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High Blood Pressure Diet: FAQs

Your high blood pressure diet questions answered.

Why might dairy products be helpful in lowering blood pressure?

Dairy products, as long as they are low in sodium, provide the best balance of calcium, potassium and magnesium for controlling blood pressure. Calcium enters body cells and influences how blood vessels tighten and relax. Magnesium supports muscles, nerves and heart rhythm. Potassium works with calcium and magnesium to keep heart muscle toned, and strengthens arteries to endure as we age. Potassium also acts like a bouncer, barring sodium from entering places where its sidekick, water, can cause unwanted swelling. Each of these nutrients alone plays a small role, but together their impact is huge. Aim for two to three servings of dairy a day: one cup of low-fat milk or nonfat yogurt counts as a serving.

I've heard that dark chocolate helps lower blood pressure. Can this great news be true?

It’s true that some research suggests cocoa may help lower blood pressure. It appears that a compound in cocoa, called epicatechin, boosts nitric oxide, a substance that has been shown to be crucial to healthy blood vessels. Plentiful levels of nitric oxide help keep blood pressure from climbing. These findings probably aren’t a reason to start eating chocolate if you don’t already. You’ll get many of the same disease-fighting substances drinking tea or wine and eating fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with antioxidants. Chocolate, because it is relatively high in fat and is usually sweetened with sugar, does pack a fair amount of calories. A 1.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate contains about 225 calories—enough to make it a special treat, not a regular food group. (And be sure to choose dark chocolate, ideally one that’s 70 percent cocoa solids; milk chocolate lacks significant levels of epicatechin.)

I have high blood pressure so I try to avoid alcohol, but I hear that red wine has heart-healthy benefits. Can I get some of these by drinking grape juice?

Seems so. Clinical research has shown that Concord grape juice (dark, not white) can help reduce blood pressure for people with hypertension. Dark grape juice contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols, which include resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of red and purple grapes that is suspected to be responsible for heart-healthy benefits in red wine.

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