Good news! There is a way to lower your blood pressure with food! It’s easy to do and can be done within minutes.
The magical answer … Smoothies!
This article will provide a step-by-step guide on preparing smoothies for high blood pressure that are heart-friendly and refreshing!
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Why Should We Be Concerned About Blood Pressure?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common problem worldwide, but especially in North America. Between 2012 to 2015, high blood pressure affected 1 in 4 Canadians (1). So, if you have high blood pressure, know that you are not alone.
Currently, there is no cure for high blood pressure. Still, it is a manageable and preventable condition. Once diagnosed, controlling it is essential to avoid further damage to your body. If not controlled high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.
But I’d be lying if I said high blood pressure is easy to manage. There are no immediate symptoms of high blood pressure. This means, that individuals with high blood pressure may not feel all that different and may not be aware of, let alone find the need to prioritize it.
Hopefully, gaining a better understanding of high blood pressure and how to manage it can motivate you to want to and actually start getting it under control because as I said in the introduction, there are ways to successfully do it!
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is the pressure or force of your blood against your artery wall. Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mm Hg.
The top number is the systolic reading, which measures the force of your blood when your heart is contracting. This number is usually the higher of the two (around 120 mm Hg).
The bottom number is the diastolic reading, which measures the force when your heart is relaxing. For this reason, this number is usually the lower of the two (around 80 mm Hg).
Having high blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to push all your blood through your arteries and veins. Over time, this will damage and narrow your artery walls, making your arteries more vulnerable to plaque build-up.
For this reason, high blood pressure is a risk factor for developing heart and kidney diseases.
Risk Factors For High Blood Pressure
The 2020 Hypertension Canada guidelines state that you are more likely to develop hypertension if you have:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Physical inactivity
How To Manage High Blood Pressure
The good news is that you can manage it! We can’t control some things that increase our risk, such as age, sex, genetics, and family history. But there are still some other essential things that we can do something about, including:
- Eating well and following a DASH-like eating pattern
- Exercising and being moderately physically active for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week (that’s only 30 minutes, 5 days a week)
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Stop smoking
- Managing stress
- Sleeping well
For this article, I will focus on food choices to lower blood pressure.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was created as a way to lower your blood pressure.
The DASH diet focuses on eating more vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk, whole grains, fish, poultry, and legumes. Indeed, much research on the DASH diet indicates that it is effective at helping lower blood pressure (2).
Eating according to the DASH diet can significantly reduce blood pressure. In fact, some research suggests the top number (or systolic number) can reduce by 11 mm Hg and the bottom number (the diastolic number) can decrease by 5 mm Hg when eating the DASH way (3).
Hopefully, this gives you some motivation to make some dietary changes.
Nutrients To Lower High Blood Pressure
Essential nutrients that can help lower our blood pressure are potassium, magnesium, calcium, plant protein, and dietary fiber, which I will discuss in the next section.
Potassium is a key mineral in the DASH diet, and for a good reason! A diet low in sodium and high in potassium is linked to improved blood pressure.
Potassium plays many roles in regulating blood pressure and maintaining fluid balance. One of which is strengthening your blood vessels after being exposed to a lot of tension due to high blood pressure (4).
You can find potassium in various fruits, such as apricots, dates, kiwi, mango, orange and papaya, beans, and lentils.
Magnesium is another essential mineral needed to support basic bodily functions such as regulating our blood pressure.
Magnesium is responsible for helping the body make nitric oxide, which allows our blood vessels to dilate (widen) and lower your blood pressure. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, which help protect your blood vessel walls from becoming clogged up (5).
Magnesium can be found in various food sources. These include dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Believe it or not, calcium is vital in building strong bones AND regulating your blood pressure! Calcium helps to control whether your blood vessels will constrict (tighten) and dilate (relax) (6). Too much constriction will cause an increase in blood pressure, and calcium helps to regulate this.
Foods rich in calcium are dairy products (including dairy milk, cheese, or yogurt), non-dairy beverages (like calcium-fortified plant milk such as soy or oat milk), green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, and Brussel sprouts, tofu, and fish with the bones.
Plant protein refers to a protein that is found in plants. Common plant protein sources are legumes, beans, lentils, hemp seeds, tofu, and nut butter.
Studies have shown that plant protein can lower blood pressure (7). Eating more plant-based protein means you may be eating less saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Also, plant-based protein means you get to eat more fiber, which has been known to improve blood pressure.
Dietary fiber is an excellent nutrient that can improve your blood pressure. The blood pressure-lowering capability of dietary fiber is attributed to its ability to lower blood cholesterol and helps insulin metabolism, an essential function in regulating blood pressure (8).
Women are recommended to consume 25 g of fiber, and men are recommended to eat at least 38 g of fiber daily. But most North Americans are not meeting these recommendations.
However, you can increase your intake of fiber by eating more of these foods; legumes, nuts and seeds (such as chia seeds), vegetables and fruits, and whole grains.
Foods To Lower High Blood Pressure
It’s easy (and probably sexier) for me to tell you to eat more of this and that nutrient, but technically we eat food, not nutrients. So, it’s essential to focus on eating more whole foods.
It’s also important to focus on whole foods and not supplements, as the research does not show the same blood pressure reduction when supplements are used instead of food. Using large doses of one nutrient in a supplement can be dangerous. But, it’s virtually impossible for you to “overdose” on a nutrient through food.
Foods that we should be eating more of are fresh whole foods and less ultra-processed foods. This means eating more fruits, vegetables, meats or poultry or fish, whole grains, seeds, and beans and legumes while eating less refined bread, prepackaged snack foods, and restaurant meals/fast food.
The DASH diet recommends 6-8 servings of grains, 6 or fewer servings of meats, poultry, or fish, 4 to 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each, and 4 to 5 servings of nuts, and seeds, beans, or peas (9).
Need more ideas on which foods to try in your smoothie? Check out this list of 39 foods that unclog blood pressure.
Smoothies Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
You can start to see where I’m going with this.
Vegetables and fruits are so important for managing high blood pressure. I can’t stress enough how vital it is to incorporate as many as possible into your diet.
I know this is not an easy task, and preparing healthy meals full of veggies and fruits may be one of the most challenging things when following any diet or taking on dietary changes. Making sure you have a balanced plate at every meal is complex and time-consuming.
But don’t you worry, because an easy way to eat more fruits and vegetables and lower your blood pressure is in the form of delicious smoothies.
Smoothies for blood pressure can serve as a substitute for your meals. Although you are blending and drinking foods, you still get the same nutrients as you would if you ate the whole version of the food.
Plus, smoothies for high blood pressure are easy, quick, and fun to make as they come in various colors!
How To Make Smoothies To Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you’re a picky eater and or have different dietary preferences and tastes, don’t worry because below is a general guide to creating smoothies. I highly encourage you to follow this formula as it is easy and quick, and anyone can pretty much do it.
BONUS: enjoying your food can increase the absorption of nutrients, so why not add food that you like! You can be as creative as you want!
Step 1: Add Vegetables
All vegetables are excellent sources of potassium. But some notable ones are great at controlling blood pressure …
Beets are vegetables with blood-pressure-lowering capabilities! Beets contain nitrate, a compound that helps form nitric oxide (10). Long story short, nitric oxide helps to widen our arteries and lower blood pressure.
Carrots are also full of nutrients such as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and polyphenols. Many of these nutrients are antioxidants that help lower LDL cholesterol and platelet aggregation, which help to prevent the narrowing of the arteries and help regulate blood pressure (11).
Another great vegetable to add to smoothies to lower blood pressure is your leafy greens. Like beets, they are great sources of nitrates and calcium (12)! Leafy greens are your common cabbage, kale, spinach, collard greens, and lettuce.
Celery is also great as it contains phytochemicals called phthalides, which increase blood flow and lowers blood pressure (13).
Step 2: Add Fruit
Any fruit works for smoothies, so you can choose based on what you like! But it is also essential that you choose whole fruits instead of juices. Since whole fruits do not undergo processing, most of their nutrients, including fiber, are intact in the skin.
One fruit that is good at lowering blood pressure is grapes. Studies show that grapes can lower your diastolic and systolic blood pressure (14). This may be because it can help the body make more nitric oxide and so help ease the pressure within your blood vessels.
Bananas are another great fruit to add to smoothies to lower blood pressure, as they are excellent sources of potassium. They can also help control the taste of your smoothies. Ripe bananas tend to have more sugar than unripened, making your smoothies for blood pressure sweeter if you like.
Step 3: Add Protein
I highly recommend adding a protein source when making smoothies for high blood pressure to balance the meal and get all of your much-needed nutrients for the day. But this doesn’t mean adding pieces of steak or pork into that drink.
Instead, you can add foods such as tofu, kidney beans or lentils, nut butter, or even seeds like hemp.
Hemp seeds are great as they are not only a rich source of potassium and magnesium, but studies show that hemp seed protein may help also improve blood pressure (15).
Step 4: Add Fluid
The next step is to add a liquid component. The most popular choice is to add milk as they are excellent sources of both calcium and magnesium.
Opt for plant-based milk such as soy milk or oat milk. Oat milk is an excellent source of your calcium. Still, it also provides beta-glucan, a type of dietary fiber that can help lower blood pressure (16)!
Step 5: Add Flavor (optional)
This step is optional, but if you want to spice things up, feel free to add some flavoring to your smoothie for blood pressure.
Possible flavors you could try are cocoa powder or dark chocolate. There are studies connecting cocoa powder with lowering blood pressure (17). Dark chocolate also provides a good source of magnesium.
Another possible spice to add is cinnamon. Studies have shown that cinnamon may help to lower blood pressure (18). So if cocoa isn’t your thing, feel free to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your smoothies for high blood pressure!
Step 6: Blend and Enjoy
After you have gathered all your ingredients, the final step is putting everything in a blender and blending! You don’t even need to buy those expensive blenders with so many buttons on them. Just a simple one will do like a magic bullet or nutribullet.
Blend the ingredients until you reach a smooth consistency unless you prefer some lumps and clumps.
PRO TIP: add ice cubes if you want your smoothie to be colder and to thicken it.
No need to save dozens of smoothie recipes for high blood pressure. Follow these six steps to create your own heart-healthy smoothie for high blood pressure.
FAQ: Do You Need To Consume Smoothies?
Definitely not. But a focus on including enough vegetables and fruits is essential. If you find it challenging to consume adequate servings of everything, I suggest starting with a smoothie until this becomes a more regular behavior.
FAQ: Dietary Preferences
Smoothies are typically gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free if you include only vegetables, fruits, and plant-based milk beverages.
No one smoothie is the most effective at lowering blood pressure. But following the guide above to make smoothies for blood pressure will help you ensure that you get the most out of this highly nutritious, quick, and easy beverage!
If you want an example to follow, try this Beet Smoothie. But, I highly encourage you to put on your creative hats and experiment with other different whole foods.
Another last tip is to have fun! Food preparation should be a fun process, and as long as you try to consume as many whole foods as possible, you’re on the right track!
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