Dietary changes are often necessary for people with high blood pressure. Emphasizing nutrient-rich foods and reducing sodium and unhealthy fats can help lower your blood pressure. Let’s look at specific diet recommendations and resources for anyone dealing with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure and diet

Certain foods can contribute to high blood pressure, while other foods can help lower it. Following a healthy blood pressure diet can also support your efforts to lose weight. Being overweight or obese also contributes to high blood pressure. Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can lower blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For most people, a healthy diet is just one part of the overall treatment plan for hypertension. Your doctor is likely to recommend that you increase your physical activity and make other lifestyle changes. Prescription medications are often also necessary.

DASH diet for high blood pressure

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsored two major studies on the effects of diet on high blood pressure. Using the findings of this research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet plan.

The basic guidelines for the DASH diet plan for a person who needs to consume 2,000 calories per day are:

  • 7 to 8 servings of grains and grain products per day
  • 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day
  • 4 to 5 servings of fruits per day
  • 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products per day
  • 2 or fewer servings of lean meat, poultry and fish per day
  • 2 to 3 servings of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats per day
  • 3 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds and beans per week

Some things to note about the DASH diet:

  • Many people are used to consuming more than one serving of food each meal. You should consult package sizes and consider weighing or measuring food until you learn to judge recommended serving sizes.
  • Eating a wide range of foods is recommended. Try making your plate as colorful as possible by combining different fruits and vegetables.
  • You can divide up the servings as you see fit. You don’t need to consume each type of food at every meal.
  • You may need more or fewer servings, depending on your calorie needs. Your primary care provider can help you adjust the diet accordingly.

What to avoid in a high blood pressure diet plan

Avoiding or cutting back on certain foods is important for a high blood pressure diet plan. Some foods to restrict or avoid include:

  • Sweets: Consuming too much sugar can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The DASH Diet plan recommends no more than five servings of sweets per week.
  • Sodium: Sodium (salt) causes your body to retain water and can raise blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends people strive to initially consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and then gradually reduce intake to 1,500 mg per day.
  • Trans and saturated fats: These fats clog arteries and increase blood pressure. They are found in foods like red meat, processed sweets and snacks, stick margarine, shortening, butter, palm oil and coconut oil.
  • Processed foods: Highly processed foods are often high in sodium and added sugar.
  • Alcohol: Women should stop at one alcoholic beverage per day, while men should consume no more than two alcoholic beverages daily.

Diet for high blood pressure FAQs

Common questions about diet recommendations for those with high blood pressure:

Is keto good for high blood pressure?

The keto diet is a weight loss eating plan that emphasizes getting 75% of calories from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, 25% of calories from protein and 5% of calories from carbohydrates. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the keto diet is good for high blood pressure.

Some people do reportedly lose weight with the keto diet, and weight loss can positively impact high blood pressure. However, losing weight and then gaining it back won’t lead to long-term improvements in blood pressure. Highly restrictive diets like keto are often difficult to follow forever. That’s why doctors usually recommend programs like the DASH diet that allow you to eat a wide variety of foods and only require you to monitor portion size, not calories or carbs.

Will the right diet cure high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is usually a long-term condition that you must continuously manage. A healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure levels, but it is unlikely to cure it. You’ll also likely need to make other lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, managing stress and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Even with healthy lifestyle changes, many people still need blood pressure medications to manage hypertension.

Where can I find recipes for high blood pressure?

There are several excellent sources of recipes for managing high blood pressure. Some of our favorites include:

Tip: If you want to increase how much of a certain food you’re eating, look to see if there is a trade association for that food. For example, the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers has a website packed with lentils recipes and the California Avocado Commission is a great source on avocados. Pinterest is another great place to find healthy recipes and to share them with friends and family.

Don’t think that you have to stop making all of your favorite recipes to follow a high blood pressure diet. You may be able to modify your favorites by lowering salt quantities, swapping out ingredients, or adding in nutrient-rich vegetables wherever you can.

Is there a good morning drink for high blood pressure?

The best breakfast drink is generally one you prepare yourself rather than a premade mix that may contain high levels of sugar and additives.

Make a smoothie with tons of fruit, vegetables like leafy greens, and ice. You can also add protein powder, low-fat or fat-free milk, or yogurt to increase the protein and change the texture. You can even add prepared oatmeal or cooked barley to incorporate whole grains into your on-the-go liquid meal.

Will I lose weight on a high blood pressure diet?

The DASH diet is a healthy eating plan that emphasizes well-balanced, nutritious meals. Many of its guidelines are the same ones doctors provide for people who wish to lose weight. Adding regular exercise to this diet can complement any weight loss benefits while managing your blood pressure.

Can I follow a high blood pressure diet if I have diabetes?

A detailed review of the DASH diet published in the American Diabetes Association’s journal DiabetesSpectrum concludes that the guidelines for the eating plan are also suitable for people with Type 2 diabetes. Talk to your primary care provider about how to build a diet geared for both blood pressure and diabetes control.

How can I develop a good high blood pressure diet menu?

If you’re looking for more specific, meal-by-meal recommendations, the NIH has a sample 7-day diet plan for high blood pressure available on its website to inspire your meal planning.

Following a high blood pressure diet becomes easier when you plan your menu in advance. For each day, think about the demands on your time and choose foods that you’ll be able to prepare, keeping the guidelines of your high blood pressure diet in mind. You may want to use a menu-planning mobile app like the following:

Some of these apps also provide recipe ideas and allow you to create weekly grocery shopping lists.

What is the best diet for high blood pressure?

There is no single best diet for high blood pressure. Many doctors recommend the DASH diet described above because it is based on scientific research and endorsed by the NIH and American Heart Association. 

The best plan is one you can continue to follow over the long term that emphasizes healthy, nutrient-rich foods while reducing your intake of sodium and artery-clogging fats. Work with your primary care provider to develop a healthy eating plan that works for you.

Forward can get you started on a well-optimized diet for high blood pressure

Our 12-week, doctor-led Healthy Heart program includes an optimized diet plan for high blood pressure. We provide dietary recommendations that reflect your culture, eating habits and preferences, so you have a plan that fits into your daily routine and lifestyle. The program also includes an exercise plan to help you get more active and comprehensive blood work that will allow you to understand your heart health risks. We act as your primary care provider, delivering one-to-one personalized care to help you achieve your health goals.

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