Lower Blood Pressure with a Plant-Based Diet
Lower Your Blood Pressure With a Whole Food Plant Based Diet
Eating a predominately plant-based diet is associated with reduced blood pressure. In fact, in studies that put people on a high vegetable, fruit, whole grain and legume diet versus an omnivorous diet, the systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) was lower.
A plant-based diet can be anything from full vegan to a vegetarian with healthy fats. If embracing the diet feels overwhelming, start small by lowering your animal food intake to one or two servings per day.
1. Lower sodium intake
A plant based diet is naturally low in sodium, and the best way to limit your sodium intake is to avoid processed foods. Instead, stick to whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. When shopping, read the ingredients list on food packages and choose those with the lowest amount of salt.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) affects nearly 68 million Americans and can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Changing your diet can significantly reduce and stabilize your blood pressure.
A plant based diet promotes cardiovascular health by preventing, halting and in some cases even reversing the effects of atherosclerosis, or the clogging and hardening of arteries. This is accomplished by minimizing things that damage endothelium (eg saturated fats, TMAO etc) and providing ingredients that protect it (eg antioxidants) resulting in a subtle relaxation of arteries throughout the body leading to reduced blood pressure.
2. Increase fiber intake
A diet rich in whole foods, plants and vegetables has been shown to be effective at preventing, halting and even reversing heart disease. This is largely due to the lower sodium intake but also because of the abundance of fiber, which helps regulate blood pressure.
Fiber can be found in a wide range of plant based foods including fruit, veggies, whole grains and legumes. Many people who go vegan or completely plant based get much more than the recommended amount of fiber per day.
However, if you’re new to a high-fiber diet, it is important to slowly increase your intake over time. This will help minimize problems like bloating, gas and constipation. Try adding ground flax to oatmeal, avocado to your veggie chili or seeds to a salad to help get you started! And remember to drink plenty of water. Fiber pulls water into your stool and can cause dehydration if you’re not drinking enough.
3. Reduce saturated fat intake
High levels of saturated fat can lead to an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides which will raise your blood pressure. Studies have shown that people who stick with a healthy plant based diet reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol significantly.
Plant-based diets are low in saturated fat compared to animal-based foods and typically contain more heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Plant-forward diets are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids which may help prevent hypertension, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal.
A healthy plant based diet, containing whole grains, beans and legumes, vegetables and fruits can reduce your triglycerides and lower your blood pressure. Speak to your health care team about making these changes to optimize your heart health.
4. Reduce sugar intake
Eating a whole food plant based diet can help you reduce sugar intake because it limits refined sugar and reduces the fats and salt that make junk foods oh so appealing. As your taste buds adjust to more subtle flavours your cravings for junk food will decrease.
Plant-based diets are not all the same, and they don’t have to involve a full vegetarian or vegan diet. They can be as simple as focusing on eating more plant-based, non-animal options like whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
When making the switch to a plant-based diet, keep in mind that it’s best to start off slowly, and try to avoid processed and low-fat foods which are often high in added sugars. This will allow you to gradually get your body used to the new lifestyle and lower and stabilize your blood pressure readings. Having a normal blood pressure reading is essential to a healthy life and can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other health conditions.