Stock up on this citrus fruit the next time you hit the grocery store. Oranges are bursting with vitamin C, and some studies suggest that people who get lots of vitamin C in their diet may reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure.
Best bet: Drink the juice (it’s loaded with other compounds that may reduce blood pressure) or eat the whole fruit for some extra fiber along with the vitamin C.
Other sources of vitamin C: Guava, grapefruit, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, kiwi
Try this: Toss together a fresh citrus salad of peeled sliced oranges, shaved fennel, thinly sliced onion, olives and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, recommends Aglaia Kremezi, author of Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.
Low-fat or skim milk
Getting enough of the white stuff isn’t just good for your bones. Milk and other dairy products contain a trio of nutrients that may push down your blood pressure: calcium, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients are so important that the DASH diet (short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) includes two to three daily servings of nonfat or low-fat dairy products.
Best bet: Stay away from artery-clogging saturated fats by choosing nonfat dairy products.
Other sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium: Hazelnuts, wheat bran, calcium-fortified orange juice
Try this: Whip up a healthy version of an old-fashioned milkshake by blending skim milk, frozen strawberries and nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt.
If your blood pressure has been inching up lately, make bananas your go-to fruit—they’re rich in potassium and fiber. “A diet with plentiful potassium-rich foods has been shown to help lower blood pressure,” says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., author of Nutrition & You: Core Concepts for Good Health.
Best bet: Bananas taste sweetest when their skins are slightly speckled with brown but they’re still firm.
Other good sources of potassium: Potatoes, tomato paste, apricots, lentils
Try this: “For a guilt-free dessert or breakfast, top banana slices with plain low-fat yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon,” Kremezi suggests.
This super-sweet Thanksgiving staple packs a powerful potassium punch, which is why it deserves a spot at the dinner table year round. “Potassium causes the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body, and keeping sodium levels low can help drive down blood pressure,” Salge Blake says.
Best bet: Eat them with the skin for a tasty fiber boost.
Other sources of potassium: Beet greens, white beans, plain nonfat yogurt
Try this: Bump up the potassium content of potato salad. Boil sweet potatoes, then combine them with chopped apple, diced celery and sliced scallions. Toss with a dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar and honey.
Herbs and spices
Salt may be off-limits when you’re trying to lower your blood pressure, but you can spice up your dishes with fresh herbs. Even easier, raid your spice rack. “It’s no doubt stocked with wonderful dried herbs and spices that are naturally sodium free,” says Salge Blake.
Best bet: If you like fresh herbs but don’t have time to chop them, try herbs in a tube, like the ones from Gourmet Garden.
Other sources for flavor: Onions, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice
Try this: Make an exotic spice mix by combining Aleppo or Maras pepper (available at Middle Eastern markets or Kalustyans.com) with ground cumin, lemon zest, Greek oregano and chopped cilantro, Kremezi suggests.
Few foods have more heart-healthy benefits than this nutritional superstar. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies suggest not only lower blood pressure, but may also boost good cholesterol, cut triglycerides and slow the growth of arterial plaque.
Best bet: Turn it into a supper staple. Salmon and other omega-3-rich fish are so good for your heart that the American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings per week. No time to cook? Canned or pouched salmon is just as good: Instead of tuna, mix it with nonfat yogurt and diced celery to make a tasty sandwich spread, or toss it with greens and other veggies for a main-dish salad. It’s available with or without bones and skin.
Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids: Herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies
Try this: Give grilled or broiled salmon steaks or filets a tropical flair with a fresh and spicy salsa. Combine diced papaya, mango, pineapple, red bell pepper and red onion with chopped cilantro, olive oil and lime juice.
The next time you crave chocolate, give in. Besides their mood-boosting effects, the flavonols in dark chocolate may protect against high blood pressure and stroke, in part by improving the elasticity of blood vessels.
Best bet: When choosing chocolate, go as dark as your taste buds can stand. Check labels for the percentage of cacao, which is the source of all that antioxidant goodness. Dark chocolate typically ranges from 45 percent to 80 percent cacao. And eat a square, not the whole bar.
Another healthy chocolate treat: Sugar-free hot cocoa—in one study it lowered blood pressure, but the sugared kind did not.
Try this: “Toast slices of chewy whole-wheat bread, then brush them with fruity extra virgin olive oil while they’re still warm. Sprinkle the slices with Aleppo or Maras pepper to taste, and top with shavings of good quality dark chocolate,” says Kremezi.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.