the top value you see when you see your blood pressure written out). Lark for Hypertension can help you make simple food swaps like these to help lower blood pressure without stressing over it.

Nearly half of adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Medication is often necessary to get it under control, but what you eat also matters. Hypertension has few symptoms, so it's known as the "silent killer", reducing heart function over time. In fact, eating right can lead to needing lower doses of medication or getting off of it completely. Of course, never change your medications without talking to your doctor first!

1. Veggie Cheese Lasagna Instead of Meat Lasagna

Veggie Cheese Lasagna

Adding broccoli and low-fat cottage cheese, and eliminating ground beef or swapping it for lean ground turkey, helps you adhere to a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) meal plan, which emphasizes vegetables, fruit, and reduced-fat dairy products. Such a plan can lower systolic blood pressure by 11 mm Hg.

Bonus: in one hypertension study, soybeans lowered SBP by 7.9 mm Hg, and soy protein makes a great substitute for ground turkey or beef.

2. Cucumber Instead of Pickles

Cucumber Salad

Pickles can have over 1,000 mg of sodium in a serving, while limiting sodium consumption to under 2,300 mg per day can lower SBP by 5 mm Hg. Fresh cucumbers are very low in sodium.

For a bonus, try other fresh vegetables that are a little higher in potassium, since a high-potassium diet can lower blood pressure by 4 mm Hg. Grape tomatoes, asparagus tips, and zucchini are all high-potassium vegetables and great snacks.

3. Tuna Instead of Egg Salad Sandwich

Tuna Salad Sandwich

A trial found that eating fatty fish each day for 16 weeks lowered SBP by 6 mm Hg. Tuna, salmon, herring, and trout are examples of fatty fish.

Bonus: align more closely with DASH by making your tuna salad with yogurt instead of mayo, and serving it on whole-grain instead of white bread.

4.Cantaloupe Instead of Cookies

Cantaloupe

It only takes a few minutes to cut up a quarter of a cantaloupe and put it in a container to eat at snack time instead of cookies or something else from the vending machine. Fruit is a source of potassium, which can lower SBP by 4 mm Hg, and cantaloupe is one of the best sources. Other high-potassium fruit include honeydew melon, strawberries, and nectarines.

For a bonus, homemade low-sodium salsa with cantaloupe, cucumbers, cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice, onion, garlic, and avocado is packed with potassium.

5. Vegetable Chili With Beans Instead of Chili Without Beans

Vegetarian Chili

Chili can be as healthy as you want to make it. Beef chili without beans and with minimal tomatoes will not do much good for your blood pressure, but adding the following can turn into a boon for blood pressure.

  • Extra tomatoes
  • Pinto, black, garbanzo, or other beans
  • Plenty of onions
  • Celery
  • Bell peppers

Eating beans regularly can lower blood pressure by 2 to 3 mm Hg,

If your digestive system cannot handle beans, you can still pack in the potassium by adding corn or sweet potatoes. Swapping in soy protein or tofu for ground beef can have bonus benefits.

6. Tofu Instead of Chicken

Breaded vegetable tofu

A study found that 12-week supplementation with soybeans led to a 7.9-mm Hg decrease in SBP, and tofu is a fermented soybean product that is easy to come by in supermarkets and Chinese restaurants. Substituting vegetable tofu stir fry for a breaded chicken dish such as General Tso's chicken or sweet and sour chicken also increases vegetables and potassium, while reducing refined carbs and sugar.

7. Nuts Instead of Breadcrumbs

Ground nuts

In one study, people who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of tree nuts per day had SBP that was 2.6 mm Hg lower than people who ate less. Snacking on nuts works, but the serving size is pretty small and it can be hard for some people to stick to a half-ounce or ounce. Instead, using ground nuts instead of breadcrumbs or flour as a coating for baked "fried" chicken or a topping for casseroles can help keep serving sizes small while getting the benefits. This study was specifically about tree nuts, but peanuts have similar nutritional properties and benefits.

For a bonus, coat fish with breadcrumbs for a dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

8. Brown Rice Instead of White

Brown rice

Whole grains are part of the DASH diet and are linked to lower risk for developing hypertension. In one study, the SBP of participants who added whole-wheat and brown rice or whole-wheat, brown rice, and barley dropped by up to 5 mm Hg by the end of 5 weeks. Any other whole grains, including oatmeal, bulgur, and quinoa, are likely to have similar benefits.

For a bonus, chicken and vegetable soup with brown rice and low-sodium broth can boost potassium and reduce sodium while giving you whole grains.

9. Baked Chicken Sandwich Instead of Cold Cut Sandwich

Baked Chicken Sandwich

Getting rid of the nitrates and sodium in processed meat can make a big difference, according to a study that found a 1.25-mm Hg increase in SBP for each additional 25 grams of processed meat consumption per 2,000 calories. In other words, having less than an ounce a day of processed meat can raise SBP by over 1 mm Hg, with cold cuts and sausages having an even greater effect of 1.59 mm Hg.

For a bonus, a sandwich on whole-grain bread with low-fat cheese and mustard, instead of white bread with mayo or butter, can eliminate empty calories and increase adherence to DASH.

10. Chicken Stew Instead of Beef

Chicken Stew with Mushrooms

Eating red meat can raise blood pressure, according to an analysis that found each additional 50 grams of beef per 2,000 calories was linked to 0.74-mm Hg higher SBP. That means eating a 4-ounce portion of beef every day may be linked to about an increase in SBP of about 2 mm Hg.

As a bonus, adding tomato paste and spinach leaves can boost potassium content.

11. Water Instead of Soda

Drink Water

Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and sports drinks, are not just bad for your teeth. One study found that for each 12-ounce reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, there was a 0.7-mm Hg decrease in SBP. Cutting out 2 20-ounce bottles of soda a day could lead to a decrease in SBP of over 2 mmHg. Taking prescription medications properly and following doctor's orders can go a long way towards lowering blood pressure, and so can making smart food swaps. It does not need to be that complicated, since Lark can guide you in food choices and other steps to lower blood pressure.

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