What are the first things that come to mind when you read the words “reduce high blood pressure?” Do you think of prescription drugs doled out by a physician? Or do you think of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes?
Physicians are quick to prescribe pharmaceuticals to help manage hypertension, but these drugs often mask an underlying issue causing high blood pressure. Adding or removing certain foods from your diet is a powerful way to achieve healthier blood pressure and get off of prescription medication for good.
One of the best foods to reduce high blood pressure may surprise you — fish. Incorporating seafood into your diet isn’t always easy — especially if you aren’t a big fan of the piscine flavor. Plus, not all fish are created equal, and certain ones are better at reducing high blood pressure than others. Here are the best fish to enjoy if you have hypertension and healthy ways to get more fish on your plate.
Hint: Those healthy ways don’t include battered and deep-fried.
Fish and blood pressure
Several kinds of fish can help reduce high blood pressure thanks to the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids they contain. According to a European study, eating a 5.3-ounce serving of salmon three times a week, in combination with a calorie-restricted diet, reduced the participants’ blood pressure significantly.
Here’s a look at the amount of omega-3s that the groups consumed:
- Group one consumed 2.1 grams of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids daily.
- Group two ate the same amount of cod, a leaner fish, and had a daily consumption average of 0.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Group three took a fish oil supplement that netted them 1.3 grams of omega-3 daily.
- The control group did not eat seafood and took a sunflower oil supplement.
At the end of the eight-week study, the salmon eaters had the highest reduction in their diastolic blood pressure. The results of those who took the fish oil supplements were comparable to those who ate salmon, while the cod group didn’t experience as significant of a change.
As evidenced by the study results, enjoying a serving of fish three times a week reduces high blood pressure. Salmon tops the list of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and other natural fatty fish to include in your diet are mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies.
Tuna can also be beneficial, but it is vital to select the right kind. While bluefin tuna and albacore tuna have higher amounts of omega-3s, not all varieties of tuna do. Albacore has a higher mercury content, so opt for bluefin, skipjack, or light tuna, which have lower levels of mercury.
Fish to avoid if you have high blood pressure
Not all fish reduce high blood pressure. These fish aren’t unhealthy, but they aren’t ideal for lowering blood pressure because they have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They are leaner types of fish and packed with protein.
Fish that you should avoid when you’re trying to reduce your blood pressure include:
- Chilean sea bass
Shopping for heart-healthy fish
So now that you’ve added fish to your grocery list, how do you choose the best quality fish? In addition to the tips below, avoid fish “farm-raised,” and select “wild-caught” fish as it will be richer in omega-3s and more nutrient-dense. Plus, many farm-raised fish are pumped with antibiotics and fed an artificial diet, which can be harmful to the consumer.
- Fresh fish
If you have access to fresh fish, look for pieces that are firm to the touch, appear to have lots of water, and still have their natural fish odor. Fresh fish should not be mushy or have a foul scent.
- Frozen fish
Don’t overlook frozen fish, especially if it’s labeled “flash-frozen” because it’s likely superior to the fresh fish in the next aisle (unless you live in a coastal area with local-caught fish available). Flash-frozen fish is cleaned, cut, and packaged within hours of catching it, so it retains most of its nutritional value.
- Dried fish
Two important things to look for when buying dried fish are the date on the label and how it appears inside the packaging. You want to buy dried fish packaged as recently as possible. A few ounces of fish could become damaged during transport, depending on its packaging. Don’t buy packages with holes or if the fish shows signs of spoilage.
- Canned fish
Buying canned fish is a great way to get in your omega-3s because you can consume it right from the can without any preparation. Enjoy it as a snack with some veggies or a simple salad.
However, exercise caution when purchasing canned fish, as certain types come from unreputable sources and contain concerning additives or even mercury. Avoid anything labeled farm-raised and canned shrimp (yes, it exists). Stick to pole-caught or wild-caught fish with no additives.
How to add fish to your diet
Increasing the amount of fish you eat doesn’t have to be intimidating, and luckily these heart-healthy fish can be prepared simply and still be enjoyable. Here are a few ways to incorporate fish into your diet and reduce your blood pressure:
- Grilled or baked
Wild-caught salmon tastes delicious grilled or baked. Make your own marinade with garlic and olive oil to infuse your fish with delicious flavor.
A little bit of grass-fed butter or ghee and some herbs and spices are all you need to make a great filet of fish. Try seasoning your fish with garlic, lemon, and black pepper. Lime and cilantro is another flavorful combination to try.
- Salads and pasta
Rinsed and chopped anchovies are a great addition to fresh salads, sauces, and salad dressings. Canned salmon or tuna is another way to add fish to your diet. The meat is ready-to-eat and can be put in salads or other dishes.
When you need a protein-packed afternoon pick-me-up, you can’t go wrong with fish jerky or a couple of dried sardines.
Living with high blood pressure puts you at risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. By optimizing your diet to include two to three servings of omega-3 rich fish each day, you will be doing your heart and overall health a huge favor. Check out our free 100 Year Heart Diet Guide for more information about what fish best support a healthy heart.
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD