High Blood Pressure: Nutrition Tips
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can help you lower your blood pressure. It includes eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. For more information on the DASH diet, see:
Follow these daily recommendations:
Cut down on fats
Eating a diet low in both saturated fat and total fat will help lower your blood pressure.
Although you need some fat in your diet, limit how much saturated fat you eat. These fats are mostly in animal foods, such as meat and dairy foods. Coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter are also saturated fats. Palm and coconut oils are often found in processed foods, including crackers and snack foods.
Follow the recommendations below to include healthy fats in your diet. DASH recommends that a little less than a third of your total calories come from fats. And most of these calories should come from healthy fats such as vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. Very few calories should come from saturated fat, which is found in animal meat, dairy products, and processed foods.
Cut back on sodium
There is a link between eating sodium and having high blood pressure. Reducing sodium in the diet can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease and can help control high blood pressure. Limiting sodium is part of a heart-healthy eating plan that can help prevent heart disease and stroke.
Try to eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, if you are African-American, or if you are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.1
Eat fewer processed foods
Cutting back on the amount of processed or refined foods you eat can help. These foods, such as canned and instant soups, packaged mixes, and snack items, don't have enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium—the very nutrients you need to help lower your blood pressure. And these foods can be high in sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats.
You also may try a vegetarian diet. In general, vegetarian diets reduce blood pressure, although experts don't know exactly why. The DASH diet could easily be a vegetarian diet if legumes (for example, beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts) were substituted for meat. Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as does the DASH diet. Vegetarian diets also are higher in fiber and unsaturated fats than other diets.
Potassium, calcium, and magnesium
To get enough of these nutrients, eat a balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and whole grains. Most people do not need to take dietary supplements to get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Good sources of potassium
All fresh fruits and vegetables and meats are good sources of potassium. Examples include the following:
Good sources of calcium
Good sources of magnesium
The safest way to ensure good nutrition is through a balanced, varied diet instead of through nutritional supplements.
Very large amounts of any of these minerals taken in the form of a supplement can cause problems, including possible death. See your doctor before taking large quantities of any supplement.
What does not lower blood pressure?
Fish and fish oil
Fish or fish oil supplements do not lower blood pressure. But eating fish can help lower your risk for heart disease.
You can eat fish as part of the DASH diet. Fish is part of heart-healthy eating. The American Heart Association suggests eating at least two servings of fish a week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Garlic and onions
Although eating garlic and onions has been recommended to reduce blood pressure, evidence shows that only very small decreases in blood pressure may result.
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