If you’re looking for an effective way to lower your blood pressure naturally chances are you may be chasing a red herring…
According to Internet search figures and anecdotal evidence from health forums, people suffering from high blood pressure are most likely to seek a nutritional solution.
This is not surprising when you consider that several generations have now grown up under the “you are what you eat” mantra. The media certainly plays its part; it seems like every day heralds the announcement of a new “superfood” or supplement that can prevent heart disease through lower blood pressure or cholesterol.
The list is long and includes chocolate, garlic, beetroot, celery root, grapefruit, Hawthorne berry, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, various amino acids and many, many more.
Then you have the dizzying array of diets: the high-carb diet, the low-carb diet, the fat-burning diet, the Atkins diet and Blood balance formula and Blood balance advanced formula of course the official DASH diet (dietary approach to stopping hypertension) recommended by most medical experts to lower blood pressure.
It’s got to the point where many people obsess over every morsel they put in their body.
Sadly, the search for a nutritional “magic bullet” is likely to lead only to a dead-end. In every case of “superfood” or supplement the results are rather less than amazing when examined closely over time. You could consume every one of them (if you could stomach it) and it would not likely make even a dip in your average blood pressure.
Diets are a more sophisticated approach but for targeting specific health problems they also have their shortcomings…
The fact is that human beings are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. Traditional, indigenous peoples have survived -thrived even – on the most diverse and often restrictive diets imaginable. They ate by necessity only what was available locally and seasonally:
- The traditional diet of the nomadic Maasai people of Kenya consists of whole milk and dairy products supplemented by fresh animal blood and occasional meat. The Maasai consume an average of a litre of raw, curdled milk each daily.
- The Innuits, or Eskimos, of extreme North America lived for millennia off a diet almost exclusively of whale fat occasionally supplemented by wild game. Only in the brief summer did they get to eat rough grasses, herbs and other vegetables.
- The legendary gauchos of South America enjoyed a diet of nearly 100% beef along with a traditional herbal tea.
- The people of the Causasus Mountains region of the former Soviet Union are said to be the longest-living people on Earth. Their diet is very high in dairy products, especially yogurt (and they’re certainly don’t use low-fat versions!).
- Lest you start to think that meat and dairy are the way to good health it should also be noted that huge numbers of indigenous people in rural India are vegetarian and they also know hypertension only as a modern condition.
The remarkable thing these people have (or had) in common – despite the diversity of their diets – is an extremely low incidence of heart disease, hypertension and other life-threatening conditions prevalent in developed countries. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what accounts for this (it’s probably a variety of things) but it’s certainly not due to any specific diet!
Instead of looking at what these people eat, perhaps it’s more helpful to ask what they don’t eat. Asking this question does in fact result in a common answer: indigenous people have not traditionally eaten modern, processed foods.
In fact, in case after case indigenous people quickly develop alarming levels of high blood pressure and heart disease after adopting modern foods and lifestyle. Sadly, that’s another thing they have in common.
So what can we conclude from this? There is no dietary “magic bullet”. “Primitive” cultures teach us that people can thrive and enjoy vibrant health through a vast range of diets. The single important thing is to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods, preferably local and seasonal. It’s as simple as that.
Finally, modern research into hypertension and diet is coming up with similar answers. High blood pressure most frequently arises from an imbalance in the body. Minerals like potassium, sodium and magnesium, for example, need to be in balance for healthy blood chemistry. When this chemistry is destabilized we get high blood pressure.
It’s a similar story with other nutrients. Processing food often destroys its natural balance and thus contributes to hypertension. Replacing these natural nutrients with supplements or targeted foods is a guessing game at best. Many nutritionists also argue that substances in supplements simply don’t work as they do where they occur naturally.