High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, affects more than a quarter of people in the UK. The condition should not be taken lightly, as if high blood pressure is not lowered, it can increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can often be lowered without the need for medication, by making certain lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise and improving your diet. One dietary change that is always advisable for people with high blood pressure is to cut down on salt, as the sodium found in salt is a key contributor to hypertension.
According to medical experts, eating less salt is often enough on its own to reduce blood pressure without having to make any other drastic lifestyle changes, although it is still heavily recommended to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
The most obvious way to cut back on salt is to stop adding it to food and to avoid buying ready-made foods and sauces with a high salt content.
However, adding certain other foods to your diet can also help the body to remove excess salt and therefore lower blood pressure.
One colourful vegetable which has shown in some studies to help reduce blood pressure is the beetroot.
Beetroot is a root vegetable, which according to dietitian Juliette Kellow are naturally rich in potassium.
Potassium is the key ingredient here, as the function of the mineral is to work with the kidneys to balance the level of salt and fluid in the body.
“This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder,” said Blood Pressure UK.
Eating salt raises the amount of sodium in the bloodstream, which wrecks the balance, reducing the ability of the kidneys to remove water.
But consuming more potassium will increase the levels of the mineral in the body, which will help to restore the balance.
“This will help your kidneys to work more efficiently – and help to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level,” said Blood Pressure UK.
According to Kellow root vegetables are also rich in nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the blood.
Nitric acid helps to relax the blood vessels, in turn lowering the pressure of blood running through them.
Beetroots have been found to be particularly effective in lowering blood pressure, with one review of 16 studies showing drinking beetroot juice every day “significantly” reduced systolic blood pressure.
Kellow notes, however, that potassium can lower blood pressure only when combined with a lower intake of sodium.
Eating lots of potassium-rich foods as well as lots of salt will counteract the benefits of the potassium.
Medical website Healthline notes one cup or around 170g of boiled beetroots contains around 518g of potassium, versus 422g found in a medium-sized banana.