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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

 Food/Diet Therapy for Hypertension

Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.

Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarians, in general, have lower blood pressure levels and a lower incidence of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. Experts postulate that a typical vegetarian's diet contains more potassium, complex carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fat, fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin A, all of which may have a favorable influence on blood pressure.


A high-fiber diet has been shown to be effective in preventing and treating many forms of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension. 
The types of dietary fiber is important. Of the greatest benefit to hypertension are the water soluble gel-forming fibers such as oat bran, apple pectin, psyllium seeds, and guar gum. These fibers, in addition to be of benefit against hypertension, are also useful to reduce cholesterol levels, promote weight loss, chelate out heavy metals, etc.

Take one to three tablespoons of herbal bulking formula containing such things as oat fiber, guar gum, apple pectin, gum karaya, psyllium seed, dandelion root powder, ginger root powder, fenugreek seed powder and fennel seed powder.


Sucrose, common table sugar, elevates blood pressure. Underlying mechanism is not clearly understood. It is possible that sugar increases the production of adrenaline, which in turn, increases blood vessel constriction and sodium retention.

Take a diet that is rich in high potassium foods (vegetables and fruits) and essential fatty acids. Daily intake of potassium should total 7 grams per day. The diet should be low in saturated fat, sugar and salt. In general, a whole food diet emphasizing vegetables and members of the garlic/onion family should be consumed.

In an NIH sponsored research called "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)," researchers tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. The results showed that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasized fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and was low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH diet included whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. It employed reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.

See Also: The Healthier Eating Plan

Reduce Salt and Sodium in Your Diet

A key to healthy eating is choosing foods lower in salt and sodium. Before the widespread availability of medication to control high blood pressure, people with serious hypertension had only one treatment option, a drastically salt-reduced, low-calorie "rice diet." Some people can significantly lower their blood pressure by avoiding salt.

Studies show that people in countries that use a great deal of salt in their cooking tend to have higher blood pressures than people in countries that use little salt. For example, the Japanese, whose cuisine is among the saltiest in the world, also have the highest blood pressure; and so do Americans. Americans take it for granted that blood pressure will rise as we age. But in countries with low per-capita salt intake, blood pressure does not rise significantly after puberty. For example, blacks in Africa, who typically eat a low-salt, high-fiber diet, have relatively low blood pressure, but for African-Americans, just the opposite is true. Nearly 50 percent of all African-Americans have high blood pressure, often beginning early in life.

Excessive consumption of dietary sodium chloride (salt), coupled with diminished dietary potassium, induces an increase in fluid volume and an impairment of blood pressure regulating mechanisms. This results in hypertension in susceptible individuals.

A high potassium-low sodium diet reduces the rise in blood pressure during mental stress by reducing the blood vessel constricting effect of adrenaline. Sodium restriction alone does not improve blood pressure control; it must be accompanied by a high potassium intake.

Most of us consume more salt than we need. NIH recommends limiting the sodium consumption to less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams [mg] ) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day. The 6 grams include ALL salt and sodium consumed, including that used in cooking and at the table. Recent research has shown that people consuming diets of 1,500 mg of sodium had even better blood pressure lowering benefits. So, your doctor may advise eating less salt and sodium if you are suffering from high blood pressure. The lower-sodium diets also can keep blood pressure from rising and help blood pressure medicines work better.

In a clinical study, researchers looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH diet or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH diet and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH diet at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day). This study showed the importance of lowering sodium intake in your diet.

Watch what you eat. Do not add additional salt to your food. If you have high blood pressure, avoid eating certain highly processed, overly salted foods, such as frozen pizza, canned salted vegetables, meals from fast-food restaurants, and the like. 

Beneficial Vegetables and Spices for Hypertension

A number of common vegetables and spices have beneficial effects in controlling hypertension. Incorporate these into your cooking. Alternately, you can make a tea or a vegetable soup.

Celery (Apium graveolens). Oriental Medicine practitioners have long used celery for lowering high blood pressure. There are some experimental evidence that shows that celery is useful for this. In one animal study, laboratory animals injected with celery extract showed lowered blood pressure. Eating as few as four celery stalks was found to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure in human beings.

Garlic (Allium sativum). Garlic is a wonder drug for heart. It has beneficial effects in all cardiovascular system including blood pressure. In a study, when people with high blood pressure were given one clove of garlic a day for 12 weeks, their diastolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels were significantly reduced. Eating quantities as small as one clove of garlic a day was found to have beneficial effects on managing hypertension. Use garlic in your cooking, salad, soup, pickles, etc. It is very versatile.

Onion (Allium cepa). Onions are useful in hypertension. What is best is the onion essential oil. Two to three tablespoons of onion essential oil a day was found to lower the systolic levels by an average of 25 points and the diastolic levels by 15 points in hypertension subjects. This should not be surprising because onion is a cousin of garlic.

Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum). Tomatoes are high in gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), a compound that can help bring down blood pressure.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea). This vegetable contains several active ingredients that reduce blood pressure.

Carrot (Daucus carota). Carrots also contain several compounds that lower blood pressure.

Saffron (Crocus sativus). Saffron contains a chemical called crocetin that lowers the blood pressure. You can use saffron in your cooking. (It is a very popular spice in Arabic cooking.) You can also make a tea with it. Many Indians add a pinch of saffron in the brewed tea to give a heavenly flavor. Unfortunately, it is very expensive.

Assorted spices
Spices such as fennel, oregano, black pepper, basil and tarragon have active ingredients that is beneficial in hypertension. Use them in your cooking.

See Also: 

Vitamin/Nutrition Therapy for hypertension

Herbal Medicine for hypertension

Diet and Nutrition Therapy for Cardiovascular Health

American Heart Association's Dietary Guidelines for Heart Diseases and Stroke

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