High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood pushing against a person’s artery walls is high enough that it may eventually trigger health problems, such as heart disease. The condition is strongly tied to lifestyle factors such as eating unhealthy foods and carrying excess weight. Snacks can increase the risk of both obesity and high blood pressure – fortunately there are healthier alternatives to keep people going between each meal.
Courtesy of Mays Al-Ali, Nutritionist and founder of Samadhi Soul Retreats, a nutritionally led retreat, here are seven tasty treats that can be enjoyed without the worry of a blood pressure spike:
“Berries contain flavonoids and athocyanins such as resveratrol (in blueberries and blackberries especially) that naturally lower blood pressure,” said Al-Ali.
The more colourful the more flavonoids and the better the cardioprotective effect, she said.
Al-Ali recommends opting for organic berries as much as possible as non-organic will have less of the antioxidants in the fruit due to the pesticide use.
Al-Ali said: “A handful of unsalted sunflower/pumpkin seeds are high in minerals such as potassium and magnesium known to lower blood pressure – magnesium is also a vasodilater which means it widens your arteries allowing more blood to flow through which is how it lowers blood pressure.”
Banana and apples with a twist
Banana and apples dipped in almond butter is another tasty alternative, said Al-Ali.
“Bananas are high in potassium known to lower blood pressure. Apples are a great source of quercetin, a flavonoid that attacks free radicals, supporting veins, and lowering blood pressure naturally,” she added.
Oat cakes spread with hummus
According to Al-Ali, oats are high in soluble fibres producing bioactive products when they’re fermented in the large bowel and work directly to lower blood pressure.
“The complex carbohydrates in oats and hummus will also break down slower in your body, preventing an unhealthy spike in blood sugar and helping keep you full for longer and aiding weight loss, which is protective for heart health,” she said.
The health benefits of hummus are manifold, as Al-Ali explained: “Hummus is packed full of fibre, high in protein and full of heart healthy olive oil known to reduce blood pressure and protect the heart from cardiovascular disease.”
Keep resealable bags filled with bite-size veggies in the fridge as quick snacks. It not only stabilises your blood pressure, but it also provides your body with powerful antioxidant filled nutrients whilst being low in calories, which is important because reducing your daily caloric intake is linked to a significant reduction in blood pressure levels. Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes are also high in calcium and potassium, two minerals that help support healthy blood pressure levels. And again these can all be dipped into yummy heart healthy hummus.
“The cacao in dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids known to lower blood pressure improving endothelial function in the heart,” said Al-Ali.
She recommends opting for raw chocolate with no added sugar that has as high a concentration of cacao as possible.
Pistachios reduce peripheral vascular resistance, or blood vessel tightening, and heart rate, thereby reducing blood pressure, explained Ali-Ali.
“Other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews are also great as they contain fibre and magnesium also helping to reduce blood pressure.
“Just make sure you go for unsalted as salt contains sodium which has the opposite effect, increasing blood pressure.
“Because nuts are calorie-dense, limit your intake to a handful a day as part of a weight management program to support healthy blood pressure levels,” she cautioned.
Blood Pressure UK stressed the importance of reducing salt intake: “If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. So the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be.”
The health site also warned against the dangers of drinking too much alcohol: “This will raise your blood pressure over time. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which will make you gain weight and, therefore increase your blood pressure.
“If you stick to the recommended limits for alcohol, this will help to keep your blood pressure down. The current recommended limits are 14 units of alcohol a week for men and women,” the charity explained.
It also emphasis the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, suggesting people should aim for for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.