Pictured Recipe: Hibiscus-Pomegranate Iced Tea
If you're serious about lowering your blood pressure, you probably already know to ditch high-sodium foods like deli meats, canned soups and frozen pizzas. Ditto for unhealthy fats and sugary sweets and sodas, which can pack on pounds and hike up your risk of hypertension.
But what about foods you need to eat more of? Research shows that eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables plus lean protein can help prevent and control high blood pressure. That's why many folks have turned to the plant-based DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, an eating plan that's been proven in clinical trials to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
Of course, what you choose to drink matters, too. Here are three refreshing beverages backed by science to help lower blood pressure—plus one to avoid. Add these three to a smart diet, get started with a safe exercise program, and you'll be on your way to better blood pressure and a healthier heart. Cheers!
1. Low-fat or Nonfat Milk
Pictured Recipe: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Banana Smoothie
Raise your glass to milk: it's high in phosphorus, potassium and calcium—three nutrients associated with healthy blood pressure—and it's fortified with vitamin D, a vitamin that promotes healthy blood pressure. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, swapping out full-fat dairy for low-fat versions may also help lower blood pressure. That's because full-fat dairy contains significant amounts of palmitic acid, which can block signals that relax blood vessels, allowing blood to flow freely. Arteries that stay tight and constricted may lead to elevated blood pressure, the study authors explain.
2. Hibiscus Tea
Pictured Recipe: Cucumber-Peach Hibiscus Agua Fresca
Drinking hibiscus tea can significantly lower blood pressure, particularly when it is slightly elevated, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers say hibiscus tea has anthocyanins and other antioxidants that may help blood vessels resist damage that can cause them to narrow. Many herbal tea blends contain hibiscus, which brews up bright red and delivers a tart flavor. According to the study authors, you have to drink quite a bit: they recommend three cups a day. To get the full benefits, steep for six minutes before sipping it hot or cold.
3. Pomegranate Juice
Pictured Recipe: Pomegranate Berry Smoothie
If you're worried about your blood pressure, it's time you said hello to this sweet ruby-red fruit. Loaded with potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients, pomegranate juice has three times the antioxidant activity of green tea or red wine. It's no surprise, then, that a 2017 review of clinically sound studies found that regularly drinking pomegranate juice can significantly reduce blood pressure. In one of the studies, drinking pomegranate juice improved systolic blood pressure (the higher number in a blood pressure reading) regardless of how many weeks participants drank it.
One Drink to Avoid: Alcohol
A little wine every day may be good for your heart, but too much over time can make your blood pressure soar. And it's not just wine that's to blame—experts say any type of alcohol can make blood pressure rise. The good news? Cut back on booze and your blood pressure can improve in as little as two to four weeks, some experts say. Follow the American Heart Association's guidelines: no more than two drinks a day if you're a man and one drink a day if you're a woman.
Watch: 7 Foods to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Related: High Blood Pressure Diet Center
Some original reporting by Caroline H. Gottesman