Foods that Lower Blood Pressure: Healthy Alternatives This Holiday Season
December 13, 2019
It's that time of year again. The holidays are here. Stores have begun creating festive window displays, holiday music is on the radio, and children rush to meet Santa in malls all across the country. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both joyous times of the year when families gather together, gifts are exchanged, and rooms are filled with laughter. And then, there's the food. It can be easy to overindulge this time of year. But those who suffer from hypertension should avoid such temptations and look for healthy alternatives to foods made with whole milk, salt, and excessive amounts of butter.
Leafy greens are a healthy food choice in general, but they're exceptionally beneficial to those with hypertension due to their potassium content. Potassium works within the kidneys to help the body rid itself of excess sodium. Leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach, and turnip greens all contain high levels of potassium and are excellent choices for a holiday meal. It's best to buy fresh or frozen when shopping for leafy greens since canned vegetables like turnip greens and spinach contain added sodium.
For people that have a sweet tooth, berries make a healthy alternative to desserts that were made with milk and butter. Blueberries are the best choice for seniors with hypertension, due to their high levels of anthocyanins. While all berries contain anthocyanins, blueberries offer the highest amount of it, and recent studies have shown that consuming blueberries daily can help reduce blood pressure. Still, raspberries and strawberries are also great alternatives to traditional desserts at a Thanksgiving table.
Dark chocolate is another excellent alternative to desserts, such as pumpkin pie, which has around 317 mg of sodium per slice. To benefit from dark chocolate, you should consume high-quality chocolates that contain a minimum of 70 percent cocoa. It's important to choose chocolate with high cocoa content since cocoa-rich chocolate can help to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Instead of indulging in red meats, people with hypertension should choose fish as their source of protein. Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can lower blood pressure and help reduce inflammation. Salmon also contains vitamin D, which is a rare find in food and can also benefit someone with hypertension. Salmon can be prepared in a variety of ways, so it can easily find its place on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.
A great way to snack during the holidays is to munch on unsalted seeds. Sunflower, pumpkin, and squash seeds are all high in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals known to reduce blood pressure, making them the perfect way to stay healthy between meals.
Sweet potatoes are a common sight on the Thanksgiving table and can be prepared in a variety of ways. While those who suffer from hypertension should avoid digging into the sweet potato casserole, which is prepared with butter and covered in tons of gooey marshmallows, they can indulge in regularly prepared sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are an excellent holiday choice because they are a potassium-rich food. Potassium works within the body to reduce the effects of sodium and alleviate tension in the walls of blood vessels. Other potassium-rich foods are avocados, bananas, beans, tuna, and mushrooms. It's important to note that those who also suffer from kidney disease should speak to their doctors about potassium before indulging since too much potassium could be harmful to them.
In 2015, researchers reported that those who drink one cup of red beet juice every day for four weeks saw reduced blood pressure, and some positive effects were noticed in as little as 24 hours. While beets might not be the most popular of foods, they can be extremely beneficial for people with hypertension this holiday season. In addition to juice, beets can be consumed in salads or prepared as a healthy side dish.
Pomegranates are a healthy fruit that can be enjoyed raw or as a juice. According to a study, conducted in 2012, drinking one cup of pomegranate juice daily for 28 days can lower blood pressure in the short term. This is because the fruit contains high levels of antioxidants. If you or a loved one decides to enjoy this fruit as a pre-bought juice, make sure to check that there is no added sugar content.
Garlic provides many health benefits, making it an excellent addition to anyone's diet. Not only is it a natural antibiotic and antifungal, but research suggests that garlic increases a person's natural production of nitric oxide, which helps smooth muscles and promote relaxation. This causes blood vessels to dilate and can reduce hypertension. Garlic can easily be used to add flavor to a variety of holiday dishes this year and is a great way to cut back on the use of salt.
Pistachios are another great food to snack on between meals. Not only are they tasty, but one study suggests that eating a serving of pistachios a day can help reduce blood pressure. In addition to snacking, pistachios can be added to crusts, pesto sauces, and salads.
Cooking with olive oil is a great idea for everyday meals as well as holiday dishes. It's a perfect example of healthy fat and can be very beneficial to heart health. Olive oil makes the list of healthy food because it contains polyphenols, which are inflammation-fighting compounds that can help reduce blood pressure. Those preparing Thanksgiving or Christmas meals for loved ones with hypertension this year should use olive oil instead of butter whenever they're able.
Keep in mind that these tips can be used throughout the year – not just during the holidays. Be sure to incorporate healthy foods into your everyday life.