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Foods To Eat & Avoid To Control High Blood Pressure

  • timeline Dt. Parvathy Menon
  • 5 Min Read

There are elements of pressure built into daily life, be it the pressure to perform at work, meet deadlines, being a good partner, parent etc. Amongst all this, a form of pressure that you can easily avoid, or control would be blood pressure. 

Blood pressure variations are often the root cause for other serious ailments or critical medical conditions. And it is interesting to note that its causes are just not related to stress. Considering the criticality of this condition, let us explore and understand what blood pressure is, its causes and how to control or avoid the same with an emphasis on how the right food intake and controlling certain aspects of your diet can play a big part in this.

High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition that occurs when the force of blood on the walls of your arteries is often too high, which causes the blood vessels to have consistently raised pressure. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart must pump. Having hypertension significantly raises your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. This is precisely why hypertension is also known as “the silent killer”, as you don’t notice symptoms until serious complications arise. High blood pressure can be caused due to various factors like:

  • Excessive sodium or salt intake
  • Consumption of alcohol and smoking 
  • Having an inactive lifestyle 
  • Being overweight or obese 
  • Stress 
  • Heredity

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Despite these reasons, it is possible to control blood pressure if you adapt to a healthy lifestyle. Ways in which this can be done include –

Making dietary changes 

  • Aim to have a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, beans, peas and lean protein like fish, poultry. 
  • Healthy fat in the form of nuts such as almonds, walnuts and seeds like flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds should also be included. 
  • Limit sugar and sugar-containing beverages, foods containing saturated fat, trans fat, red meat and cholesterol.  
  • Restricting sodium intake to 1500mg per day, which means using less than 1 teaspoon salt per day, and avoiding extra salt in the form of processed, bottled, canned and packaged food, junk food and avoiding eating at restaurants would also be beneficial. 
  • It is also important that you learn to read food labels before buying a product. While reading a food label, you should start with the portion size. If you eat more than one portion, then you need to adjust all of the numbers below. If the ingredient label shows the sodium content as more than 20% daily value, it means that the product is too high in sodium and must be avoided.
  • Focus on having foods that are rich in 
  1. Potassium such as green leafy vegetables, potatoes, bananas, oranges, melon. 
  2. Magnesium such as legumes, nuts, seeds, lean protein 
  3. Calcium like low-fat dairy, leafy greens, fortified foods 
  4. Fibre in the form of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  

A few ideas on how to get more of these nutrients would be, to include a serving of vegetables for lunch and dinner each day, eat fruits in place of sweets for dessert, go for unsalted varieties of nuts and seeds as a snacking option,  increase the use of low-fat milk products to 2-3 servings per day.

Regular physical activity

Including 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises consistently for at least 5-6 days a week.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Limiting alcohol & quitting cigarettes

Smoking and consuming too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you drink, then restrict yourself to not more than 2 drinks per month.  If you do smoke, seek help from your health care provider in finding the best way for you to quit.

Managing your stress levels 

Relaxation techniques to manage stress such as listening to music, meditation, exercises and connecting with supportive people would help.

Sample high blood pressure diet plan 
Pre-breakfast snack- 1 teaspoon of unsalted roasted flax seeds or  sunflower seeds + 1 glass lukewarm water + juice of 1 lemon + 4 soaked almonds + 2 soaked walnuts 

Breakfast– 1 bowl of oats with milk + 1 banana or whole wheat carrot-spinach paratha + curd

Lunch– 2 whole wheat roti+ 1 bowl mixed vegetable salad + dal+ sabzi made out of any green leafy vegetable or gourd variety vegetable or 1 cup brown rice vegetable pulao + 1 cup beetroot+ cucumber+ carrot raita made with a cup of curd + 1 bowl mixed vegetable salad 

Evening snack– 1 cup green tea or 1 glass fresh beetroot juice or ½ cup mixed fruit ( apple+ melon) or  1 teaspoon of unsalted roasted flax seeds or  sunflower seeds + 4 soaked almonds + 2 soaked walnuts

Dinner– 1 bowl mixed millets or oats khichdi + 1 cup green leafy vegetable sabzi + 1 cup dal/ curd 

Bedtime snack– 1 glass skimmed milk + 3 soaked almonds 

It’s important to make significant lifestyle changes

People with high blood pressure, tend to feel that those who have low blood pressure are luckier. But the fact is that low blood pressure or hypotension is as dangerous as high blood pressure.

Low blood pressure can make you feel dizzy and this could happen due to various reasons like getting up and standing suddenly from a lying down position, standing for a long time in one position, underlying medical condition such as heart disease, dehydration due to diarrhoea, vomiting or lack of water intake, exposure to extreme weather conditions, and side effects of certain medications. You can deal with low blood pressure by making necessary changes in your diet and lifestyle. 

  1. Make sure that you stay hydrated with 2.5-3 litres of water or any form of liquid every day. Hydration is the key as this helps in normalizing blood volume. 
  2. Liberal use of salt- Sprinkle salt to your porridges, salads, fruit, curd or buttermilk.
  3. Eat small frequent meals and avoid long gaps between meals – Having frequent meals ensures that your salt and fluid intake is maintained, which helps in preventing your blood pressure from dropping too low.
  4. Make sure that you do not stand or sit for too long. In case you happen to sit for a prolonged time, make sure that you sit with leg raised at a normal height. You can also wear compressed stockings, which will help to improve your blood flow towards the upper direction. 
  5. Limit alcohol consumption.
  6. Treat any underlying medical condition.
  7. If your blood pressure had dropped suddenly and you begin to feel dizzy, have a cup of coffee or tea. It may help spike blood pressure by stimulating the cardiovascular system and boosting your heart rate.
  8. Include basil leaves in your diet. You can add fresh basil leaves to your dishes or can have the extract of 10-15 basil leaves in a glass of water on an empty stomach daily. 
  9. Add Vitamin B12 rich sources such as eggs, chicken, fish and low-fat dairy and foods that are rich in folate like green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, broccoli, nuts, seeds and legumes frequently in your diet. A deficiency of Vit B12 and Folate can lead to anaemia, which can further cause a drop in your blood pressure. 

As is clear, high or low – blood pressure is something that’s best kept away or in control. The idea is to keep smiling, enjoy life and be positive while leading a healthy lifestyle and eating right. When you focus on this, you will surely be able to kiss goodbye to the pressures in life including that of the blood. 

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    Dt. Parvathy Menon

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