- The best foods to lower blood pressure are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
- These foods include leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy – and make up the DASH diet, which can help lower blood pressure.
- You should avoid foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats – like fast food, packaged items, and processed snacks – as they can raise blood pressure.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Living with high blood pressure is a reality for more than 100 million US adults. There are many ways to control your blood pressure, and adopting a heart-healthy diet is one of the most important steps to take.
Here are some of the best foods you can eat to lower blood pressure, as well as which foods you should avoid.
Foods to eat to lower blood pressure
“Extra sodium in your bloodstream can pull water into your blood vessels, which increases the total volume of blood inside your blood vessels, and causes blood pressure to increase,” says Lori Mosca, MD, MPH, PhD, Director of Preventive Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
But eating a balanced diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium can help get your blood pressure under control. In fact, a 2013 review found that adding potassium to high-sodium diets reduces blood pressure substantially in hypertensive patients.
While all nutrients are important, Mosca says potassium is vital in managing blood pressure because it lessens the effects of sodium â€” the more potassium you take in, the more sodium you lose through urine. Additionally, a high intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium can ease tension in the blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure.
Examples of heart-healthy foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium include:
- Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Fruit like bananas, watermelon, apricots, and berries
- Seeds, nuts, and beans
- Avocados and tofu
- Low-fat yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
- Some fatty fish like salmon and mackerel that are high in omega-3 fatty acids
However, for certain patients, especially those with kidney disease, Mosca says too much potassium can be harmful if your kidneys aren’t able to properly remove it. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor in order to make the dietary changes that are right for you to lower blood pressure.
The DASH diet can lower blood pressure
The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a healthy eating plan intended to help lower blood pressure without medication.
While you can eat foods from all food groups, you are encouraged to reduce sodium and focus on foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Guidelines include:
- Limit sodium in your diet to 2,300 milligrams per day (may go as low as 1,500 milligrams per day)
- Enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit
- Eat beans, seeds, nuts, and whole-grains
- Include fat-free and low-fat dairy
- Eat fish, poultry, and lean meats
- Reduce intake of salt, sugar, red meat, processed foods, saturated fat, trans fat, and alcoholic beverages
Foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure
If you’re living with high blood pressure, Mosca says that â€” in addition to limiting your intake of sodium â€” you should minimise sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.
The American Heart Association also recommends cutting back on saturated and trans fats. In general, try to reduce your consumption of pre-packaged, processed, and prepared foods. And watch out for foods that add salt to your diet, including:
- Canned soup or other canned goods
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Frozen dinners
- Salted snacks and nuts
- Condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and barbecue sauce
- Some cheeses, seafood, and olives
Related stories from Health Reference:
- Studies have found that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure, and dietitians say it’s one of the healthiest ways to eat
- What causes high blood pressure and how to know if you have hypertension
- How to lower cholesterol with the right diet and exercise regimens
- How to calm anxiety in 6 natural ways, on your own
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