Best Nigerian foods for people with high blood pressure (BP)

Blood pressure is a common cardiovascular condition that can affect both young and older people. This condition is chronic but can often be managed with healthy lifestyle practices, which include healthier meals. Here we discuss indepth some of the best Nigerian foods for people with high blood pressure.

A Nigerian couple eating healthy Nigerian foods for hypertension

Key takeaways:

  • High blood pressure (HBP), also called hypertension, is a condition that occurs when the pressure with which blood pushes against the wall of blood vessels is too high.
  • When left unmanaged, high blood pressure can cause severe conditions like heart attack and stroke. However, with lifestyle management, such as eating healthier meals and BP medications, people can better manage their blood pressure levels.
  • Some great Nigerian foods for BP patients that may help lower their blood pressure levels include fatty fish, leafy vegetables, oatmeal, and oil bean seed.

As of 2010, there were about 20.8 million cases of high blood pressure in Nigeria among adults aged 20 years and older, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Hypertension says.

This figure has increased over the years, particularly among older adults, such that more studies have indicated that Nigeria has a large burden of hypertension. For instance, a recent 2020 study found that the prevalence of hypertension increased from 6.8% in adults below 30 years to 63% among adults aged 70 years and above.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force with which blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels. When the force is too high, the condition is termed high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can be a symptom of an underlying health condition, or it could be a precursor to a severe health condition. High blood pressure tends to be fatal when not diagnosed on time or treated. On the other hand, with the right treatment and dietary and lifestyle changes, high blood pressure can be regulated and kept within the normal range.

This article will discuss some healthy Nigerian meals that are good for people with hypertension and also provide more tips for managing high blood pressure.

Healthy Nigerian meals that can help you manage high blood pressure

Nigeria is blessed with a variety of dishes and delicacies, and it can be tempting to consume most of them. However, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it will be best to stay away from certain foods that may trigger a spike in your blood pressure.

Some healthy Nigerian foods that can help lower blood pressure in people with high BP include:

1. Zobo (Hibiscus sabdarrifa)

Zobo is a common drink in Nigerians made from Roselle leaves (scientifically known as Hibiscus sabdariffa).

Zobo comes first in this list of the best Nigerian foods for managing blood pressure, not just because of its touted health benefits but because studies have shown that the plant used for making this drink is good for cardiovascular health.

The study result of a 2019 research indicated that Hibiscus sabdariffa, the major ingredient in zobo, can effectively lower blood pressure in people with stage 1 hypertension.

While zobo has great health benefits, it is important not to ruin things by making the drink with too many sugary additives. You can blend in whole fruits like bananas and pineapples into your zobo as sweeteners instead of adding refined sugar.

2. Walnuts

Are you thinking of healthy foods to snack on? You should consider stocking up on walnuts. Many Nigerians eat walnuts as snacks, but many don’t know that this nut has numerous health benefits. 

Walnuts are rich in antioxidants. They also contain abundant vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and vitamin B6. Eating enough of them may promote weight management, reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, and promote gut health.

Walnuts are also good for people with hypertension. Replacing fatty foods with walnuts and vegetable oil improved serum lipid and central diastolic pressure in adults at risk of cardiovascular diseases, a 2019 study showed.

If you are wondering about the quantity of walnuts to eat to get the desired result, a 2017 study suggested that eating 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of walnut daily may cause a decrease in Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides, and total cholesterol (which may all contribute hypertension).

3. Oatmeals

Oatmeals are everyday meals loved by many. Most Nigerian homes rely on making oatmeal for breakfast because it is fast and easy to prepare. It is important to know what you stand to gain when you eat oatmeal.

Oats are rich in fiber. Fiber-rich foods help keep a person fuller and reduce hunger pangs. This can cause you to eat less, ultimately helping with weight management. Maintaining a normal weight reduces the risk of high blood pressure.

Oatmeals are also rich in phenolic compounds and beta-glucan, which can also help prevent and manage high blood pressure. There are limited studies to prove the role oatmeal plays in regulating blood pressure, but most of the few available studies indicate that it does indeed play a positive role.

4. Fatty fish

For people with a high risk of developing hypertension (e.g., those with a family history of HBP), it is best they cut out red meat, such as beef, from their food and opt more for white meat, particularly fish.

Fatty fishes such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, oysters, and herrings are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There is substantial evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce blood pressure by decreasing the level of oxylipins (a blood vessel-restricting compound) and reducing inflammation.

Since omega-3 may be beneficial in lowering blood pressure, it is recommended for people with hypertension. If you are in Nigeria, feel free to enjoy peppered fish and fish pepper soups. 

5. Leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetables should be one of the key foods for people with hypertension in Nigeria. Vegetables such as bitter leaf, tomatoes, and pumpkin are recommended for high BP patients because of their great health benefits to heart health and overall health.

A 2018 study published in the journal Nutrients showed that eating at least three servings of vegetables every day contributed to a lower high blood pressure risk in adolescents.

Vegetables are prepared in different ways in Nigeria, including as salads, food toppings, soups, and as additions to stews.

6. Oil bean seed

People living in remote areas, particularly in the southeast region of Nigeria, enjoy different delicacies prepared with the oil bean seed. In some places, it is called ugba, while some call it ukpaka.

Oil bean seed is an excellent source of protein and amino acids. It also contains substantial vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. 

Oil bean seed has many health benefits, including promoting weight loss and cardiovascular health. For this reason, it is regarded as one of the best Nigerian foods for people with high blood pressure.

Oil bean seed contains abundant linoleic acid, which helps prevent hypertension. A 2017 study found that fermented African oil beans may help treat and manage high blood pressure.

Other Nigerian foods that are good for people with hypertension

To regulate your blood pressure, it is recommended that you opt for healthier foods such as:

  • Beans and peas
  • Brown rice
  • Wheat meals
  • Whole carb meals
  • Potatoes
  • Plantains
  • Fruits, such as bananas, oranges, and pineapples
  • Nuts
  • Beetroot
  • Onion
  • Ginger and garlic
  • Olive oil

Causes of hypertension and risk factors

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Hypertension usually develops over time. In some cases, unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices—such as smoking, being sedentary, and consuming saturated fats—contribute to this condition. High blood pressure can also be caused by medical conditions like diabetes, kidney problems, lupus, and hormonal problems.

Additionally, some medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, contraceptive pills, herbal medicines, antidepressants, and recreational drugs, can elevate blood pressure.

You are at a greater risk of developing hypertension if:

  • You are overweight or obese
  • You are above 65 years of age
  • You live a sedentary lifestyle
  • You smoke
  • You eat too much sodium (salt)
  • You don’t get enough sleep
  • You have a family history of high blood pressure
  • You are a Black African

The normal blood pressure

Normal blood pressure should be around 120/80 (not too higher than this, and not too low), with 120 being the systolic pressure and 80 being the diastolic pressure. 

Hypertension is diagnosed if the systolic pressure is equal to or more than 140 mmHg and/or the diastolic pressure is equal to or more than 90 mmHg on two consecutive days, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Eating certain foods, such as foods containing high trans fat, salted foods, fast foods, fried foods, and fatty red meat, can affect your blood pressure, causing it to spike. Such foods can also cause an increase in weight, which is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure.

Lifestyle tips for managing high blood pressure

If you have hypertension, below are some tips that will help guide you when making your lifestyle choices:

  • Limit stress.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Replace saturated fats such as pork, beef, and dairy products with healthier alternatives, such as olive oil, peanut butter, soybeans, and avocados.
  • Exercise regularly (at least three times a week).
  • Eat more potassium-rich foods such as nuts and seeds, beans, and tomatoes.
  • Reduce sodium (salt) intake.
  • Cut out added sugar and refined carbs.
  • Lose some weight, if necessary or possible.
  • Reduce alcohol intake.
  • Limit caffeine use.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting.

Final thoughts

Nigeria has different ethnic groups with diverse food, culture, and heritage. The nation is blessed with not only minerals but also natural food.

If you have hypertension and live in Nigeria, you need not worry about what to eat, as there are different healthy Nigerian foods that can help you regulate your blood pressure. You may want to start with the ones listed in this article. Then, talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian for more lifestyle tips and more food options.