There is a reason why a lot of languages across the globe have a version of the “you are what you eat” saying. It is just true. With the global trade network, you get to eat avocados, bananas, beef, and cashews the same day. Now more than ever, various ingredients are available and accessible to us, and it is only natural that we want to utilize the power of healthy foods to help us with chronic conditions.
I’ve always insisted on the fact that juices are not a substitute for medication, and I still do, but by ingesting certain foods daily, you can help yourself out to a degree. In the following sections, I would like to address the problems of high and low blood pressure. We will also talk about how you can affect your blood pressure by putting an extra ingredient or two in your daily glass of juice. Let’s dig in!
What is Blood Pressure?
Don’t get scared, I won’t bother you with too much medical stuff. I just think it’s important that we all get on the same page by getting to know the basics of human anatomy. After all, knowledge is power! Here’s the most practical explanation of blood pressure.
Our heart is a strong pump that plays the role of sending our blood around the body. This pump beats and every time it does it, a certain amount of fresh blood enters the bloodstream. Now, the vessels that transport this blood, aka arteries, undergo a certain amount of pressure every time the heart pumps a fresh batch.
So, the arteries need to be clean and elastic, allowing the blood to go through uninterrupted. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case.
1. Blood Pressure Issues
The most common blood pressure issue is, without a doubt, hypertension. As the name suggests, hyper (meaning high) and tension (meaning pressure), this condition exerts extra pressure on the arteries. This is one of the most common medical issues in adults all around the world.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have hypotension, with hypo (meaning low). Low blood pressure, while not as immediately dangerous, is a condition that doesn’t discriminate by age (as opposed to hypertension).
2. Measuring Blood Pressure
If you ever went near an ER or a hospital, you have certainly heard something like “BP is 120 over 80” or a similar phrase. This is no rocket science, so stay with me for a moment. The thing is, we measure blood pressure 2 times in a row.
The first “peak” that we measure is the strongest moment, at the moment the heart pumps the blood into the arteries. This is a higher number also called systolic blood pressure. We repeat the measuring a moment after when the heart is about to contract again, and the pressure is lowest. This is called diastolic blood pressure, and it is the lower number.
So, next time you hear “number A over number B” you know that the A is the pressure at its highest value, and the B is the pressure at its lowest. This is done so that we have a better picture of how our heart actually beats.
But, enough about the nerdy stuff, let’s get into the practical topics, like causes, effects, and how we can impact our blood pressure through diet (with juicing being a part of it).
High Blood Pressure – Hypertension
High blood pressure might be more common than you think, but don’t let that scare you. There are multiple stages, levels of elevation, and truth be told, everyone experiences this condition differently. If you have a diagnosed hypertension, please listen to your doctor’s advice, and do not neglect the treatment. You might hear me repeat this a bunch of times – I do it because people tend to self-diagnose and self-medicate more and more often.
So, what causes hypertension?
1. Cause and Effect of High Blood Pressure
Let’s just get this out of the way – hypertension is so common because it can be caused by so many different factors. Genetics, diet, stress, acute injury, chronic conditions – these are all legit causes of high blood pressure. But, as it is with all medical conditions, some causes are more common. In the case of hypertension, diet and stress are far more present than any other reason. Your genetic predisposition to develop hypertension plays a role too, but more often than not – it all comes down to your habits and lifestyle.
In short, an inadequate diet leads to obstruction in your arteries, making it harder for the blood to flow. The other cause is the lack of elasticity in those vessels, which leads to a similar result. The heart can then work harder on getting the blood through the crowded arteries, ultimately leading to a whole new bunch of problems.
2. A better diet can go a long way!
If you suspect you have high blood pressure, the very first thing your doctor is going to ask you is “describe your diet”. Too much salt and not enough water are the first culprits in this story. This is where healthy diet habits, juicing included, kick in.
Eating enough veggies (through juice or raw) is a good way to start. By ingesting all those super-nutrients, you get to experience a few benefits right away, because veggies play a huge part in the health of our blood vessels:
- Vitamin intake help with keeping your arteries clean and lubricated
- Taking in less salt helps with blood vessel elasticity, so your heart doesn’t have to work overtime
- Some plants like garlic can lower blood pressure almost instantaneously
The key is in finding the right cocktail (with both fruit and veggies), making it into a recipe you enjoy, and enjoy a glass of juice every day.
*consult your doctor before implementing a juicing strategy into your diet. These juices can be strong, and sometimes they interfere with medication. DO NOT act before you talk to your doc.
Low Blood Pressure – Hypotension
Often overlooked, low blood pressure is a condition that is not related to stress and diet so much, but it can impact your life significantly. The effects of low blood pressure usually include drowsiness, nausea, unusual thirst, blurred vision, and other symptoms similar to fatigue.
Low blood pressure is related to other conditions as well, so it is of utmost importance that you set an appointment with your doctor and heed his advice on testing and treating. However, there are some things you can do yourself (with doctor’s approval, of course).
1. Rare, But Not Harmless
The “fatiguing” effects of low blood pressure can be alleviated with a “stronger” diet. The thing is, people with low blood pressure experience crashes due to lack of energy as well, aka insulin crashes. This happens either if you didn’t eat enough carbohydrates, or you ate a lot of them in the same meal.
So, to work on this condition on your own, try to ration your meals more evenly throughout the day. Implement highly nutritious snacks, i.e. juices, into your diet, and try not to binge eat.
2. Fruit Juices – a Hypotension Pick-me-up
As I said, hypotension crashes can be prevented with diet, so here’s a quick fix if you are feeling that your energy is going down. Make a juice rich in high-carb plant, aka fruit. Strawberries (or berries in general), bananas, apples, oranges – all up to you. You can add a pinch of salt in there, but be extra careful not to overdo it.
*once again – going to the doctor’s should be your first thought. Do not self-diagnose, even if the situation seems harmless at the giving moment.
Juicing as Medication – Yes or No?
I know I sound like a broken record, but if you haven’t picked up on the vibe yet, I will say it again – juicing and healthy diet should be used to complement your lifestyle choices. Using healthy food to substitute medication for a diagnosed condition is dangerous and I do not condone this type of behavior. So, the short answer to this question would be – No.
However, if we were to select the second-best way to deal with high or low blood pressure, juicing can be the helping hand you need.
The whole concept of juicing started trending recently, and the whole aspect of drinking your vitamins instead of eating them broke out of the gym into the real world. The whole thing where you make smoothies and juices instead of snacking used to be considered a “gym rat” thing. Nowadays, more and more people are joining the juicing club, not only for fitness reasons. The main reason is – convenience.
1. How to approach juicing to lower high blood pressure?
Ok, so let’s say that your doctor diagnosed you with a mild case of hypertension. You talked with your physician and you both came to the same conclusion – stress and diet are the issues. Depending on the urgency to lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe you some pills, but he will most certainly tell you that it is time to change your diet.
Here are a few pointers if you do opt for the juicing path:
1.1. Hydration, hydration, hydration!
Do not be afraid to water down your juices and shakes with extra water. In order to lower the blood pressure, your body needs to start regulating fluids better. Besides diuretics that doctors sometimes prescribe (individually), getting enough water into your system is essential. Your blood will “dilute” in a way that makes it easier to travel from the heart into your arteries, thus lowering the pressure it exerts on the blood vessels.
If this is the path you want to take (which I strongly encourage), I recommend fruit juices that are not high in sugar and can be diluted without losing flavor. And what better way to do it than – citrus fruit! Lemons, oranges, grapefruit, everything is fair game. Just be careful with the sweeter fruit like oranges – they can spike your sugar up if you put too much.
Just make a high-volume, watered-down juice that you can drink for longer. Having an ergonomic bottle at your side might help with developing this habit.
1.2. Ingredients to include and why
This is where it gets interesting. As it turns out, a lot of herbs we consider spices do an exceptional job when lowering blood pressure is the task at hand. So, to complement your diet, and make your juices flavorful, try using one of these in your drinks:
- Cinnamon – goes great with, you know it – apples. Sweet drinks are a good base for using cinnamon
- Basil – not only for cooking but for spicing up those green juices and shakes
- Flax seeds – a good source of protein and healthy fats. Be careful not to put too much
- Cardamom – this unique-flavored seed will bring a fresh (and dominant) flavor to your juices
- Ginger – if you like the taste, have at it. Ginger is so popular among juicers that we have dedicated juicers for ginger nowadays
Next to these super-food seeds and spices, you can also start implementing some of these fruits and veggies:
- Berries – foods rich in flavonoids help your body with a lot of things, dealing with high pressure included. Blueberries are known for having a significant impact on helping with hypertension.
- Beets – generally speaking, beets are good for your blood and your blood vessels
- Leafy greens – kale, turnip, spinach, lettuce, you name it. The upside of these ingredients is that they are light on calories and they don’t have dominant flavors (for the most part).
- Pomegranate – juice made from this Mediterranean plant is known for working quickly when it comes to lowering blood pressure.
There, I planted a few ideas, but I now must address an ingredient that works wonders (in moderation).
1.3. Garlic – the master of lowering blood pressure!
Garlic is known to be extremely potent when it comes to dealing with hypertension. The nitric oxides from garlic (and there is a lot inside) promote vasodilation – widening of arteries. In return the blood can flow more freely, making the total blood pressure significantly lower.
If you plan to implement garlic, and put it in your juices, I advise extreme caution. This potent herb has the potential to lower the blood pressure too much. If you are on any type of hypertension medication, you must consult your doctor about consuming garlic on the regular.
Moderation is key
I always like to emphasize that moderation is actually the biggest player here. I invite you to experiment with flavors coming from all sorts of herbs and to always start with small quantities. Not every ingredient will react well with your stomach. You may even find out that you are allergic to some new veggie you decided to start juicing. Baby steps will get you further than jumping into it headfirst.
Things to Avoid!
There are some healthy (and tasty) ingredients out there that you should avoid if hypertension is an issue.
An immediate culprit you should blacklist is none other than – caffeine. This alkaloid has a lot of benefits – it keeps us focused and energized throughout the day. But, one thing caffein brings to the table is short bursts of high blood pressure. Even people who do not suffer from hypertension sometimes experience classic symptoms. Do not forget that not only coffee has caffeine. A large number of teas (especially green tea and black tea) are rich in caffeine as well. Avoiding energy drinks and cola-like sodas is also a good thing to start practicing.
As I mentioned above, salt consumption plays a big role in blood pressure regulation. You should limit the salt intake to about 6 to 8 grams a day, and if you happen to consume more, you must remember to up the water intake for the day as well. Salt constrict your blood vessels if there is too much of it.
On the other hand, fats do not make your arteries tighter, but they have the ability to clog them. Trans fats from fast food are notorious in this area. One burger will not make you worse, but one burger every other day for a month will make the trans fat into deposits that sit in your arteries. All of this makes a bigger challenge for your heart, making your blood pressure reach higher values.
Before You Go
Hypertension is a modern-day affliction. It comes from a lot of stress (mostly mental) and a bad diet. Luckily, your body will give off clear signs that it is time to put your salt shaker to rest and ease of the fries and burgers.
I invite you not only to deal with this condition, but to prevent it, or at least prevent its development. Your heart is the only organ that works non-stop since the day you came into this world. Allowing it to do its job properly takes little to no effort, but in the long run, you will thank yourself for starting today! Now start by making yourself a nice, green glass of juice. Cheers!