Having – or getting – healthy blood pressure is all about making sure your body has what it needs to keep itself in balance. It’s a bit like conducting an orchestra – many elements are needed!
Making sure you’re getting the large-scale nutrients like fibre, protein and fat is one thing, but it’s quite difficult to discern whether you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals. Although you need much smaller amounts of these, they are no less important – and for healthy blood pressure they are vital.
Potassium, calcium and magnesium are the minerals best known for helping to reduce or prevent high blood pressure, interacting to keep your blood vessels relaxed and dilated.
Of the vitamins, the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E are known to protect the lining of your arteries, while the B vitamins and vitamin D work with other substances in the body to regulate blood pressure.
To supplement or not to supplement?
There’s two approaches to supplementing. One is to take supplements to ensure you’re getting enough of the essential elements, and the other is to take supplements of ‘extra’ nutrients that are good for you which you wouldn’t normally get in your daily diet.
Making sure to get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals
Is it necessary to take supplements though, or can we get enough of the essential elements we need to stay healthy from what we eat and drink?
That is the big health question. The debate has been going on for a while and shows no sign of stopping.
Supplements are necessary to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients…
Some argue that it’s impossible to get enough of the important vitamins and minerals from food, and that it’s necessary to supplement this by taking vitamin and mineral pills.
One of the reasons you may not be getting enough essential nutrients needed is that you’re not eating a varied and balanced enough diet – not eating many vegetables, for example. However, even if you are eating very well, the effects of decades of large-scale intensive farming is that in many places soils are depleted of nutrients (and that’s not counting the negative effects of pesticides and herbicides). Which means the foods grown in such soils are less nutritious than in previous years. (Depending on your age, you might have noticed that many fruits and vegetables have less flavour than they used to. Certainly, my mum says she remembers when carrots and peas and grapes had more intense flavours than they do today.) In this case, supplements may be useful to supply the missing nutrients. (Of course, eating organic food, if you can get it and if you can afford it, will also help.)
Or supplements aren’t effective and are a waste of money… ?
Others argue that the body can’t extract the right substances in the right form from supplements as well as it can from natural food, and so taking supplements is ineffective, and a waste of money.
For example, one Harvard nutrition scientist once famously said that vitamin supplements are “expensive urine” (Victor Herbert, quoted in Time magazine). Indeed, even those in favour of taking supplements admit this may be true in many cases. This is because poorly made supplements contain isolated nutrients in synthetic forms which the body doesn’t recognise as food and can’t absorb. The chemicals are then passed out in your urine.
Obviously, how well you can actually absorb and benefit from a supplement depends to a large extent on the quality of the supplement. As supplements become more popular, there seems to be an increase both in mass suppliers knocking out cheap synthetic supplements and companies carefully creating supplements from high quality botanical ingredients. (The ‘bioavailability’ of the ingredients of the supplement can also be affected by what you take it with – more on this below.)
As for the general question of supplementing or not, it doesn’t seem to be unequivocally answered by research yet. There’s some evidence for both points of view.
Taking ‘super’ supplements
Curcumin (found in turmeric) is an excellent anti-inflammatory.
Even if you’re confident you’re getting everything you need from either your diet alone, or your diet plus basic supplements, you might want to take additional supplements too. These would be of substances which have additional health benefits but which you’re almost certainly not getting in what you regularly eat and drink.
For example, turmeric has had a lot of press in recent years because the exceptional properties of a substance it contains called curcumin. (You can read more about this in our article here: Turmeric for lower blood pressure). Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and, as such, is helpful in treating multiple health conditions, including high blood pressure.
You can also get supplements that are designed to treat a particular health condition by combining several ingredients. For example, Alistrol is a supplement containing four ingredients known to help alleviate high blood pressure.
One thing’s for sure: you need to eat well
What is agreed, however, is that there is NO substitute for a healthy well-rounded diet, with a healthy adequately active lifestyle. With your health and food, everything is connected. Vitamins and minerals and other food substances interact with each other, and this affects how well they are absorbed and stored by the body, and how they work once in the body. So even taking one super-supplement in isolation won’t help much if you’re not getting enough of other substances that it works in concert with.
So the best approach is to build yourself a balanced varied diet – of real food, organic if you can. If you put some effort and attention into eating enough healthy foods each day, there should be no problem with getting the nutrients and elements you need – in most cases. We know the body can effectively absorb nutrients from food – or relatively unprocessed foods anyway – and you’ll also save money on supplements.
(For more information on healthy diets as they pertain to healthy blood pressure, you can browse the many articles on this website, or start with our overview here: High blood pressure diets)
Having said that, there are some things that it may be difficult to get enough of, or are just so important that you don’t want to take any chances – so for those, it’s beneficial to take supplements.
Also, if you’re travelling, or in some other situation where it might be difficult for you to maintain your ideal food schedule, then supplements can be a good temporary back-up.
Supplements that help reduce blood pressure
How much of each vitamin/mineral?
National health authorities usually give RDAs – recommended daily allowances – for each vitamin and mineral. So you want to at least be getting that much. These are based on just keeping most people in basic health though, i.e., preventing deficiencies, and don’t take account of specific health conditions, like high blood pressure. For optimal health – and to improve your blood pressure levels – you’re often best to take more than the RDA.
For example, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) outlined by US health authorities, recommends that you get 500mg of magnesium daily (100mg more than the RDA), and of 1250mg a day of calcium (250mg more than the RDA).
Balancing supplements and diet
* Special offer on vitamin D3 – 3 bottles for the price of 2 *
So consider the amount of something that you want to take. Some things are difficult to get enough of just from natural sources – vitamin D, for example – so it’s advisable to take a regular supplement that gives you at least your full RDA.
NOTE: Vitamin D is now known to be very important for healthy blood pressure. You can read more about vitamin D and how to get enough of it in our article here: Vitamin D and high blood pressure
Some things you may just want to take a supplement as an extra – to supplement what you’re already getting from your diet. In that case, allow for that when figuring out how strong a supplement you want to take. If you’re eating a citrus fruit every day for example, you can take less vitamin C as a supplement.
Diet is also important as it affects how well a certain supplement can be absorbed and used by your body. Some vitamins and minerals need other substances present for them to be effectively absorbed. For example, taking an iron supplement with food or drink containing vitamin C will help it to be absorbed and used. And fat-soluble vitamins need some fat present in order to be absorbed – more below.
Water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins
You also have to take account of what kind of vitamin it is. Vitamin C and the B vitamins (including folic acid) are water-soluble, so can’t be stored by your body. This means you have to get these every day. They are also more easily flushed out from food, depending on how they’re stored and cooked (more below), so you do need to take more care to get enough of these vitamins.
However, if you’re taking supplements of vitamin C or B vitamins, there’s less risk of overdosing on them, because whatever the body doesn’t absorb it just passes out in your urine.
Other vitamins – A, D, E, K – are fat-soluble so can be stored in your body’s fatty tissues and liver. This means they can build up in your body over time, and aren’t as easily lost from food, so it’s generally easier to get enough of these vitamins from your food. There’s also more danger of building up toxic levels of them if you take supplements in doses that are too high. In general, you don’t need supplements of these vitamins – except for vitamin D, which we almost always need more of!
If you are taking a fat-soluble vitamin supplement, make sure to take it with some food which contains fat – some fat needs to be present in order for the body to be able to absorb it. Certainly, don’t take it on an empty stomach as then you will just be making “expensive urine”.
Everything in moderation…
Vitamins and minerals interact with each other in various ways. Some affect how well others can be used and absorbed by the body and/or how well they work in the body. Some work interdependently. The levels of some affect the levels of others.
Overall, your health depends on vitamins and minerals working in balance with each other. So be careful of suddenly taking very high doses of one thing as it can upset that balance, and can cause you to be depleted of other vitamins and minerals, or reduce their efficacy.
As with many foods and drinks, moderation is key….
PLEASE NOTE: Many of these vitamins and minerals can also interact with other medications. In general, if you are getting them from your diet, there are unlikely to be problems. However, if you’re on any medication or have specific health conditions, best to talk to your doctor/a healthcare professional before starting supplements, to make sure there won’t be any unwanted interactions or effects.
Which are the best supplements to buy?
Not all supplements were created equal so it’s important to buy a high quality supplement. If you’re going to spend the money to get a supplement, then don’t waste it on a poor quality one that won’t actually help you.
This is a bit easier said than done sometimes though! Even supplements of the same basic ingredient come in different forms. The supplements can contain different amounts of the main ingredient, contain the main ingredient in different chemical forms, and also have different other ingredients. All of these affect how well the ingredient can be absorbed and used by your body.
Ora Organics make excellent quality plant-based supplements
Which form is best is specific to each kind of supplement, and often there is some disagreement over this. The best thing is to decide which supplements you want to take – narrow it down to the most important – and then do a bit of research: sometimes the staff of the health food or supplement store are a good source of knowledge, or ask a health professional – your doctor, or a nutritionist or suchlike.
Aim to find which are the best brands – those which are known for making good quality supplements. Price isn’t always an accurate guideline, but the super-cheap supplements may not be as effective. If you’re going to take it, make it count.
NOTE: The supplements we’ve linked to on this page are good quality products made by companies which get good reviews and have good reputations. We do receive a commission if you buy these products (by clicking on the images/links we provide), so we made sure to find good quality products to show you.
Everything you need to know about the supplements which reduce blood pressure
To be sure you’re taking the best supplements for your needs, why not consult our new book:
Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide
As well as guidance on the key supplements to take for lower blood pressure, there is a detailed list of all the main supplements that help reduce blood pressure, with information on why they help lower blood pressure, how much to take, and the best form to take them in, and more. Everything you need to know!
Lowering your blood pressure naturally is not just about taking supplements though, of course.
What you eat and drink, how fit and active you are, and how stressed you are all crucially affect your blood pressure.
Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally looks at all these factors and shows you how to make easy, effective and enjoyable changes in your lifestyle which will lower your blood pressure – and keep it low.
These changes are laid out in nine easy-to-follow steps. These progressive steps are based on the principle that positive incremental change is always best in health matters.
Each chapter will take you further along the road of greater vigour and peace of mind (and a healthy blood pressure).
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