Diet and Blood Pressure Management: How to Keep Your Blood Pressure at a Healthy Range

Last reviewed:
10 May 2024,
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A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Blood Pressure Through Diet

High blood pressure is a leading cause of premature death, affecting over 1.39 billion people globally. Fortunately, lifestyle changes, particularly dietary interventions, can significantly improve and even reverse hypertension without solely relying on medication.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are at risk due to family history or existing health conditions, adjusting your diet is a proactive step towards better cardiovascular health. In this guide, we’ll look at how different foods can impact your blood pressure and give an overview of different dietary strategies that may help you stay on track.

Can food reduce blood pressure?

Dietary changes are at the forefront of hypertension management and have been shown to be as effective as prescription medications. That’s because small changes, like cutting back on sodium and alcohol, can help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Adopting a heart-healthy diet rich in foods known to reduce blood pressure can lead to long-term health benefits.

Doctors often recommend switching to a heart-healthy diet as the first step in the treatment of high blood pressure, but what foods are healthful — and which should you avoid?

Foods that reduce blood pressure

Certain foods are packed with nutrients and compounds known to support heart health and regulate blood pressure. Key elements include:

  • Potassium: Found in bananas, avocados, and potatoes, potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Magnesium: Present in spinach, almonds, and salmon, magnesium aids in relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow.
  • Arginine: Turkey, soybeans, and lentils are rich sources of arginine, crucial for producing nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods like chia seeds, salmon, and walnuts contain omega-3s, which reduce inflammation and support arterial elasticity.

Foods to avoid to lower blood pressure

Alongside incorporating blood pressure-lowering foods, it’s essential to limit intake of sodium-rich, saturated fat-laden, and cholesterol-heavy foods. Processed snacks, cured meats, and high-fat dairy products should be consumed sparingly.

  • Salty or processed foods can be damaging to your heart health and increase your blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, or 6g of salt.
  • Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products, such as meat and dairy products. High levels of saturated fat can cause your body to produce too much cholesterol. The recommended daily intake of saturated fat is no more than 30g for men and 20g for women.
  • High cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Cholesterol is found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and shellfish. If you have hypertension, avoiding these foods may help to reduce your blood pressure.
  • Alcohol increases blood pressure temporarily, and the effects usually wear off once the liver has processed the alcohol. However, moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to increased blood pressure, making it necessary to limit intake.

In addition to dietary modifications, lifestyle adjustments such as stress reduction and regular exercise contribute to optimal blood pressure levels.

Dietary changes to manage blood pressure

Rather than just adding or removing foods from their diet, some people prefer to follow specific diet plans for their heart health. Here’s an overview of a few popular dietary changes and whether they can help you manage your blood pressure.

The DASH Diet

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or you’re simply looking for preventative measures to maintain healthy blood pressure, you may have heard of the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

The DASH diet, endorsed by nutritional research, focuses on whole foods abundant in potassium, calcium, and fibre while minimising sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar intake. It’s a balanced and sustainable eating pattern suitable for long-term blood pressure management.

It’s based on eating healthy, whole foods and reducing the intake of processed foods that are high in sodium, added sugar and saturated fat. Instead of forcing unrealistic eating habits, it provides your body with the healthy nutrients it needs to function properly.

The main types of foods incorporated in the DASH diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Beans, legumes and pulses
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats, fish and poultry
  • Low-fat dairy products

The diet has been seen to lower blood pressure in both healthy people and those with high blood pressure, making it a great preventative option for those with a medical or genetic predisposition to hypertension.

Can a detox diet reduce blood pressure?

A detox diet is aimed at removing ‘toxins’ from the body to make a person healthier. They may be accompanied by celebrity endorsements and claim any number of health benefits, from promoting weight loss to curing cancer.

A detox diet may involve:

  • Cutting out certain foods
  • Only drinking liquids
  • Only eating at certain times of the day (fasting)
  • Taking supplements

The effectiveness and even safety of this type of diet varies, but doctors often advise against following highly restrictive diets, particularly if they focus on unidentified ‘toxins.’ There is no scientific evidence that our bodies need to ‘detox’, as the body is designed to repair itself and filter out unneeded waste products.

Strictly cutting out certain foods may provide the desired outcome in the short term, but these effects are often short-lived or reversed once a person returns to a regular diet. If followed for long periods of time, a restrictive detox diet can cause malnutrition, unhealthy eating habits, and long-term health problems.

Some types of detox diets promote ‘clean’ eating, focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean proteins while reducing or eliminating the intake of processed foods, sugar and alcohol.

This type of diet could be a good option if you’re looking to detox to reduce blood pressure. Clean eating supports blood pressure regulation because it is high in heart-healthy nutrients, and low in foods that can cause blood pressure to increase.

A diet-led approach to reducing blood pressure can deliver results without the need for medication, but you should discuss this with your doctor first. If you’re looking to reduce your blood pressure, they will be able to advise you on a safe and healthy diet to follow that will meet your nutritional needs.

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Eating more plant-based foods

Although eating more vegetables isn’t necessarily a diet plan, making an active effort to incorporate more vegetables in your diet may help lower your blood pressure over time. Vegetables help lower blood pressure because they are high in potassium and low in sodium. They’re also rich in nitrates, which are known to help manage high blood pressure.

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found higher vegetable consumption linked to lower blood pressure in over 4,500 participants. Those consuming more had a 43% lower risk of hypertension.

Though observational, the study suggests vegetables’ potential in blood pressure control. Incorporating nitrates-rich vegetables like beetroot, garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower  into your diet, alongside Aktiia’s continuous monitoring, can support hypertension management.

Tracking your progress

Regularly checking your blood pressure is key to staying on track and will help you to see whether the changes you have made to your diet are working. Innovative devices like Aktiia’s lightweight, waterproof monitor offer convenient monitoring, especially for individuals aged 65 and above. Our blood pressure monitor buying guide is a great resource for those looking to keep an eye on their blood pressure from the comfort of their own home.

Easy recipes lower blood pressure

Recipes that lower cholesterol and blood pressure include:

Vegetable soup

Vegetable soup is low in sodium and high in potassium. The vegetables in this soup are also a good source of fibre, which can help to regulate blood pressure. The recipe below is for 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil,
  • 1 large chopped onion,
  • 3 minced garlic cloves,
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper,
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano,
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth,
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes,
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans,
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained,
  • 1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans,
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white beans,
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt,
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper,
  • 1 cup frozen corn,
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley,
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro.

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the oregano and broth. Add the tomatoes with their juice, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Stir in the corn, parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve hot.

Spicy black bean soup

Black bean soup is a popular soup made with black beans as the primary ingredient. It is often served with various vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery, and can be either vegetarian or include meat.

Black bean soup has been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, black bean soup was found to significantly lower blood pressure in both hypertensive and pre-hypertensive individuals. The soup was also found to improve lipid profiles and reduce inflammation. Making black bean soup is a healthy option for those looking to lower their blood pressure.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil,
  • 1 large onion diced,
  • 3 cloves garlic,
  • minced 1 red bell pepper,
  • diced 1 teaspoon ground cumin,
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika,
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder,
  • 4 cups vegetable broth,
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes,
  • undrained 1 (15 ounce) can black beans,
  • rinsed and drained 1 (4 ounce can diced green chilies, undrained),
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro,
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice,
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt,
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, broth, tomatoes, black beans, green chilies, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Serve hot.

Garden salad

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010 found that a diet including regular servings of garden salad can lower blood pressure. The study participants, who had hypertension, ate a salad including romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots every day for eight weeks.

At the end of the study, their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) had decreased by an average of 7.5 mmHg and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) had decreased by an average of 5.2 mmHg.

Garden salads are a great way to get a variety of nutrient-rich vegetables into your diet. They are low in calories and high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Including a salad with every meal can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure.

Ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce,
  • spinach,
  • tomatoes,
  • cucumbers,
  • carrots,
  • red onions,
  • feta cheese,
  • balsamic vinegar,
  • extra virgin olive oil,
  • garlic,
  • salt and peppers of your choice.

Instructions:

  1. Start by washing your vegetables.
  2. Chop the romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Finely chop the red onion.
  4. Crumble the feta cheese.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  7. Serve immediately.

The bottom line

Harnessing the power of nutrition and lifestyle choices can significantly impact blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular health. By prioritising whole, nutrient-rich foods and utilising innovative monitoring technology like Aktiia, you can take proactive steps towards managing hypertension and improving well-being.

Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your blood pressure, it is best to speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best way to manage your blood pressure.


Sources:

Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure, Apr 2014 – https://jamanetwork.com/jamainternalmedicine-fullarticle-1832195

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 8 Mar 2023 – https://www.cdc.gov/nchs-nhanes

The Natural Treatment of Hypertension, 25 May 2007 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/articles-PMC8109646

Effects of Vegetables on Cardiovascular Diseases, 10 Aug 2017 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/articles-PMC5579650

The Top 8 Health Benefits of Cauliflower, 14 Apr 2017 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition-benefits-of-cauliflower

13 Foods That Are Good for High Blood Pressure, 29 Jun 2020 – https://www.healthline.com/foods-good-for-high-blood-pressure-dash-diet

18 good foods for high blood pressure, 23 Dec 2022 – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles-322284

13 Foods That Can Lower Your Blood Pressure, 18 Nov 2022 – https://www.webmd.com/slideshow-hypertension-low-bp-foods

Daily beetroot juice lowers blood pressure, according to scientists from Queen Mary University of London, 19 Jan 2015 – https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media-news-daily-beetroot-juice-lowers-blood-pressure-scientists-find

Enhanced Vasodilator Activity of Nitrite in Hypertension, 15 Apr 2013 – https://www.ahajournals.org/doi-101161-HYPERTENSIONAHA

NHS, Low Blood Pressure (hypotension), 9 Sep 2020 – https://www.nhs.uk/low-blood-pressure-hypotension

NHS, High Blood Pressure (hypertension), Dec 2001 – https://www.nhs.uk/high-blood-pressure-hypertension

Diet, blood pressure and hypertension, 9 Mar 2007 – https://www.cambridge.org/article-diet-blood-pressure-and-hypertension

25 Healthy High-Blood Pressure Dinners You Can Make, 13 Sep 2022 – https://www.eatingwell.com/healthy-high-blood-pressure-dinners-25-minutes

Spotlight on… high blood pressure, 1 Oct 2018 – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/spotlight-high-blood-pressure

Medically Reviewed

dr jay shah photo

Renowned cardiologist, physician leader, and angel investor.

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About the Author

Piotr Kudela, aspiring writer and website editor, with keen interest in health technology, backed by strong academic foundation and professional experience in search marketing. In his writings, Piotr combines insights from blood pressure research with his fascination for health wearables, driven by a passion for contributing to scientific progress and improving global health through technology.

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