5. Substitute tea for your morning (and afternoon and evening) coffee. An Australian study found that every one-cup increase in daily tea consumption decreased systolic blood pressure (the top number) two points and diastolic pressure one point. The benefits ended after four cups, however.
6. Dip your chips into guacamole. Why? Avocados have more blood-pressure-lowering potassium than any other fruit or vegetable, including bananas. We should get about 4.7 grams a day of potassium, but most Americans get just half this amount.
7. Turn to dark chocolate when your sweet tooth asserts itself. Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that keep your arteries flexible, preventing the increases in pressure that come with stiffer blood vessels. That’s thought to be one reason for the normal blood pressure of a tribe of Panamanian Indians who eat a high-salt diet but also consume massive amounts of cocoa. In addition, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that three ounces of dark chocolate a day helped to lower blood pressure in older people with isolated systolic hypertension (a type of high blood pressure in which only the upper number of a pressure reading is high). Other good sources of flavonoids include tea and wine, as well as many fruits and vegetables.
8. Snack on roasted soybeans. These make a crunchy, nutrient-packed munch that’s as yummy as any bag of chips. Studies show that people with high blood pressure can lower their systolic readings by an average of 10 points by eating one ounce of roasted soybeans (also called soy nuts) a day for two weeks. The beans are available at some supermarkets, as well as specialty and health food stores. Just look for unsalted beans.
9. Flavor your food with lots of ground pepper. Why? Pepper is a strong, dominant flavor that can help you reduce your interest in salt. In fact, your tongue is easily trained away from its salt addiction. When you switch to low-salt foods, your meals may taste bland for a couple of days. Bring in the pepper. And if that doesn’t appeal to you, try garlic, lemon, ginger, basil, or other big-punch flavors you like. After a week, your old favorite foods will taste dreadfully oversalted and your blood pressure will be singing your praises.
10. Eat a banana or a quarter of a cantaloupe at each breakfast. That’s because both are rich in potassium. Potassium is sometimes called the “un-salt” because if you don’t get enough of it, your blood pressure is likely to rise. It’s easy to slide potassium into your diet. Other high-potassium foods include spinach, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and the aforementioned avocados.
11. Eat a handful of dried apricots every afternoon. Like bananas, apricots are a particularly good source of potassium. Plus they have lots of fiber, loads of iron, and oodles of beta-carotene. The drying process actually increases the concentration of these nutrients, all of which are good for your circulatory system. And as a snack, dried apricots are low in calories: roughly eight total just 100 calories. Look for an unsulfured brand.