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Five foods to ease blood pressure: Chocolate makes the cut!

High blood pressure is a serious condition many people don’t know they have

Racha Adib

Published: Updated:

High blood pressure is a serious condition many people don’t know they have because it typically has no warning signs, it’s often referred to as the “silent killer” and can damage your body for years causing disability, kidney disease or even a fatal heart attack. This is why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly.

According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure affects 40 percent of the global population above 25 years of age, reaching an approximate one billion people worldwide. But there is hope for getting your blood pressure under control and it involves much more than simply reducing salt intake.

Aside from treatment with medications, there are some particular nutrients and foods that may help in the fight against high blood pressure. But these should be considered as only part of the treatment because other important factors such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting sodium intake are as important.

What are the power foods that can help you beat high blood pressure and how do they work? Read on to find out.

Dried apricots

These beautifully orange colored fruits are available all year long in their dried form and are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and fiber and contain three times more potassium than bananas. Potassium is the key mineral that helps keep blood pressure at bay by lessoning the effects of sodium.

Add sliced apricots to stewed chicken and vegetable stews, on green salads, in your pancake batter, or on top of cereal.

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Cocoa powder

Yes and that means chocolate! Indeed, research has shown that consuming chocolate in moderation can reduce blood pressure, but not any chocolate. The darker kinds, with at least 70 percent cocoa content, are the most effective because they contain more antioxidant flavanols and magnesium than their lighter counterparts. Flavanols induce nitric oxide production which in turn widens arteries, hence reducing blood’s pressure on the artery walls. On the other hand magnesium has a protective effect, because a diet low in magnesium can make your blood pressure rise.

You can reap the benefits of cocoa powder without too much of the saturated fat found in chocolate. Add cocoa to skimmed milk, on your breakfast oatmeal, or sprinkle it over bananas.

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White beans

These beans have a great potential to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and may also improve the function of blood vessels. Not only are they rich in blood pressure-fighting potassium and magnesium, they also contain one of the best sources of fiber in our diet. According to research, a high fiber diet significantly reduces blood pressure. One cup of white beans provides 30 percent of the magnesium you need, 23 percent of the potassium you need and 74 percent of the fiber you need.

Add white beans to soups, eat them as side dishes to main meals or mix them in your salad.

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Fat-free yogurt

One cup of fat free yogurt provides 49 percent of your calcium needs, but it’s not just beneficial for your bones. While most of this mineral is stored in your bones, a small percentage circulates in your blood stream and affects your blood pressure levels. Calcium helps artery walls constrict and expand. When calcium intake is low, artery walls can tighten thus raising your blood pressure levels. On the other hand, naturally occurring calcium, such as that in yogurt, can make blood vessels suppler, enabling them to expand.

Add yogurt in your salad dressings or mix them in with fruits and enjoy them as a dessert.

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Spinach

Studies have shown that a diet rich in folic acid can improve blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax thus improving blood flow. Only one cup of spinach provides you with 65 percent of your daily needs of folic acid, and it is quite low in calories. Remember not to overcook them though. Folic acids are very heat sensitive and prolonged cooking time or exposure to high heat can significantly reduce their folic acid content.

Add spinach to your smoothies or lightly wilt them over heat with a bit of olive oil and garlic.

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