Blood pressure currently affects 1 billion people worldwide and approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States are affected by this epidemic, leading to risks such as mortality and morbidity.1 Unfortunately, only 35% of patients can balance their blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured as the force the heart uses to pump blood around the heart.2
It is important to maintain a balanced blood pressure, as high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can overwork the heart and consequently weaken the blood vessels, harming organs such as the brain and kidneys.3 Research has shown coconut is an effective food to incorporate into your diet in order to lower blood pressure, as it is packed with potassium.
This allows the kidneys to excrete sodium which allows the lowering of blood pressure. This article will explore the benefits of coconut when incorporated into the diet and how it is able to maintain blood pressure levels.
Blood pressure is given as two figures: systolic and diastolic pressure. This is the pressure when the heart pushes blood out and the pressure when the heart rests between beats, respectively.
The optimum blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, where the former number is the systolic pressure, and the latter number is the diastolic pressure. High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg and higher, whereas low blood pressure is 90/60mmHg and below. It is estimated that 90% of adults will develop high blood pressure by 65, specifically systolic hypertension.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to various symptoms such as:4
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Kidney disease
- Vascular dementia
Low blood pressure can also lead to symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
Lifestyle factors for blood pressure
There is a higher risk if you:
- Are overweight
- Consume too much salt
- Do not exercise
- Drink too much alcohol or caffeine
- Have a lot of stress
- Over 65 years old
- Have family history of high blood pressure
- Hold African or Caribbean heritage
- Live in a deprived area
Causes of low blood pressure include:
- An underlying medical condition
- Some medications
Blood pressure can be regulated through exercise, which can make the heart strong. This effectively allows the heart to pump more blood, decreasing the force put onto the arteries, resulting in lower blood pressure.5
It can take between 1 and 3 months of 150 minutes of moderate exercise combined with 75 minutes of intense exercise a week to affect blood pressure. Some good examples of exercise are:
Generally, blood pressure can go down by 1 mm/Hg with each 1kg of lost weight. In addition, reducing the size of the waistline is equally as important. Men, or assigned males at birth (AMAB), are at a higher risk if it is greater than 102 cm, and women, or assigned females at birth (AFAB), are at risk if it is more than 89cm.
Moreover, increased stress can contribute to higher blood pressure. This can be controlled through various techniques such as:
- Prioritising tasks and planning them throughout your day
- Always talk out your issues, whether it be at work or home
- Avoid stressful situations
- Make some time for yourself and always make sure to relax during this time by getting enough rest, taking up a hobby, or even meditating
Furthermore, reducing alcohol consumption to less than one drink a day for AFAB and two drinks a day for AMAB can decrease blood pressure by 4 mm Hg, as the overconsumption of alcohol can also decrease how effective blood pressure medications can be.6 Simultaneously, becoming a non-smoker can reduce blood pressure, as over time, it can widen the blood vessels, allowing more blood to travel through as they are not exposed to toxins like nicotine.
Finally, maintaining a balanced diet is very important in reducing blood pressure. This diet must include fruit, vegetables, grains, and food with low saturated fat and cholesterol. Such a diet can lower blood pressure by 11 mm Hg. Specifically, potassium can balance out sodium in the body and can decrease blood pressure by 5 to 6 mm Hg.
This can be controlled by not adding more salt to food and eating less processed food. An example of a food that naturally reduces sodium is coconut. This fruit has many health properties and nutritional benefits that allow it to not only reduce blood pressure but also keep you hydrated due to it being packed with electrolytes.
Coconut and blood pressure
For every 100g, raw coconut has the following nutritional values:7
- 47g Water
- 2.43mg Iron
- 32mg Magnesium
- 356mg Potassium
- 20mg Sodium
- 1.1mg Zinc
- 1.5mg Copper
- 1.5mg Manganese
- 14mg Calcium
As evident from these nutritional values, there are high levels of potassium. Potassium-rich foods are classed as having 200mg or more potassium in each serving, which coconut surpasses.
This is an important factor, as potassium is a key component needed in order to lower blood pressure. This allows the blood vessels to relax and lowers the systolic value, also preventing muscle cramps.8
Additionally, coconut also contains magnesium, which is proven to lower blood pressure in patients, especially in those who are resistant to insulin and those who are pre-diabetic.9 Magnesium can naturally block calcium channels and improve the tissues that are formed within the blood vessels.
The effective combination of magnesium and potassium, coupled with low levels of calcium and sodium is shown to improve blood pressure.
Types of coconut products and how to incorporate this into your diet
There are different types of coconut products available for consumption. These include:
- Raw Coconut
- Coconut Milk
- Coconut Water
- Coconut Whipping Cream
- Condensed Coconut Milk
- Desiccated Coconut
- Coconut Aminos
- Virgin Coconut Oil
Raw Coconut is very versatile as it contains milk and water, which can be used in recipes and eaten alone. Coconut milk can be a substitute for dairy items such as smoothies, ice cream, and many more.
The milk specifically increases heart health and metabolism, as well as reduces inflammation. Equally, the water is packed with electrolytes such as potassium and contains antioxidants, which can be drunk instead of sports drinks.
These products have been made into ingredients such as whipping cream, desiccated coconut, and condensed milk which are a healthier alternative that can be used in curries, soups, and desserts.
Coconut aminos are a popular substitute for soy sauce, which normally contains high levels of sodium. It can replace normal soy sauce whilst also having the added benefits of reducing blood pressure and can be used in marinades and dressings.
Finally, virgin coconut oil is a natural product which has not been heated or bleached like normal coconut oil and is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. This oil can replace all cooking oils in any dish, from curries to cakes.
These alternatives not only improve blood pressure health but also add more flavour to each dish.
Potential allergies and side effects
A coconut allergy is seen to be very rare, and it is more likely to be a sign of cross-contamination with other foods such as nuts. Coconut that can be used for the skin is more likely to cause a reaction compared to the oral consumption of coconut, but some symptoms of edible coconut consumption can include:10
- The swelling of the lips, face or tongue, known as angioedema
Every food must be eaten in moderation, and coconut is a prime example. The recommended amount of raw coconut to consume is approximately 40g per day. This is because coconut is composed of saturated fat, with increased amounts leading to increased cholesterol and a risk of cardiovascular diseases.11
On the other hand, this alternative is still better than saturated fats from animals. Therefore, a lot of coconuts must be consumed to harm the body. Plus, the amount of fat within is determined by both the type of product and the age of the coconut. Newer coconuts have less fat, whereas older ones have more and can be used to make oils and creams.
If you are concerned about a coconut allergy or its usage, speak to a GP who can refer you to an allergy clinic for testing.
In conclusion, normal blood pressure is pivotal as it allows nutrients and oxygen to be delivered around the body and to vital organs. As the blood vessels narrow, it is harder for the blood to travel around the body and carry out its function.
Many factors contribute to high blood pressure such as lack of exercise, smoking, and diet. However, it has been shown certain foods can help balance blood pressure, as demonstrated by coconut. Due to its high potassium and magnesium levels, it can help remove excess sodium from the kidneys and maintain a balanced state.
There are many types of coconut products for consumption, and these can be easily substituted in our daily lives, replacing high-sodium products such as soy sauce, oils, and much more. Fortunately, allergy to coconut is rare and is therefore accessible to most as an option for the reduction of blood pressure.
- Houston M. The role of magnesium in hypertension and cardiovascular disease. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich) [Internet]. 2011 Sep 26 [cited 2023 Sep 21];13(11):843–7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8108907/
- nhs.uk [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Sep 19]. What is blood pressure? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-is-blood-pressure/
- NIH News in Health [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Sep 19]. Blood pressure matters. Available from: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/01/blood-pressure-matters
- nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Sep 20]. High blood pressure (Hypertension). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/
- Mayo Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Why exercise is medicine for high blood pressure. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045206
- Mayo Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974
- Fooddata central [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170169/nutrients
- Harvard Health [Internet]. 2005 [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Potassium lowers blood pressure. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/potassium-lowers-blood-pressure
- Dibaba DT, Xun P, Song Y, Rosanoff A, Shechter M, He K. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or noncommunicable chronic diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2017 Sep [cited 2023 Sep 21];106(3):921–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573024/
- Verywell Health [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. How to cope if you’re allergic to coconut. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-coconut-allergy-diet-guide-1324149
- LIVESTRONG.COM [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. It’s delicious, but too much coconut can bring fattening consequences. Available from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/403275-side-effects-of-eating-too-much-coconut/