Indigenous Foods that control Hypertension

High blood pressure is on the increase and is caused largely through bad eating habits. The good news is that you can keep your blood pressure in check by making a healthy switch to the more traditional African foods that are available on our doorstep.

The Importance of Diet
Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can have a huge impact on high blood pressure.

  • There is a high prevalence of high blood pressure among populations on the typical Westernised diet
  • Low incidence of the same condition in rural Africa where people are on the traditional African diet
  • It is evident that diet weighs heavily on the likelihood of hypertension.

The following foods in the traditional African diet have powerful antihypertensive properties that sustainably keep blood pressure under control.

Root Vegetables
Tuberous vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cassava are great allies when it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure.

  • There is a rich potassium content found in tuberous vegetables.
  • Potassium ensures proper fluid balance and is effective for removing excess sodium from the body.  Latest studies even indicate that for controlling blood pressure, increasing potassium intake is more viable than severely restricting salt intake.
  • It is definitely wise to control intake of salt, a source of sodium that can lead to high blood pressure if eaten excessively.

The Amaranth Plant
The amaranth plant is known scientifically as Amaranthus. In South Africa, amaranth goes by different local names including pigweed, misbredie, marog, tepe, thepe, serepelele, theepe, umfino, imbuya, or utyutu.

  • Both the leaves and seeds of the amaranth plant are edible
  • Amaranth leaves can be prepared and eaten like spinach. Especially the seeds, are rich in omega- 3 fatty acids which are essential for heart health and blood pressure control because they lower bad cholesterol while elevating good cholesterol.
  • Omega-3 fats are also known to minimise inflammation. Uncontrolled inflammation is believed to be a risk factor for many chronic illnesses including hypertension


Diets rich in legumes lower the risk of disease of any kind. Beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are collectively referred to as legumes or pulses.

  • Rich in protein, legumes are far healthier than meat, which is linked to an increased risk of hypertension.
  • Fibre is one of the nutrients responsible for the antihypertensive attributes of legumes.  Research has continued to show that fibre-rich diets are instrumental in regulating blood pressure.  Fibre improves cholesterol balance, promotes heart health, and lowers the risk for stroke.
  • Researchers also say that magnesium is powerful enough to minimise the harmful impact of stroke.
    Legumes are really versatile and convenient in terms of preparation and how they are eaten.
  • Lentils cook quickly and they can be made into a stew by simply adding grated carrots, onions, and spices during preparation.

Wild Mushrooms
Wild mushrooms are incredibly healthy and contribute greatly towards controlling blood pressure.

  • Wild mushrooms are rich in vitamin D, an important nutrient for regulating blood pressure. A
  • Additionally, vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium, another nutrient found in mushrooms and strongly linked to healthy blood pressure.
  • Mushrooms are very high in antioxidants.
  • Fibre is also abundantly present in mushrooms adding to the antihypertensive abilities of mushrooms.
  • Local names for mushrooms include ngowa, ikhowe and sampioen.

Herbal infusions can be effective in helping to control high blood pressure.  Research has shown that the daily consumption of green tea or hibiscus, a delicious red tea, reduces blood pressure.

  • Herbal diuretics such as buchu and cornsilk tea help by eliminating water and relieving oedema.
  • Rooibos is an herb native to South Africa that isn’t even a true “tea” at all. Rather, it’s a plant that when harvested and dried can be brewed into a reddish-brown herbal infusion .
    Caution: If you have high blood pressure, exercise caution when using and mixing herbs, OTC medications and prescription medication as all herbs are powerful and should be researched carefully before being administered.

Adapted from: Natural Medicine World Magazine November 2017