Dear Mark: Hydroponic vs. Regular Vegetables; Lowering Blood Pressure Without Meds

Organic hydroponic vegetable farmFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First up, do the nutrient contents of hydroponic produce differ from soil-grown produce? If so, in what way? Then I give a few (somehwat unprompted) tips for lowering blood pressure without meds. While meds can and do help people overcome or mitigate hypertension, we should apply other options. What are these possibilities?

Let’s go:

Hydroponic veggies – Any nutritional difference?

Hydroponic: more room for things to go right or wrong. The mineral content of a hydroponically-grown leaf of spinach depends entirely on the minerals added to the growth solution. If the grower is clueless, their product will be less nutritious. If you’ve got a hydroponic grower who knows what they’re doing, it can be great. They can even use hydroponic systems to incorporate nutrients we require but inadequately obtain (like iodine) into vegetables that normally don’t provide it (like lettuce). 

What about polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds? Many of these vitamins and antioxidants are defense mechanisms for the plants. The more stress they endure, they higher the levels. The more cultivated and controlled your operation gets, the lower the levels. So wild (“uncultivated”) greens have higher carotenoid content than conventional (“cultivated”) greens, and hydro leafy greens have been shown to have significantly lower levels of carotenoids, including lutein, beta-carotene, neoxanthin, and violaxanthin, than conventionally grown greens. 

Soybeans grown in hydroponic conditions have more fat and fiber than their conventional counterparts, but fewer phytochemicals.

Hydroponic vegetables appear to have more nitrates than other varieties. Some authors paint this as a negative, yet I see it as a boon; nitrate begets nitric oxide, which improves vascular function and health.

All in all, there are some differences. If hydroponic farming ever takes off and provides a sizeable portion of the food we eat, I can only imagine the growers would innovate and replicate . Maybe hormetic doses of pests applied to boost polyphenols.

Mark, Blood Pressure Meds. So many of my contemporaries are on BP meds, and I just got advised by my doc to start. I’ve been Primal for 4-5 years and read all your posts, but don’t recall anything on this widespread problem/question. Please advise. Bill

Going Primal or paleo fixes blood pressure issues for many, but it’s not a panacea. There are some quick tweaks and hacks a person can enact, many of which a Primal devotee might be missing or unaware of. If anything strikes a chord, give it a try and report back.

  1. Eat more protein. Higher protein intakes consistently reduce blood pressure, especially compared to higher carb intakes.
  2. Eat more whey protein. Whey protein in particular has powerful effects on blood pressure. A recent paper found that whey protein (56 grams a day in two doses) improved 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure in “prehypertensives” and “mild hypertensives” (categories you may fall into).
  3. Reduce salt if salt-sensitive. Some people are salt-sensitives—extra salt increases blood pressure. But that’s not everyone, and at any rate the singular attention paid to sodium intake does a disservice to all the other interventions that work. I’ve already written a couple posts about the relationship between salt intake and blood pressure, so go read those.
  4. Eat your fruits and veggies. Everyone talks about sodium and blood pressure. Equally or more important is potassium, which is primarily found in produce. People with hypertension who eat the most potassium enjoy around a 7-point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 2-point drop in diastolic blood pressure.. Unfortunately, the official recommendations for sodium and potassium intake cannot be met simultaneously. Something’s gotta give, and I suggest focusing your efforts on eating lots of potassium (potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, bananas).
  5. Don’t eat excessive carbohydrates. Now “excessive” is relative to how much glycogen you burn. CrossFitters and elite athletes will have higher ceilings. So will pregnant and nursing women. Office workers probably have lower needs. Only eat what you earn or require.
  6. Get more insulin sensitive. If you’re insulin resistant, you’ll secrete more insulin in response to carbohydrate than someone who’s insulin sensitive, and elevated levels of insulin are consistent and early predictors of hypertension. If you’re not doing at least half of the recommendations in this post, you’re selling your endothelia function short. Until you’re able to improve insulin sensitivity (or enact the lifestyle modifications that promote it), stick to low-carb eating to reduce the insulin load.
  7. Eat beets. Beets are a dense source of nitrates, which improve blood pressure.
  8. Eat nitrates if you hate beets. Yes, it’s not just “natural” beet-borne nitrates that improve blood pressure. Non-organic sodium nitrate—the stuff commonly used to cure bacon—also reduces blood pressure.
  9. Choose your carbs wisely. White rice has negligible amounts of minerals. A white potato has tons of potassium and a decent amount of magnesium.
  10. Address your anxiety. That acute anxiety increases blood pressure acutely is adaptive, reflecting the urgent delivery of blood-borne nutrients and energy to cells around the body to increase readiness in stressful situations. It only becomes a problem when the anxiety grows chronic, when everything puts you on edge. A recent study found that having an anxiety disorder increases the risk of developing hypertension by 4.14.
  11. Drink hibiscus tea, which lowers blood pressure in pre-hypertensives, type 2 diabetics, and Nigerians with mild hypertension. That last one found hibiscus tea to be more effective than diuretic drugs, without the electrolyte imbalance. A recent review of the evidence agrees: hibiscus tea works.
  12. Sleep. Adequate sleep lowers blood pressure. No sleep does the opposite. And when you make a habit of poor sleep, even a good night’s sleep has less of a beneficial effect on your blood pressure.
  13. Meditate (or the equivalent for you). Stress is a major inducer of hypertension. As with anxiety, stress-related hypertension is fleeting and fairly normal. Regular meditation (or, again, one of the equivalents) prevents that stress from developing into a chronic, pathological condition.

Check everything out with your doctor. Show the links and references. If your readings aren’t in a critical range and your doctor will agree to work with you, try this stuff before going on meds.

Let me know how it goes.

If you have any more input on the blood pressure question, share your thoughts down below. If I think there’s enough new information out there, maybe I’ll do a dedicated post on the subject.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

29 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Hydroponic vs. Regular Vegetables; Lowering Blood Pressure Without Meds”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Regarding meds for blood pressure… I would only do that as a last resort. IMO, the idea of artificially lowering blood pressure–which is meant to go up and down according to various situations–is not a very good idea. BP can, in most cases, be normalized through natural means, such as those Mark listed. One I didn’t see on the list is gentle exercise, such as walking every day.

    1. I totally agree! I ditched alcohol and fast most days and my blood pressure went down from 135/80 to ( this morning’s reading ) 109/65. A glass of wine doesn’t seem to do much but I don’t know if it’s the fasting or ditching alcohol or both together. It’s been hovering around 110/65 since I started doing proper fasts 3 weeks ago.

  2. Get checked for underlying causes, i.e. kidney function. And a side effect of uncontrolled high blood pressure can be kidney damage.

  3. Avoid sugar (probably didn’t need to tell this audience but it’s worth mentioning). Sugar is causes high blood pressure all by itself, according to Dr. Yorkin’s book on the subject.

    The main point is that we are in control if we want it.

    1. Dr. Yudkin’s book, Pure White and Deadly, sorry for the misspelling.

  4. If you can tolerate dairy you could give raw milk a try if you have blood pressure problems. They talk about it at There is also some personal testimonies at this site too. I know dairy, milk in particular, is a big gray zone in the primal/paleo world however I am a firm believer that mild to moderate consumption of raw whole full fat milk is excellent for your health. Just bear in mind to count milk as part of your carbohydrates each day. What would be even better is turning your fresh raw milk into fermented raw kefir. Raw kefir has all the properties that fresh raw milk has but with much more bacteria and vitamin K2. Raw milk is also easier to digest due to the enzyme lactase being present in the milk. If it’s been fermented it’s even more digestible.

  5. To properly stress plants in Your hydroponic garden play them some death metal. Or gabber. If that fails opt for some cow and sheep noise generators.

  6. I’d been good about reducing sugar and generally eating primal (not perfect though), a lot walking, regular IF, a bit of sprinting, and consistent but not intense weights (orthopedic issues). With this regimen my BP was still high-ish. I reduced my walking by 1.5 hrs/wk, replacing it with 1.5 hrs/wk of uphill walking on a treadmill at heart rate = 180 – age, which Mark says is not chronic cardio. Like magic my BP is normal, and my resting heart rate is 10 beats lower as well. ‘ve only been doing this a month, but so far so good.

  7. Does it matter if you’re sitting up or laying down when someone checks your blood pressure? I tend to get a bit nervous at doctor’s offices, so one nurse that I saw a lot when I was pregnant had me lay on my side and checked again. It was always lower and normal. She said that truly high BP would not return to normal so fast. Is that true?

    1. Normal blood pressure will go up with stress, trauma, etc., then will come back down again. It’s when it doesn’t come down that there is an underlying problem. I don’t know about lying on your side. I’ve found that most people in doctor’s offices don’t know how to check BP properly.

    2. Lying down or sitting is not particularly important as long as you are at rest, unless you have orthostatic hypotension. What is important is that the arm is at the same level as the heart. If you measure blood pressure while someone is lying on their side, the arm above the heart will give a lower reading and the arm below will give a higher reading than if you measured the blood pressure while the person was lying flat. (This is why you raise a bleeding limb: it reduces the arterial blood pressure.)

  8. Any idea on the ” Zona Plus” — Dave Asprey has interviewed the guy: it SOUNDS great, it sound as if they have some solid medical studies too… I started on bp meds a few months ago because mine was high enough to be worrying. I know my desire for a “magic pill” might be making the device sound better than it is — but I don’t eat sugar, I’m not stressed (mostly), I seem to be madly insulin resistant — and not getting anywhere addressing it. I know my bp will come down if I can get my weight down… but to protect my kidneys and brain in the meantime — I’d rather do ‘hand exercises’ with the zona than take meds…

  9. I’m surprised garlic didn’t make the list. Long before I was paleo, I had to make sure my BP stayed low for annual flight physicals. Lots of raw garlic, potassium, cutting back the coffee, and doing the progressive toe-to-head muscle contraction/relaxation drill always did the trick. You won’t catch me taking BP pills: that’s a promise!

    1. My grandma used to do the raw garlic thing. In fact, you could smell the garlic before she entered the room. Unfortunately it didn’t help her. She had a stroke and died at age 68, but she had other issues as well as high BP. Some of us won’t live to a ripe old age regardless of what we do, and maybe that’s how it’s meant to be.

  10. Looks like lots of good advice about the BP. It’s amazing how much attention salt has gotten when it is just one of many factors. Regarding hydroponics, I’m a little leary. I would definitely take hydroponic produce over no produce. I just think there is something to be grown outside in the fresh air under less controlled conditions. Kind of like the difference in the dry farmed wines from Europe compared to the irrigated grapes in the US.

  11. I live in rural Indiana and considered going hydroponic for winter gardening.

    What I found distressing was that none of the plastic and pvc is food grade. It might be sold, but is either too expensive or just not available for the small to medium hydroponic producer.

    I went to the farm supply stores around here and they were selling rectangle plastic PVC fencing for the channels (the kind for sale at Lowes and Home Depot) and the recommended reservoirs for the nutrients and pumps were either plastic trash cans or sterilte containers. I’m not comfortable eating food grown in plastic, especially plastic with warm water circulating with ultraviolet exposure. I can’t verify what plastics the farmer is using or if any of the plastic is being absorbed into the plant, I’ll skip hydroponics.

  12. Magnesium is essential to reduce blood pressure. See Dr. Carolyn Dean’s “The Magnesium Miracle”. Most people in Am. are deficient today.

  13. Any thoughts on the blood pressure reading from electronic machines? I have found that my doctors’ offices (specialists) now have to use a specific kind of electronic machine – not an old fashioned cuff to be found, and they all seem to read high. I’ve been told by the nurses that most people’s blood pressure is high on these machines, and they have to refer you to your primary care, where most often there is not a problem. Any thoughts? I guess I’m old school and use my cuff at home. I pretty much ignore the doctors’ readings.

    1. That’s interesting…. most people would believe modern electronic devices to be more accurate, but they also rely on their programming. Easy for big pharma to program these to output higher numbers and sell more statins, whose sales generate billions per year.

  14. High BP gets a bad press. I have raised 147/96 BP and high cholesterol. Both genetic. But I have a theory and perhaps someone can comment on it? is it possible the high BP prevents any cholesterol settling on and furring up my arteries – effectively it’s a blood jet wash in my arteries. Had my carotid arteries checked with sound scanner and no furring there, so might be working!

  15. Blood pressure is a dynamic (ever changing) measurement with multiple factors that influence both the raising and the lowering of it. If all the natural/primal approaches have been exhausted and your medical provider is still advising to start blood pressure meds, make sure your BP is tested appropriately. I am a nurse practitioner and used to do family practice. The patients I treated for hypertension/pre-hypertension received extensive BP measurements by myself (as opposed to the aide rooming the patient using a machine).

    I let my patients get settled and calmed down from rushing in to their appointment to let their BP naturally return to baseline. Using the right size cuff is the first step and I measure pressure in both arms siting, standing, lying. The arm pressure should always be measured at the level of the heart for accuracy. All of these readings should be recorded and compared.

    If a patient is doing “all the right things” and has abnormally elevated blood pressure I would consider other secondary etiologies, such as renal artery stenosis (narrowing of arteries leading to kidneys) which can cause high blood pressure. Other possible secondary cause would be coarctation of the aorta (congenital narrow area of the aorta). Both of these are not super common but worth ruling out, especially renal artery stenosis.

    It would be ideal to see a functional or integrative medicine practitioner who might be able to order some additional labs or be willing to look further into the root cause of hypertension (stress causing elevated cortisol levels, etc)

  16. I think walking, or exercise in general, should be at the top of this list.

  17. Having been hypertensive and a born worrier. I can attest to the following which eventually allowed me off my meds and I have remained off for 4 years and counting. Losing weight, ok yes I was a fatty, I had a stressful job, long car commute, those both went. I went Primal I wasn’t before. I cut my carbs to lower than 50g a day. I am only 5foot and only now weigh about 55kg. I now spend at least half an hour a day in creative work. I sleep better, never quite sure which was the chicken or egg in the sleep v stress v hypertension.
    So yes all of the above I found worked for me and I now don’t take any meds at all, down from taking two different lots to maintain a low blood pressure

  18. Although it may seem obvious – you should get a good blood pressure monitor, learn to use it and take and record your own readings throughout the day. Get to know what your body is doing. Learn what elevates and reduces your BP, for example, experiment with salt to find out if you are salt sensitive.

    Someone mentioned kidney damage. Be careful – most allopathic doctors won’t notice until your kidneys are well below 50% function. Get copies of your labs, learn what the values mean and start a trend chart. Example: I had two injections of cheap Optimark gadolinium contrast for two unrelated MRIs within six months, the second of which left me feeling like I had the flu, and frothy urine. My kidney function has never quite recovered to what it was before that.