Nutritional Excellence Works

By Joel Fuhrman,

More Effective And Safer Than Any High Blood Pressure Medications!

Before deciding to use drug therapy, you not only should weigh the risks versus the benefits of each medication available for your condition, but also determine if there are other options that have better risk–benefit ratios. When it comes to high blood pressure, nothing compares with the program of salt avoidance, coupled with a high-nutrient, whole-food, plant-based diet, and vigorous exercise that I recommend. It has no risks, and it provides substantial benefits.

It is well established in the scientific literature that diets rich in vegetables and fruits maintain lower blood pressure levels. 14 It also has been demonstrated that when the ratio of vegetable protein to animal protein is high, blood pressure is much lower. 15 This means that increased consumption of chicken, meat, and dairy products raises the blood pressure, and increased consumption of protein rich plant foods such as beans, seeds, nuts, and greens lowers it.

Overconsumption of salt and overconsumption of animal products are the major contributors to the development of high blood pressure, but baked goods and sweets also contribute. The consumption of refined carbohydrates does not merely drive up glucose levels. It also contributes directly to a heightened load of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), both ingested and fabricated by the body in response to ingestion of processed foods. This results in endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress. A pathological role for AGEs is substantiated by studies showing that dietary interventions that attenuate insulin resistance and/or lower AGEs are effective in decreasing oxidative stress, lowering blood pressure, and lessening atherosclerotic vascular changes. 16

Some may question whether the nutritional excellence program that I recommend is as effective as drugs are and if it will work for them. It is important to know that studies already well document the substantial effectiveness of weight loss, salt reduction, and dietary improvements, 17 but when the dietary intervention is even more aggressive and the salt reduction is even more dramatic, my program successfully achieves systolic blood pressure readings that rival multiple drug regimens, without any of the drug risks. One of the reasons for this success is that a truly health-supporting diet with a high micronutrient intake leads to dramatic weight loss benefits. Reducing body fat, while maintaining nutritional excellence, is the secret to reversing atherosclerosis inside the blood vessels and restoring lost elasticity.

My program achieves such dramatic benefits because it is very high in mixed fibers and vegetables and contains sterols and other beneficial compounds from greens, beans, and nuts. This is the only dietary intervention shown in a medical study to lower cholesterol as effectively as cholesterol-lowering medications. 18(By comparison, typical low-fat vegetarian diets do not lower LDL cholesterol as much and too often raise triglycerides.) The results of this study, patterned after the recommendations in my books, Eat For Health and Eat To Live, lowered LDL cholesterol 33 percent without unfavorable impact on HDL or triglycerides, reflecting sizable improvement in cardiac risk factors. I have hundreds of patients in my medical practice who have witnessed dramatic reductions in their blood lipids, especially LDL cholesterol, without drugs. And, most importantly, they accomplish dramatic weight loss that is maintained long-term.

Additional Benefits

Keep in mind that cholesterol lowering is not the sole protective effect of my diet and lifestyle recommendations. There are powerful anti-inflammatory (and more effectively lower hs-CRP) and other beneficial biochemical effects, as well. And even though drugs can lower cholesterol, they cannot be expected to offer the dramatic protection against cardiovascular events that nutritional excellence can.

The aggressive use of cholesterol lowering drugs does not prevent most heart attacks and strokes. In clinical trials, a significant percentage of patients on the best possible statin therapy still experience cardiac events. By contrast, lowering cholesterol through nutritional excellence (just like lowering blood pressure with nutritional excellence) offers dramatically more protection and disease reversal, without the risks or expense of prescription medication. My nutritional protocols lower body weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, LDL cholesterol, and inflammatory markers and raise micronutrient parameters, enabling unprecedented protection from cardiac events, cerebral vascular accidents (strokes), and dementia simultaneously. For example, eating cooked eggplant and lots of leafy greens and drinking beet juice and pomegranate juice are wonderful adjuncts that aid in lowering blood pressure. 19

I have been applying a non-drug centered approach to reversing heart disease and lowering blood pressure for almost 20 years, and it works. Most people who adopt my dietary recommendations see a dramatic decrease in blood pressure even within the first week. However, some people’s blood pressure is more resistant and takes longer to resolve. In these individuals, using freshly squeezed vegetable juices, isometric hand exercises, and even therapeutic fasting can resolve the blood pressure issues, without having to resort to drugs. The successful treatment of thousands of high blood pressure patients with these natural methods demonstrates that, for the motivated patient, medications rarely need be an option.

Isometric Hand Exercise

The Zona isometric hand squeezing machine (recommended and sold at provides a simple and effective natural way to lower blood pressure. Even after eliminating salt from the diet, it can take years for the heightened sympathetic tone (from years of salt use) to reverse itself. With the use of the Zona machine, this sympathetic tone can be reset within six to eight weeks.

By repeatedly constricting the muscles and blood vessels in your forearm, the body reacts by increasing local vasodilators to relax the blood vessels and increases the elasticity of blood vessels flowing from the heart. All exercise is beneficial, but using this well-researched blood pressure-lowering technique designed for maximum effectiveness, for about 10 minutes a day, added on to all of the other exercise recommendations, has been extremely helpful to my patients. The medical studies on this technique demonstrate an average lowering of 15 points in the systolic blood pressure, rivaling the effectiveness of medications. 20

Controlled Breathing

The RESPaRATE breathing machine (recommended and sold by Andrew Weil, M.D.) also has been demonstrated to be effective for most people and can be another stress reduction technique that has documented effectiveness, though not as powerful as the Zona isometric machine, for most people. 21 Buteyko breathing exercises, where the participant is instructed to slightly under breathe, creating a temporary, but mild, oxygen debt for five to10 minutes a few times each day, also are helpful.


When diet changes, exercise, and salt avoidance are not sufficient in bringing blood pressure down to a favorable level, a period of moderate fasting (complete abstinence from food while drinking only pure water) is almost always effective. Fasting does not just lower blood pressure temporarily; it results in long-term restoration of blood pressure to favorably lower levels. Fasting does what drugs can’t do; it reduces pulse pressure, too. Though fasting causes weight loss, and weight loss causes blood pressure to lower, fasting provides benefits far beyond weight loss alone. Fasting always should be preceded by superior nutrition (high-nutrient, no added- salt diet) for at least one month prior to the fast. In addition, fasting is not compatible with the use of blood pressure medications. You must be weaned off those medications prior to, or early in, the fast.

The largest study on fasted patients to date tracked the results of 174 people who were fasted for an average of 10 days. The average drop in systolic blood pressure was 37 mm Hg, and all of the subjects were able to maintain their improved blood pressures after the fast without medications.22

I personally have fasted hundreds of people with high blood pressure and have observed how effective it is, even for people who are resistant to the use of medications. Fasting has long-term benefits and is much more effective than drugs. It is an important therapeutic intervention when diet, salt avoidance, and exercise are not enough to restore normal blood pressure in a reasonable time frame.

Blood Pressure Reduction

Following my recommendations for nutritional treatment of hypertension can result in a rapid reduction in blood pressure that could cause fainting, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, or even kidney damage if the appropriate medications are not reduced or eliminated in an appropriate fashion. If you are on blood pressure-lowering medications, please consult the doctor of your choice, and be cautious to prevent excessive dropping of your blood pressure.


1. Alonso A, de la Fuente C, Martín-Arnau AM, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely associated with blood pressure in a Mediterranean population with a high vegetable-fat intake: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Study. Br J Nutr 2004;92(2):311-319. Fu CH, Yang CC, Lin CL, Kuo TB. Effects of long-term vegetarian diets on cardiovascular autonomic functions in healthy postmenopausal women. Am J Cardiol 2006;97(3):380-383.

2. Alonso A, Beunza JJ, Bes-Rastrollo M, et al. Vegetable protein and fiber from cereal are inversely associated with the risk of hypertension in a Spanish cohort. Arch Med Res 2006;37(6):778- 786. Elliott P, Stamler J, Dyer AR, et al. Association between protein intake and blood pressure: the INTERMAP Study. Arch Intern Med 2006;166(1):79-87.

3. Vasdev S, Gill V, Singal P, et al. Role of advanced glycation end products in hypertension and atherosclerosis: therapeutic implications. Cell Biochem Biophys 2007;49(1):48-63.

4. Miller ER, Erlinger TP, Young DR, Prokopowicz GP, Appel LJ. Lifestyle changes that reduce blood pressure: implementation in clinical practice. J Clin Hypertens 1999;1:191-198. Stassen J, Fagard R, Lijnen P, et al. Body weight, sodium intake and blood pressure. J Hypertens 1989;7:S19-S23. Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, et al. for the DASH Collaborative Research Group. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. N Eng J Med 1997;336:1117-1124. Whelton PK, Appel LI, Espeland MA, et al. Sodium reduction and weight loss in the treatment of hypertension in older persons: a randomized controlled trial of nonpharmacologic interventions in the elderly. JAMA 1998; 279:839-846. Most MM. Estimated phytochemical content of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet is higher than in the Control Study Diet. J Am Diet Assoc 2004;104(11):1725-1727.

5. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich DG, et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism 2001; Apr;50(4):494-503.

6. Webb AJ, Patel N, Loukogeorgakis S, et al. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension 2008;DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.107.103523. Kwon YI, Apostolidis E, Shetty K. In vitro studies of eggplant (Solanum melongena) phenolics as inhibitors of key enzymes relevant for Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Bioresour Technol 2008;99(8):2981-2988.

7. McGowan CL, Levy AS, Millar PJ, et al. Acute vascular responses to isometric handgrip exercise and effects of training in persons medicated for hypertension. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 2006;291:H1797-H1802. Howden R, Lightfoot RT, Brown SJ, Swaine IL. The effects of isometric exercise training on resting blood pressure and orthostatic tolerance in humans. Exp Physiol 2002;87:507-515. Peters PG, Alessio HM, Hagerman AE, Ashton T, Nagy S, Wiley RL. Short-term isometric exercise reduces systolic blood pressure in hypertensive adults: possible role of reactive oxygen species. Int J Cardiol 2006; 110(2):199-205.

8. Schein MH, Alter A, Levine A, et al. High Blood Pressure Reduction in Diabetics with Interactive Device-Guided Paced Breathing: Final Results of a Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Hypertension 2007;25(2):S192.

9. Goldhamer A, Lisle D, Parpia B, et al. Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of hypertension. J of Manipulative and Psychological Therapeutics 2002:24(5):335-339.

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