Lower Your Blood Pressure With This Diet

If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), it’s advantageous to eat meals low in trans fat, saturated fat, salt (sodium), cholesterol, and added sugars.

Of course, this dietary advice is good for everyone despite blood pressure levels. Salt intake is the biggest thing to watch out for for individuals with high blood pressure. Too much sodium or salt can cause the body to retain fluid, which causes an increase in blood sugar.

A crucial part of a treatment plan for high blood pressure is to adhere to a healthy diet, including limiting sodium intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025 recommend consuming fewer than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily.

People with high blood pressure may need to restrict their sodium intake further. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an ideal limit of no greater than 1,500 daily for adults with hypertension.

To keep on track, choose no-added-salt seasonings and foods and low-sodium, and read nutrition labels carefully to determine the amount of sodium added to processed and packaged foods. Consider a heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean or DASH diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Characteristics of a Mediterranean diet include the following:

  • Olive oil is a common monounsaturated source of fat
  • Minimal red meat is eaten
  • Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • High consumption of vegetables, fruits, potatoes, nuts, beans, seeds, bread and other cereals
  • Fish, dairy products, and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • Eggs are consumed zero to four times per week

Although you may have heard of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits, the American Heart Association cautions more studies are needed to decide whether the diet alone is the reason for the lower rates of heart disease deaths in Mediterranean countries or if that’s added to other lifestyle factors including extensive social support systems and more physical activity.

Then what’s the DASH diet?

Once diagnosed with hypertension, your physician might recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. The DASH diet focuses on heart-healthy foods low in cholesterol, sodium, and fat and rich in protein, fiber, and nutrients.

DASH diet foods may include the following:

  • Vegetable
  • Fruits
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Whole grains 
  • Vegetables
  • Poultry
  • Nuts
  • Fish

The DASH diet limits the following:

  • Sugar-containing drinks
  • Sweets
  • Red meats (including lean red meats)
  • Added sugars

While your physician will help adjust the DASH diet to your needs, the following is an example of the recommended food group for someone following the diet who is eating 2,000 calories per day.

  • 4 to 5 servings daily of fruits
  • 2 to 3 servings per day of dairy
  • 4 to 5 servings per week of seeds, nuts, and legumes
  • 6 to 8 servings daily of grains
  • 4 to 5 servings per day of vegetables
  • 2 to 3 servings daily of oils and fats
  • Up to 6 servings per day of poultry, lean meat, and fish
  • Up to 5 sweets a week

Consume plenty of potassium

Potassium helps to balance the amount of sodium in cells. Not consuming enough can lead to too much sodium in the blood.

A diet with plenty of potassium helps control and prevent high blood pressure. The most beneficial way to get potassium is to consume foods rich in it, like vegetables and fruits, instead of supplements. If you have a history of severe kidney disease, getting additional potassium — primarily through a supplement — can be dangerous. Discuss with your healthcare provider what potassium level is right for you.  

Limit the consumption of alcohol

Alcohol can increase your blood pressure, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, so all individuals should monitor their intake of alcohol.

Women should limit themselves to a drink daily, while men should have no more than two drinks daily.

Remember that “one drink” is 12 oz. of beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine or a minimal amount of hard liquor (1 oz of 100-proof spirits or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits).

High blood pressure and supplements

There’s no solid evidence any specific supplement can lower blood pressure, but some experts believe supplements may have some benefits.

Additional research is necessary to determine what role, if any at all, supplements could play in the lowering of blood pressure. 

Supplements include:

  • Minerals, such as potassium and calcium
  • Fiber, like wheat bran or blond psyllium (Metamucil)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Supplements that widen blood vessels or increase nitric oxide, including garlic, cacao, or coenzyme Q10

Speak with your physician before taking any of the above supplements since some can interact with medications and cause side effects that could be deadly.