The Internet is a wonderful source of “miracle” foods and diets. Some claim to boost your brain power, others your sexual potency. And when it comes to high blood pressure there is certainly no shortage of culinary cures. But do any of these really work.
Unfortunately, most miracle cures – and that covers foods, herbs, supplements, elixirs and potions of all types – are due purely to the placebo effect. The placebo effect can be powerful and should not be underestimated. It accounts for the endless wave of “cures” that suddenly appear promising the moon only to disappear as quickly as the pet rock.
Because of the placebo effect there are always a number of people who believe themselves to be helped by whatever the current craze is. Naturally, they tend to make a lot of noise and it’s easy to get caught up in their (often genuine) enthusiasm. But what you don’t hear about are the 95% of others who tried Formula X with no effect whatsoever.
But no matter… natural cures are like the proverbial bus; there’s always another one coming along right behind.
So we should forget about cures but are there any foods that genuinely help to lower blood pressure? The answer is a qualified yes, but there is nothing you can really count on as a reliable and practical high blood pressure treatment.
For example, beetroot juice was recently in the news for its ability to lower blood pressure, demonstrated in credible scientific experiments. However, keep in mind that the amounts of reduction and duration of its effects are not enough to make a serious difference for people suffering from seriously high blood pressure. And then there’s the practicality issue; beetroot juice is hard to get, it’s expensive and could you really stand to drink large volumes of the stuff on a daily basis?
Chocolate is another food that has firm scientific support for reducing blood pressure. And this one doesn’t suffer the same complaints as beetroot juice; many people would love to be prescribed a daily dose of chocolate! But, again, the benefits are minimal and would probably be cancelled out by the extra weight its users would pile on!
Then there’s celery or, even better, celery root. A lot of people swear by it but the jury is still out on the scientific evidence. The same can be said for grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, bananas and oily fish, all foods that some claim to lower blood pressure. These usually have negligible effects, if any. Maybe a chocolate beetroot banana smoothie sprinkled with celery root powder is the answer!
A related issue is foods that we are advised to avoid if you have high blood pressure. This should also be approached with a certain amount of skepticism because there are simply no “bad” foods. Salt, for instance, is a perennial bad boy. But this is groundless. Salt is harmless – in fact, it’s healthy when used in the right way. The problem is actually an imbalance of the minerals sodium, magnesium and potassium caused by eating unnatural, processed foods.
Another “bad boy” is usually thought to be cured meats. Salt is again the alleged culprit. But despite the salt, cured meats are in fact good for your blood pressure because they contain nitrates, the same substance in beetroot that is responsible for dropping blood pressure!
If there are any bad foods they are the artificial food substitutes designed to replace salt, butter and other “unhealthy” foods. In fact, it would be fair to say that unnatural, processed, or over-packaged foods are bad.
Which brings us back to our original topic: the right thing to focus on for lower blood pressure is not specific foods in isolation but our overall diet. In fact, there is a specific diet recommended for those with high blood pressure called the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet is really little more than a common sense healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, grains and vegetables while minimizing fatty meats and other high-fat or sugary foods.
But let’s forget about acronyms and components. The way to stay healthy and prevent high blood pressure is to eat a varied diet of high-quality, whole, natural, unprocessed foods. It’s as simple as that. Remember the salt problem? Whole foods avoid the whole issue because they contain the proper balance of minerals. This kind of diet will keep everything else in balance too, including your blood pressure.