Home Cures From the Kitchen to Reduce High Blood Pressure
Key Ingredients From Nature with Healing Properties for Blood Pressure
In the classic horror novel, Dracula, author Bram Stoker introduced the idea that garlic repels vampires. Thankfully, vampires only exist in the imaginations of fiction writers!
But in the real world, there is a menace, a silent killer, just as deadly. And it so happens that garlic actually does help repel this threat. That menace is high blood pressure. (Of course if there were vampires, sucking a little blood out of someone might also lower their blood pressure—but the side effects would be undesirable!)
Back to the real world; the American Heart Association estimates that one in three adults over 20 suffers with high blood pressure (HBP). We often refer to HBP as the “silent killer” because most of the time there are no symptoms. But left untreated, HBP damages your circulatory system and contributes to heart attack, stroke and other health issues. Complications resulting from HBP also include heart disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries, and eye damage.
Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff and anything 140/90 and higher is considered high. Normal is in the 120/70 range. Anything between normal and high is called hypertension. The American Heart Association views HBP as a major public health concern.
High Blood Pressure Drugs Aren’t the Answer!
To a great extent, HBP results from our lifestyle choices. That being the case, it doesn’t make sense to try to reverse the damage with a pill. Unless we change our lifestyle, drugs are merely addressing symptoms, not the cause. But there are even more compelling reasons not to reach for a pill.
Recently, the University of Alabama conducted a study following 26,785 people with high blood pressure for 6.3 years. The participants all took blood pressure medication in order to lower their blood pressure below 140/90. 4,090 of those people could not get their blood pressure under control with meds.
But that’s not the most disturbing part. By the end of the study, more than 820 participants had suffered a stroke. The study indicated that taking blood pressure medicine actually increased a person’s risk for stroke by two-and-a-half times!
Research team leader, Dr. George Howard explained, “Relying solely on [medication] is going to come at a dear price of people’s lives.”
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Decrease your stress.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- Reduce salt intake while increasing potassium intake.
We’ll save those first three approaches for another article and focus on the last two. In fact, I’m going to begin with approach #5: Reduce salt intake while increasing potassium intake.
In recent years, it would have been pretty hard to miss the emphasis in our culture on lowering your sodium (salt) intake. Everything from soups, cereals, and many snack foods now display, “Low Sodium” emblazoned across their packages.
The irony of the current low sodium kick is that restricting sodium intake alone does not lower blood pressure in most people. Numerous studies have shown that reducing your salt intake is a worthless measure unless you increase your potassium intake at the same time.
In fact, a diet high in sodium and low in potassium is usually typical with someone who has HBP. Conversely, someone who follows an eating plan low in sodium but high in potassium will lower their blood pressure. And by far, the best way to increase your potassium levels is to eat foods that are naturally high in potassium. These include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish.
Foods High in Potassium
- Dried apricots, peaches, prunes, raisins
- Spinach and other dark, leafy greens
- Squash (acorn, Hubbard, butternut, zucchini, and winter squash)
- Yogurt and kefir
- Avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, celery and carrots
- Mushrooms (white, portabella, brown, Enoki, Shiitake, and Maitake)
- Legumes (e.g., white, lima, kidney, pinto, and Great Northern beans)
- Fish (salmon, halibut, pompano, lingcod, yellowfin tuna, mackerel, herring and anchovies)
Cereal grains also have a high potassium-to-sodium-ratio. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends a 3 to 1 ratio of potassium to sodium in a given food for it to have the desired health benefits of lowering blood pressure. Whole grain flour of most grains is high in potassium. Some of these grains and pseudo-grains include:
- Brown rice (not white, because the potassium is in the bran)
- Wheat germ
- Hulled barley
Obviously, if you suffer from high blood sugar or other health issues, you’ll want to pick and choose from that list.
Cooking has little effect on potassium. However, potassium is water soluble. Therefore, if you cook something that’s high in potassium and then discard the water after cooking, you’ve probably thrown away much of the potassium. For this reason, a baked potato is better than boiled, for example. Look for ways to cook potassium-rich foods that retains its potassium.
Looking back over the above lists of foods high in potassium, you might conclude, “If I ate like that, I’d be eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.” Of course, that was our fourth recommended approach to preventing and/or treating HBP!
Although it may not be the season for soup right now, a vegetable or minestrone soup is one very healthy way to lower blood pressure. In fact, Dr. James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, likes to call minestrone soup, “Medistrone,” because it’s so medicinal in its effect on HBP.
In addition to all those great fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods, you can also spice up your food to help lower blood pressure.
Spices and Herbs that Lower Blood Pressure
Far from merely making things taste better, many herbs and spices contain powerful compounds that not only help lower blood pressure but provide other important nutrients as well. Consider these herbs and spices that are known to lower blood pressure:
- Black pepper
Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Normalize Blood Pressure
Remember various kinds of fish on our list of high potassium foods above? Another great reason to eat fish is for their omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not a fish-lover, there are some other great ways to get omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Research gathered from 70 different clinical trials revealed that people who consume omega-3 fatty acids lower their blood pressure significantly.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to support brain function, reduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular health. Here are some of the foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids:
- Flaxseed oil
- Fish oil
- Chia seeds
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Caviar (for the more discriminating palate!)
- Fish (fresh, canned or cured): salmon, sardines, cod, herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, halibut, and swordfish
- Mussels: clams, oysters, squid
Let’s put some of these healthy foods together into a couple of tasty summer recipes aimed at lowering blood pressure.
Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon
This is a delicious way to prepare salmon that even non-fish-lovers may enjoy. Serves 4.
- A cedar plank about 6” x 18” (or long enough for your salmon filet)
- 1 large wild salmon filet
- 1 medium onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- Avocado oil
- Black pepper
- Soak cedar plank in fresh, clean water for 2 hours prior to using. (Hint: for a few dollars, you can buy an untreated cedar fence board at a local hardware store and cut it into the desired lengths. Be sure it is untreated!)
- Preheat gas, pellet, or charcoal grill to medium-high heat.
- Rinse and pat salmon filet dry with a paper towel. Lay salmon filet, skin-side-down on the plank and slather its topside with avocado oil.
- Slice the onion and distribute the rings on top of the salmon.
- Slice, dice or crush the garlic and sprinkle over the salmon.
- Pepper to taste.
- Lay cedar plank with salmon on it directly on the grill grate and close grill. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until done. Serve salmon hot, right off the plank!
Mixed Summer Salad
This delicious salad is like the non-soup version of minestrone. It serves 4 and complements your cedar plank salmon.
- 1 – 8 oz. bag of fresh organic spinach
- 1 avocado, peeled and cubed
- 2 fresh Roma tomatoes diced, or about 16 cherry tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini sliced, then quartered
- 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced
- 1 cup sliced white mushrooms
- Several leaves of fresh basil, chopped
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Prepare and toss all vegetables, basil and mushrooms.
- Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss.
If you have high blood pressure, don’t wait until HBP takes its toll on your body. Help prevent or treat HBP now by eating foods high in potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating delicious foods like this will probably help you lose weight too!