High blood pressure during pregnancy can affect the growth of your baby and can also be an early sign of pre-eclampsia – we take a look at ways you can avoid high blood pressure in pregnancy and how to lower your blood pressure by eating the right foods.
Keeping active and doing some physical activity each day can help keep your pregnancy blood pressure in the normal range, but it’s not just about staying active, eating a balanced diet and keeping your salt intake low can also help.
Check out our top suggestions for tweaking your pregnancy diet to improve your blood pressure…
Make sure you get your five a day (or six or seven)
Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. ‘A portion’ can be a confusing amount but is, 80 grams or roughly the size of your fist. So that’s one medium-sized fruit (think apples, pears or bananas), two smaller fruits (plums or satsumas for instance), a dessert bowl of salad or three tablespoons of veggies. Potatoes don’t count. And if in doubt about what constitutes a ‘portion’ eat a bit more fruit and veg – just keep it varied!
Vary the presentation as well as the content
Steamed, blended into soup, diced into stews or casseroles, chopped into stir fries, superslaws (we love Jill Greenwood’s adaptable recipes), roasted (try cutting cauliflower into slices instead of separating the florets) or raw in salad. There are endless ways to eat your five a day.
Ease up on the salt!
Salt makes the body hold onto water. Eating too much salt can result in excess fluid retention and raised blood pressure. Whilst you do need some sodium during pregnancy, too much salt can exacerbate high blood pressure. It can be a tricky balance, but leaving salt out of your cooking, avoiding processed foods and swopping salty snacks for healthier options will benefit your blood pressure.
Raw carrot and celery sticks dipped into hummus makes a much healthier snack choice than salted crisps and peanuts!
Blend your fruit and veg into a smoothie
Pregnancy nausea and the ever increasing size of your baby can play havoc with your ability to eat proper meals. Blending your fruit and veg into a smoothie is a sure way to provide all the benefits of fruit and raw veg without needing to pile them up on a plate. Whisk up apples and bananas with watermelon or orange juice and add a handful of raw spinach or grated carrot. Frozen broccoli blends perfectly in a smoothie.
Choose foods with natural properties to lower blood pressure – beetroot is a winner!
The betaine found in beetroots is said to be an even more potent antioxidant than polyphenols in its effect on lowering blood pressure. Studies have also shown that the high levels of nitrates in beetroot juice are effective in preventing blood clots and can help to protect the linings of your blood vessels.
Boil or roast your beetroot until tender: it’s good blended into soup or whizzed up with chickpeas and tahini paste for a delicious beetroot hummus. Or eat it raw, grated into salads.
Start your day with porridge oats
Research has shown that tucking into a bowl of porridge oats can lower blood pressure – whilst wholegrain foods generally have a beneficial effect on high blood pressure, oats include a unique group of antioxidants known as avenanthramides. These are thought to help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide, a gas molecule which helps dilate blood vessels improving the flow of blood.
Add more herbs and garlic
Including more flavour packed herbs into your pregnancy diet is a good way to compensate for the reduction in salt. Better still, garlic has long been renowned for its beneficial effect on a variety of cardiovascular conditions – it’s thought to increase the production of nitric oxide, resulting in smooth muscle relaxation and the dilation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure. Use it freely!
And a final reminder….stay active!
The NHS recommends 150 minutes of physical activity every week – I know we’re labouring the point (no pun intended) but regular exercise during pregnancy really will benefit your health and the health of your baby.