Top 10 Functional Foods That Are Known to Support Healthy Blood Pressure

by: Dr. Nathan S. Bryan

Nothing affects our health more than what we decide to eat on a daily basis.  In fact, with the advancement of nutritional medicine we know that the risk of many chronic diseases can be significantly reduced by following a healthy diet and lifestyle.  Most prevalent are specific nutrient deficiencies in dietary patterns, or diets that are too heavy in pro-inflammatory processed foods.  We have known for many decades from nutritional epidemiological studies that diets high in fruits and vegetables are extremely good for the cardiovascular system and help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Recent prospective epidemiologic studies show that green leafy vegetables are particularly supportive for heart health, and that following a healthy diet that is rich in these vegetables help reduce the risk of heart disease and ischemic stroke risk.  The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) studies found that diets rich in vegetables (i.e., 8-10 servings) help to support healthy blood pressure.  The blood pressure benefits of this diet are attributable to many diets high in calcium, potassium, polyphenols and fiber content and low in sodium and animal protein content.  However, another nutrient, dietary nitrates, are also known to be supportive of healthy blood pressure when consumed as part of a healthy diet.  The dietary nitrate content in food  is utilized by the body to make nitric oxide (NO) which supports normal vasodilation, healthy blood pressure levels, and cardiovascular function.

Through our own research and others, we have tested and analyzed over 300 different foods, herbs, and spices that are capable of providing sufficient dietary nitrate that may help support healthy blood pressure levels and cardiovascular health.  Through our own research, we’ve created an algorithm that predicts efficient nitrate conversion to nitric oxide.  Below are the top ten functional foods that have been tested in clinical trials to help support healthy blood pressure levels:

  1. Beet Root
  2. Kale
  3. Spinach
  4. Arugula
  5. Celery
  6. Curcumin
  7. Spirulina
  8. Green Tea
  9. Dark Chocolate
  10. Garlic

Most of the above foods contain dietary nitrate that can be utilized to make NO.  Others, including curcumin, green tea, and chocolate, contain molecules that will actually activate endogenous nitric oxide production.  Garlic contains sulfur-containing molecules that are critical for NO production.

The problem with establishing new dietary guidelines for recommending a specific amount of each of the foods is that their individual nitric oxide potential depends on where, how, and what time of year they’re grown.

We published a study last year showing that celery purchased at a local grocer in Los Angeles has over 30 times the nitrate as celery purchased at the same grocer in New York.  Without knowing the details on the celery growing practices, it is impossible to predict if consuming 2-3 servings will contain enough nitrate to support healthy blood pressure levels.  The same issue is true with beets, kale and spinach.

So how do you know if you are consuming enough of the functional foods to support healthy blood pressure, or if the functional foods listed above have sufficient nutrients (including nitrate) to generate NO?  The answer is you don’t.


Dr. Nathan S. Bryan, HumanN Co-Founder and Nitric Oxide Scientist

Dr. Nathan Bryan, HumanN Co-Founder and Nitric Oxide Scientist, was recruited by the Nobel Laureate, Dr. Ferid Murad to work in the N-O Discovery Program at the University of Texas. It was through this program that Dr. Bryan discovered a safe and natural way to produce Nitric Oxide gas, enabling the body to restore its N-O function. Wanting to bring this technology to the masses, he co-founded Neogenis Laboratories, now HumanN, in 2009.

Dr. Bryan is a recognized world authority in Nitric Oxide research. He is credited with a multitude of significant discoveries in Nitric Oxide function and metabolism, and has published extensively in peer-reviewed scientific journals in the field. He’s been awarded, or has pending, nine patents related to Nitric Oxide. He lectures frequently on Nitric Oxide, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Nitric Oxide Society.

Dr. Bryan earned his undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and his Doctoral degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport, where he was the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. He continued his postdoctoral research as a Kirschstein Fellow at Boston University School of Medicine in the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. From there, he continued in academia as a member of faculty in several Texas universities. When not conducting critical research or making significant discoveries for N-O, you can find him at Baylor College of Medicine in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics where he is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor.

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