A plant-based diet involves eating mainly foods from plants, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Consuming a plant-based diet does not mean that you are vegetarian or vegan or that you never eat meat or dairy, but that you choose to eat primarily foods from plant sources. For example, the Mediterranean diet is plant-based but also includes fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Plant-based diets include all of the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals; however, vegans may need to take additional supplements, such as vitamin B12.
Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, depression, diabetes, some cancers (e.g., colon, breast and prostate), and hypertension. There are several ways in which a plant-based diet can help lower blood pressure. First it eliminates or reduces the consumption of red meats and processed meats which have been shown to be associated with hypertension. Second, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes have been shown to 1) improve vasodilation (or widening of the blood vessels), 2) increase antioxidant (e.g., vitamins C and E) and anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation) content, and 3) improve blood flow, all of which can result in lower blood pressure. Third, plant-based proteins such as those found in nuts and beans have been found to lower blood pressure. Here are some examples of plant-based foods that can help naturally lower blood pressure: dark leafy greens, berries, red beets, oatmeal, bananas, seeds, pomegranates, and pistachios.
Tips for Getting Started with a Plant-Based Diet:
Eat lots of vegetables at meals and snacks
Have smaller amounts of meat at meals and avoid red meat or processed meats
Drink water, tea or coffee (with little or no sugar)
Eat healthy fats such as olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados
Cook a vegetarian meal at least once a week
Eat more whole grains such as oatmeal, whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice (limit refined grains like white rice and white bread)
Eat more leafy greens such as kale, collards, or spinach
Build a meal around a salad starting with salad greens as the base and adding beans, nuts, fresh herbs, peas, tofu, etc.
Eat fresh fruit for dessert
Corcoran, C. How a Plant-Based Diet can Naturally Lower Blood Pressure. One Green Planet. May 2021. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/plant-based-diet-can-lower-blood-pressure-vegan/ Accessed March 20, 2022.
Harvard Health. The Right Plant-Based Diet for You. March 30, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you Accessed March 20, 2022.
McManus, KD. What is a Plant-Based Diet and Why Should You Try It? Harvard Health Blog. November 16, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760#:~:text=Plant%2Dbased%20or%20plant%2Dforward,never%20eat%20meat%20or%20dairy. Accessed March 20, 2022.
Melissa Kluczynski holds a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from the University at Buffalo and she is currently working as a Research Associate in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. Her research interests include chronic disease prevention and women's health.