Best Nigerian foods for people with hypertension

Researchers have published studies indicating that common Nigerian foods and fruits, such as zobo (Hibiscus Sabdariffa), walnuts, bananas, and beetroots can help lower blood pressure. This revelation can help people with hypertension manage their condition.

A Nigerian couple eating healthy Nigerian foods for hypertension

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

This figure has increased over the years, particularly among older adults. Other studies have indicated that Nigeria has a large burden of hypertension. 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.

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, dietary and lifestyle changes, high blood pressure can be regulated and kept within the normal range.

This article will discuss hypertension, its prevalence in Nigeria, who it affects more, and healthy Nigerian meals that are good for people with hypertension. The article will also provide more tips for managing high blood pressure.

What is hypertension? A brief overview

Hypertension is a shorter name for “high blood pressure.” Hypertension is a health condition characterised by high blood pressure. 

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. This condition can be serious as it causes the heart to work harder to pump blood to other body parts. 

Two numbers are involved when measuring a person’s blood pressure - the systolic and the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure readings are taken as the systolic pressure divided by the diastolic pressure.

The systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, while the diastolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart rests between beats. 

High blood pressure can lead to serious medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, metabolic syndrome and dementia.

Hypertension causes and risk factors

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Hypertension usually develops over time. In some cases, it is caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices such as living a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and eating saturated fats. In other instances, it is caused by diabetes, kidney problems, lupus, and hormonal problems.

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

You are at a greater risk of developing hypertension if:

The normal blood pressure

Normal blood pressure should be around 120/80  (not too higher than this and not too lower), 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 140mmHg and/or the diastolic pressure is equal to or more than 90mmHg 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 blood pressure. Therefore, it will help to know the foods that are good for your heart health.

Healthy Nigerian meals that can help you manage high blood pressure

Nigeria is blessed with a variety of dishes. If you live in the country, you will often be tempted to test the different delicacies in different parts of the country. However, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it will be best to stay off certain foods that may trigger a spike in your blood pressure.

Even if you don’t have hypertension, your body will benefit more from eating healthily. Eating the foods listed below will help you regulate your blood pressure and keep it within the normal range. Doing so will also contribute to a healthy heart.

Zobo (Hibiscus sabdarrifa)

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Zobo has become a common drink among Nigerians. The drink is made from Roselle leaves (botanically known as Hibiscus sabdariffa.

Zobo comes first in this list of 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 much sugary additives. You can blend fruits like bananas and pineapples as sweeteners instead of adding refined sugar.

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 control, reduce inflammation, reduce blood sugar and promote gut health.

Walnut is 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).

Oatmeals

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Oatmeals are everyday meals loved by Nigerians. Most Nigerian busy 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 oatmeals.

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

Oatmeals are also rich in phenolic compounds and beta-glucan, which can help in preventing and managing 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.

Fatty fish

If you have a high risk of developing hypertension (maybe you have a family history), it is best to cut out red meat, such as beef, from your 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 mega-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. 

Leafy vegetables

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If you have hypertension, you should make leafy vegetables one of your key foods. Vegetables such as bitter leaf, tomatoes and pumpkin are recommended because of their great health benefits to the 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 - as salads, food toppings, soups, added to stews, etc.

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 promotes weight loss and is good for cardiovascular health. It 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 foods that are good for people with hypertension

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

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

General lifestyle tips for managing high blood pressure

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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 fat such as pork, beef, and dairy products with healthier alternatives, such as olive oil, peanut butter, soybean, and avocados
  • Exercise regularly (at least 3 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
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Limit caffeine use
  • Quit smoking

Summary

Nigeria has different ethnic groups with diverse food, culture, and heritage. The nation is blessed with not only minerals but 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 your doctor or nutritionist for more options.