Eating yogurt regularly can lower blood pressure by about 7 points, according to a 2021 study published in International Dairy Journal. “Dairy is a good source of nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium,” says Kris-Etherton. All of these have been shown to help lower blood pressure.
Many yogurts are also rich in probiotics, good bacteria that can also help control blood pressure. A 2014 review published in the journal hypertension concluded that regular consumption of probiotics reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by nearly 3.6 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by about 2.4 mmHg. Full-fat yogurt is fine if you prefer the taste—research suggests it won’t raise blood pressure any more than a low-fat or nonfat version.
A 2021 Danish study published in European Journal of Epidemiology found that people who consumed the highest amounts of nitrate-rich vegetables, such as beets and green leafy vegetables, had systolic blood pressure that was nearly 2.6 points lower on average than those who got the least amount of ‘these foods.
8. Fatty fish
Fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel are rich in a healthy fat known as omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. But they can also help improve blood pressure by indirect means, Vadiveloo says. “Eating fish instead of animal protein rich in saturated fat, such as red meat, processed meat or whole dairy, can also favorably affect your blood pressure,” he explains.
A 2022 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who consumed 2 to 3 grams of two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, lowered their blood pressure by about 2 points compared to those who did not.
9. Whole grains
“They’re a rich source of magnesium, especially compared to white bread,” says Vadiveloo. A 2020 Japanese study published in the journal nutrients found that people who frequently consumed whole grains were 60% less likely to develop high blood pressure over a three-year period than those who did not.
6 foods to avoid for high blood pressure
1. Restaurant food
About 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged or restaurant food, according to the CDC. “I just saw a patient whose blood pressure was high on days when he noted that he went to a restaurant or ordered takeout like Chinese food,” says Goldberg. The best course of action is to limit as much eating out as possible, and if you do, ask if it’s possible to see the nutritional content (including sodium).
You can also request that no salt be added to your meals. “You might want to order salsa on the side to reduce the salt content,” advises Goldberg. Also look for entrees that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted—all of these are usually prepared in ways that are lower in sodium.
It might seem like a healthy snack, considering it’s high in blood pressure-lowering calcium, but many types of cheese are loaded with salt, says Kris-Etherton. She recommends sticking to a low-sodium cheese, such as Swiss or fresh mozzarella. It’s okay to enjoy it once in a while if you don’t already have high blood pressure.
Ketchup, soy sauce, bottled salad dressing, jarred dressings, and mustard can be high in sodium. Look for reduced-sodium versions or opt for lemon juice or vinegar to add flavor, advises Laffin.
4. Canned beans (unrinsed)
While beans themselves are heart-healthy and can help lower blood pressure, the canned variety is usually loaded with salt. You can still eat canned beans, but reduce the sodium by rinsing them for about 10 seconds under warm water and then draining them for about two minutes. You’ll cut sodium by up to 40 percent, but not the other heart-healthy vitamins and minerals.
Bread and rolls are No. 1 on the list of top sources of sodium, according to the CDC. A slice of bread usually has only 100 to 200 mg of sodium, but if you eat a lot of bread (which many of us do), it can add up. Try to avoid baked goods as much as possible. For example, try eating oatmeal instead of toast for breakfast, and skip the rolls at dinner; opt for brown rice or quinoa.
A 2019 study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology of more than 17,000 American adults found that moderate alcohol consumption, defined as seven to 13 drinks per week, doubled the risk of developing hypertension. “Alcohol is toxic to the heart and can weaken its muscles,” Goldberg explains. It can also raise blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.