High Blood Pressure Diet
Healthy food is like medication for high blood pressure. Except you don’t need a prescription, and you won’t have to worry about side effects. Just choose wisely, eat, and repeat.
Whether you follow DASH or chart your own course, try to focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t. Like any other healthy diet, a diet to lower blood pressure will emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while avoiding fats, fried foods, and salty snacks.
Fruits for High Blood Pressure
Fruit is full of nutrients that can bring down your blood pressure. The key nutrients are potassium, magnesium, and fiber. The potassium in bananas, for example, lowers tension in the walls of your blood vessels. It also helps get rid of sodium -- which raises blood pressure -- through your urine.
Since fruit is sweet, it makes a good substitute for less healthy desserts. Look for fresh, frozen, or canned versions of these fruits that pack a lot of potassium, magnesium, and fiber:
- Oranges (in moderation -- this fruit’s high in sugar)
If you buy canned fruit, make sure it’s packed in water or natural juices, not syrup. And also check to see that there’s no added sugar or salt.
Vegetables for High Blood Pressure
Like fruit, vegetables are full of potassium, magnesium, and fiber that help bring your blood pressure down. Keep in mind, you may need to eat more than you normally would for them to have an effect. The DASH plan recommends 4 to 5 servings of vegetables a day. From breakfast to dinner, that might look like 1 cup of raw spinach, half a cup of steamed broccoli, and 6 ounces of vegetable juice.
There are plenty of ways to work vegetables into your day: Throw spinach into your smoothie; eat a salad with dinner; munch on carrot sticks at lunch.
Stock up on these veggies that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber:
- Butternut squash
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peas
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
Whole Grain Foods That Lower Blood Pressure
Bread, cereal, pasta, and other foods with carbs and starches can come in whole grain or refined grain versions. Whole grains are full of dietary fiber. That’s why they’re a lot better for your body than foods made with refined white flour. Switch to whole grain versions of foods you already eat. For example, go for whole wheat bread rather than white. Choose brown rice over white.
Shopping tip: Some packaged foods contain a “whole grain” seal. If you don’t see it, check the ingredient list. If the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole,” that item likely contains mostly whole grain.
Look for whole grain versions of these foods:
- Corn tortillas
Reduced-Fat Dairy Lowers Blood Pressure
Low-fat and fat-free dairy products give you calcium, vitamin D, and protein without the extra fat. Calcium helps with blood pressure because it tells your blood vessels to contract and release.
To pack in as many nutrients as possible, look for ways to combine dairy with fruits or grains -- like berries with Greek yogurt and nuts, or whole grain crackers topped with low-fat cheddar.
Shop for low-fat versions of:
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Yogurt, plain or Greek
Nuts, Seeds, and Beans Good for Blood Pressure
You get a big boost of magnesium when you eat nuts, seeds, and beans. This essential nutrient regulates your blood pressure and helps blood vessels relax.
Look for low or no-salt versions of:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower kernels
Cleveland Clinic: “Hypertension and Nutrition,” “Magnesium-rich Food.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Beating High Blood Pressure with Food,” “Key Minerals to Help Control Blood Pressure.”
Heart Foundation: “Five Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure,” “Fruit, Vegetables and Whole Grains.”
American Heart Association: “How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure.”
Mayo Clinic: “Chart of High-fiber Foods,” “DASH Diet: Healthy Eating to Lower Your Blood Pressure.”
National Kidney Foundation: “Potassium and Your CKD Diet.”
National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”
Oldways Whole Grains Council: “Identifying Whole Grain Products.”
American Cancer Society: “Low-Fat Foods.”