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Hooray for dark chocolate! Eating about 30 calories a day of dark chocolate — just one tiny square — was shown to help lower blood pressure after 18 weeks without weight gain or other adverse effects, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Choose dark chocolate consisting of at least 70 percent cocoa powder. Because chocolate is also high in calories, you'll want to be very careful not to overdo it.
Soybeans are another excellent source of potassium and magnesium. Look for soybeans in the pod (edamame) in the freezer case at your grocery store; for a healthy snack, boil one cup and pop them directly out of the shell into your mouth. If you miss the salt, lightly sprinkle with salt substitute.
This functional fruit is packed with potassium, so it's a great choice for an on-the-go snack. Add a banana to your breakfast (my Strawberry-Banana Cottage Cheese With Almonds makes a great morning meal) or for an evening treat, slice a banana into several half-inch wheels, place them in a small plastic bag, and freeze. Frozen bananas — yum!
Baked White Potato
Potatoes are rich in both magnesium and potassium, two vital nutrients for heart health. When potassium is low, the body retains extra sodium (and too much sodium raises blood pressure). On the other hand, when you eat a potassium-rich diet, the body becomes more efficient at getting rid of excess sodium. Like potassium, magnesium is also a key player in promoting healthy blood flow. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of both minerals can help keep high blood pressure at bay.
Nutritious and versatile, beans (including black, white, navy, lima, pinto, and kidney) are chock-full of soluble fiber, magnesium, and potassium, all excellent ingredients for lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health. Add beans to your favorite salads, soups, or wraps; as a bonus, they're pretty inexpensive.
Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are also a great source of magnesium. A quarter cup of these makes a nutritious snack — but be sure to buy them unsalted, since salted sunflower seeds are high in sodium, which you want to avoid.
A green leafy delight, spinach is low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, folate, and magnesium — key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. An easy way to eat more of this great green? Try mixing fresh spinach leaves into salads or adding them to sandwiches.
It truly does a body good! Drinking heart-healthy skim milk or 1 percent milk will provide you with calcium and vitamin D — the two nutrients work as a team to help reduce blood pressure by 3 to 10 percent. Although this doesn't sound like much, it could add up to about a 15 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease.