Looking for a high blood pressure diet that works for you? Learn the seven principles that ALL high blood pressure diets share so you can create a personalized approach to eating to reduce your blood pressure and enjoy how you eat and feel.
You’ve probably heard of the DASH diet, but there’s also the Mediterranean diet, vegan diets, vegetarian diets, and general low-calorie diets. Experts believe it is less about the actual diet and more about finding a way of eating healthy that you enjoy and will stick with. Keep reading to learn the seven key principles of all high blood pressure diets, the science behind them, and the tips to make it happen.
At its core – a high blood pressure diet is about crowding in KEY NUTRIENTS and limiting others
CROWD IN: Healthy Fats, Potassium, Magnesium, Lean Protein, Calcium, Fiber
REDUCE: Salt, Saturated Fat and Trans Fats
1. Reduce Salt
The key to a high blood pressure diet is getting your salt consumption down to no more than 1,500 mg a day (that’s about ½ a teaspoon, or one turkey and cheese sandwich from Panera).
Here’s why salt matters. Your body works to maintain a balance of liquid and salt. If you eat too much salt, your body compensates by pulling in more fluid (why your ankles and fingers swell after the tortilla chips) which results in your blood pressure rising.
According to the CDC, ONLY a small amount of salt is actually coming from the salt shaker (just 5%). Check out the main sources: bread and rolls (7%), cold cuts/cured meats (5%), pizza (5%), fresh and processed poultry (4.5%), soups (4%), sandwiches (4%), cheese (4%), pasta dishes (3%), meat mixed dishes (like meatloaf) (3%), and savory snacks (like chips, pretzels etc.) (3%). Interesting – right? But knowledge is power. You can make some easy changes and get your salt down.
Tips to Reduce Salt in Your Day
- Eat less of the foods listed above. Try limiting yourself to no more than 2 servings of flour-based products a day (bread, rolls, pizza, pasta).
- Read food labels – your goal: less than 1,500 mg a day.
- Look for “low sodium,” “salt-free,” or “no salt added” versions. Even adding a few shakes will be way less than what most prepared foods contain.
- Enjoy your nuts BUT make sure they are unsalted.
- Get the sauce and dressing “on the side” – you’ll use less.
- Use Celtic sea salt (grey), it leaves a saltier taste so you can use less.
- Learn how to flavor food and create different tastes using herbs, spices, and global flavoring principles. Our unique curriculum not only shows you how to eat to reduce high blood pressure but how to cook and flavor food to taste great.
2. Swap out Saturated Fat and Trans Fats for Healthy Fats
Fats are used by the body to create cholesterol in the blood. In excess, cholesterol can contribute to high blood pressure. Extra cholesterol can build up on the sides of your arteries, reducing blood flow forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body 1.
Different types of fat affect your cholesterol differently, trans fats and saturated fats dramatically raise your cholesterol (and contribute to inflammation), while monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol. This means that for a high blood pressure diet, you want to replace unhealthy fats with healthy ones.
Good sources of monounsaturated fat include: unsalted nuts, avocados, canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and nut butters 2. Crowd in Omega-3 essential fatty acids by eating fish (salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring) or plant sources like: ground flaxseed, oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean), and unsalted nuts/seeds (walnuts, butternuts, and chia seeds).
Tips to Replace Unhealthy Fats with Healthy Ones
- Coconut and palm oils are both high in saturated fats. Substitute a healthy monounsaturated fat like olive oil, avocado oil or canola oil instead.
- Animal products contain saturated fats. Eat less animal meats and look for leaner cuts when you do. Eat less cheese and choose low fat versions.
- A key to a high blood pressure diet is to avoid eating Trans fats. Baked goods (shortening) and fried foods (oils) usually contain trans fats. And don’t trust the front of any package. By law, a serving can contain 0.5 grams of trans fat and be labeled as 0 grams. Always look at the ingredient list. If you see “partially hydrogenated” it’s a trans fat. 3.
3. Crowd in Potassium
Potassium is a key mineral that all high blood pressure diets include. Potassium is important for muscle function and relaxes the walls of blood vessels. Potassium also helps the body excrete salt through urine 4. Normal potassium levels help protect against an irregular heartbeat. According to Harvard Health, many prescription drugs that lower high blood pressure can also lower your potassium levels, making it even more important to eat a potassium-rich diet if you’re trying to control your blood pressure.
Potassium is naturally found in many foods, including dark leafy vegetables and fruits. Bananas, prunes, apricots, sweet potatoes, and lima beans are all rich in potassium 5.
Tips to Get Potassium into Your Day:
- Don’t stress about servings – just aim to make fruits and vegetables HALF of what you eat a day.
- Ask for “double veggies” and order a side salad with your meal.
- Save time and buy cut up veggies and fruit from the market, pair with hummus, other bean dips, or cheese and unsalted nuts for snacks.
- Cut up bananas on put them in your oatmeal or cereal and enjoy them with a creamy nut butter as a snack.
- Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes.
4. Crowd in Magnesium
Research shows that magnesium is an important ingredient in a high blood pressure diet. This is because magnesium regulates the body’s many systems and relaxes the walls of our blood vessels, directly lowering high blood pressure 6.
The RDA for magnesium is 310–420 mg for adults depending on age and gender.
According to the National Institutes of Health, great natural sources of magnesium include: leafy green vegetables (like spinach, kale, collards), legumes (beans and lentils), nuts (almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals (fortified meaning a cereal that has had extra nutrients added to it), milk, and yogurt.
Tips to Get Magnesium into Your Day:
- Crowd magnesium-rich vegetables into what you’re already eating. Toss them into your favorite dishes. Add dark leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, kale and collards into your omelet, chili, taco meat, or soup. Instead of just pasta and red sauce, add sautéed veggies like zucchini, onions, and greens.
- Pumpkin seeds are a fast way to pull in magnesium (300 mg in ¼ of a cup) – toss them into your salads, smoothies and snacks
- Create delicious pairings of magnesium-rich foods, like sprinkling nuts or seeds on top of yogurt.
5. Crowd in Healthy Proteins
Protein is a “macronutrient”, meaning that it helps provide much-needed energy to the body to maintain body functions 7. Protein can be beneficial to a high blood pressure diet because it helps you stay full longer by slowing the release of sugar from the carbohydrates you eat. Research has found that eating protein instead of carbohydrates may help lower your blood pressure by more than 2 points.
Researchers have also found that diversity in the sources of protein is important for a healthy diet. Try to add these sources of protein into your diet: milk, eggs, lean meats (like white chicken meat), fish, beans, lentils, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Tips to Get Healthy Proteins into Your Day:
- Every global cuisine uses beans. Choose main dishes that include lots of beans (chili, soups, stews).
- Toss chickpeas into your salad, add black beans to your soup, or pair bean dips with your veggies for snacks.
- Save time – buy them cooked and store them in your cabinet. Buy low salt versions and rinse before eating!
- Add nutrient-rich unsalted nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds to your day. Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day. Eat them whole or as a nut butter spread on fruits like bananas or apples.
- Try to eat fish two times a week. Choose omega-3 rich fish like salmon. Looking for great tasting salmon recipes – check out this post.
6. Crowd in Calcium
Calcium helps blood vessels tighten and relax 8. Research has found that getting a healthy amount of calcium can directly help lower high blood pressure. It warns against the use of calcium supplements, instead, recommending that you get calcium naturally through your food as part of a high blood pressure diet. Calcium rich foods include dark, leafy greens, dairy products, and fish.
Tips to Get Calcium Into Your Day
- Crowd in dark leafy greens – they are a terrific source of calcium. Power up your breakfast – learn how to make a dark green and berry smoothie!
- Pack up fresh fruit as snacks and pair them with calcium-rich protein (like low-fat cheese) or magnesium-rich protein (like unsalted pumpkin seeds).
- Include calcium-rich tofu or tempeh in your stir-fries.
7. Crowd in Fiber
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both help lower blood pressure. According to Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol levels. This in turn helps reduce blood pressure by preventing cholesterol build-up in your arteries, which forces your heart to work harder. It can be found naturally in apples, beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran.
Insoluble fiber can be found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and many vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes 9. It is found in the skin of fruits like apples and plums. It can relieve digestive issues and constipation, and help with weight loss. Research has found that blood pressure may drop about 1 point in systolic pressure for every 2 pounds of excess weight you lose, so insoluble fiber is a great way to start shedding excess pounds.
Tips to Get Fiber Into Your Day:
- Aim to make fruits and veggies HALF of what you eat a day. Crowd them into your meals and snacks.
- It’s true what they say “an apple a day…” Apples are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Try to incorporate whole grains into your diet, instead of refined grains. Whole grains contain the bran and fiber while refined or “white” foods (such as white bread, white rice, and pastries) have had all or most of their fiber removed 10.
- Read food labels. Harvard Medical School recommends that you eat foods with at least 6 grams of fiber per serving. A food label can claim to be a “good source” of fiber if it has about 2.5 grams per serving, and it can claim to be “rich in,” “high in,” or “excellent in” fiber if it has 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Ready to get started and activate your high blood pressure diet? I recommend you pick three changes you’ll make and give it a try!
I know it can feel overwhelming to make changes to how you eat. Let us guide you through easy gradual change as you create a high blood pressure diet that works for you. Try out my program for FREE for two weeks, we’ll get your eating working great for you! Experience the real difference it makes. Learn more >