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8 Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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Salmon on cutting board

Plant-based diets and diets high in fruits and vegetables are strongly associated with lower blood pressure -- so much so that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially recommends adopting healthy eating practices as one of the primary actions to take to prevent or lower high blood pressure and hypertension.

DASH, which stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," is the eating plan recommended by the NIH. It features foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, with a particular focus on fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The eight foods on this list are DASH-approved. Not only are they packed with nutrients that support overall health, but they also help lower blood pressure. Here's how:

1. Celery

Mark Houston, a physician and medical director of the Hypertension Institute of Nashville at Saint Thomas Hospital, recommends celery to patients as a natural remedy for lowering blood pressure. This recommendation isn't anything new: Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been prescribing celery or celery root to patients with high blood pressure for more than a century.

How it works: Celery contains phytochemicals known as phthalides, which relax the muscle tissue in the artery walls, enabling increased blood flow and, in turn, lowering blood pressure.

How much: According to Houston, eating four stalks of celery per day may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. For a boost of protein, add a tablespoon of unsalted peanut butter or almond butter; both are high in monounsaturated fat (the heart-healthy kind).

2. Cold-water fish

Cold-water fish are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which are famous for their cardiovascular benefits. In particular, omega-3s lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Wild (not farmed) salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, trout, halibut, herring, and sardines are among the best sources.

How it works: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids: The human body can't make them, so we need to get them from the food we eat. Omega-3s seem to positively influence several cardiac risk factors, such as blood triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), heart rate, and atherosclerosis (plaque in artery walls).

How much: According to the joint guidelines from the FDA and the EPA, two six-ounce servings per week of most cold-water fish is a safe amount for most people, including pregnant women and nursing mothers, to reap the health benefits with minimal risk from exposure to toxins. If you bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor about potential complications.

3. Broccoli

Nutritionally speaking, broccoli is a red-carpet regular, connecting the worlds of scientific research and natural health. This cruciferous veggie is hailed as a super-food because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And when it comes lowering blood pressure, broccoli sells itself.

How it works: Broccoli is a potent package of fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, all nutrients that may help lower blood pressure. One cup of steamed broccoli provides nearly 200 percent of the vitamin C you need each day. Researchers aren't sure how, exactly, vitamin C helps. Theories range from the vitamin promoting the excretion of lead to calming the sympathetic nervous system to protecting nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow. But the results are the same: Antioxidant vitamin C helps bring down blood pressure.

How much: For the myriad health benefits you can reap from regular consumption of broccoli, most people would do well to eat at least one serving a day. For variety, eat it raw with salsa or hummus, or steamed with olive oil and lemon. If you have a juicer, run the stalks and leaves through for a spicy green sipper.

4. Dandelion

For more than a century, dandelion has been used as a cure-all for countless conditions and ailments in cultures around the world, particularly in its native Asia and Europe. The entire plant is edible, from leaves to roots. And in addition to lowering blood pressure, it's good for the liver, eyes, and skin.

How it works: A natural diuretic, dandelion helps reduce blood pressure by releasing excess sodium without the loss of potassium (as occurs with some over-the-counter diuretics). This is doubly important because excess sodium raises blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, while potassium helps regulate it. Dandelion is also loaded with magnesium, a mineral that is critical to proper function of the heart and muscles.

How much: Eat fresh dandelion greens in a salad, sauté dandelion roots in a stir-fry, or drink dried dandelion in a tea. Incorporate dandelion into your diet as often as you can; it's really good for you, and in any form you find it (except on your lawn), chances are that it's organic -- grown without harmful pesticides or herbicides.