Most of us are used to hearing about the foods that raise blood pressure — the ones that actually lower it, not so much. Here are some foods that accomplish just that primarily by promoting vasodilation, or the relaxation of blood vessel walls to allow unimpeded blood circulation.
The most wholesome fruit most people can think of, these wonderfully handy fruits contain plenty of polyphenols and potassium, two compounds that actively fight blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and promoting free flow throughout the circulatory system.
This deeply delicious treat when used in moderation has been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. A 2011 Harvard study found eating one small square of dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa) reduced it in all participants, but especially those with hypertension.
Anthocyanins are part of the secret sauce of these smallest and darkest berries. These compounds help to regulate the inner lining of your blood vessels and aid blood flow. One recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology found they might prevent hypertension as well.
Whether they’re fresh or dried, these are another great source of potassium, which counteracts the negative effects of sodium through dilating vessels and discharging sodium as waste. Eating these doesn’t give you a free pass on eating all the salt you’d like, however.
Several studies have vindicated the use of garlic for circulatory health as far back as ancient Egypt, finding it can have the same impact as common anti-hypertension drugs while causing few side effects. This is attributed to allicin, its primary active ingredient, which may prevent the production of another compound known to cause blood vessels to contract.
Extra-virgin Olive Oil
This is believed to be the heart healthiest of the three grades of olive oil because it is the least processed and has the highest polyphenol content. A 2020 study by a team of Australian researchers found extra-virgin olive oil to have the most positive effect on systolic blood pressure. This is the “top” number in a blood pressure and thought to be the most important for measuring heart health.
Consumption of 600 mg or more of this healthiest of teas has been linked to a lower risk of developing high blood pressure in several studies, likely due to its catechins and their interaction with a protein in the blood vessels. Green tea has been shown to block the effects of one drug taken for high blood pressure, nadolol, so do consult your doctor about any interactions if you are on this medication.
A 2015 review of 21 studies concluded that consuming any type of nut can have a positive effect on blood pressure in subjects who don’t have Type 2 diabetes, but pistachios had the greatest effect on both systolic and diastolic (the second number in readings) blood pressure. These particular nuts are loaded with L-arginine, which converts into nitric oxide that promotes vasodilation.