Nutrition for high blood pressure (including DASH diet)

Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are nutrients found in certain foods. These nutrients help control blood pressure. But many people do not get enough of them.

By eating more fruits and vegetables (which contain magnesium and potassium) and more low-fat or nonfat dairy foods (which contain calcium and magnesium), you can increase your intake of these helpful nutrients.

Cut down on fats

Eating a diet low in both saturated fat and total fat will help lower your blood pressure.

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 and processed foods.

Cut back on salt

The American Heart Association says there is a link between eating more salt and having high blood pressure.1 Lowering salt in the diet may prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease.

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 usually are high in salt and high in bad fats.

Follow the DASH diet

To significantly lower blood pressure, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet includes eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Follow these daily recommendations:

The DASH diet
Food Recommended servings

Low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products

2–3 servings a day

Fruits

4–5 servings a day

Vegetables

4–5 servings a day

Grains

7–8 servings a day

Meat, poultry, fish

No more than 2 servings a day

Legumes, nuts, seeds

4–5 servings a week

Fats and oils

2–3 servings a day

Sweets and added sugars

5 or servings a week or less

Click here to view an Actionset. High blood pressure: Using the DASH diet

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.

Citations

  1. American Heart Association (2006). Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006. Circulation, 114(1): 82–96. [Erratum in Circulation, 114(1): e27.]

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