The High Blood Pressure Diet

Are you faced with the decision: Should I go on a high blood pressure diet or should I just take medications? Is a diet for high blood pressure effective or am I just going to waste my time?

Well, I'm hoping the articles in this series will help you make the right decision.

Considering that many dietary factors can affect your blood pressure, it make sense that you can reverse the problem by addressing them. Some of them are:

  • Obesity and being overweight
  • A high sodium-to-potassium ratio
  • A low-fibre, high-sugar diet
  • High saturated fat and low omega-3 fatty acid intake
  • A diet low in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C

Diet and High Blood Pressure

Considering that obesity is the major dietary cause of hypertension, achieving ideal body weight is the most important recommendation for those with high blood pressure. Even a modest amount of weight loss can mean a reduction in blood pressure.

Vegetarians generally have a lower incidence of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases than do non-vegetarians, so you might think that there’s something in meat that encourages high blood pressure. But that’s not the whole picture.

Even if the sodium intake is the same, a vegetarian diet typically contains more potassium, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, fibre, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which have a favorable influence on blood pressure, and less saturated fat and refined carbohydrates.

Salt and High Blood Pressure

table salt

The first thing people do when they go on a high blood pressure diet is to cut down on salt. Perhaps you’ve tried the same thing and it hasn’t worked for you.

This may or may not work, depending on your individual biological make-up. Some people who have a natural increased sensitivity to dietary sodium are more likely to benefit from cutting back sodium intake.

But not everybody is a "salt responder". The only way to know if you are is to try it.

Scientists have been arguing for years over the impact of salt on high blood pressure and the debate is likely to go on.

Probably what confuses the results of the various studies is not so much how much sodium is consumed but how much potassium is in the diet.

A diet high in sodium and low in potassium is associated with high blood pressure. Conversely, a diet high in potassium and low in sodium can lower blood pressure.

Numerous studies have shown that sodium restriction alone does not improve blood pressure in most people; it must be accompanied by a high potassium intake.

Most American and Western Europeans have a potassium-to-sodium intake ratio of less than 1:2, meaning they ingest more than twice as much sodium as potassium.

Researchers recommend a dietary potassium-to-sodium ratio of greater than 5:1 to maintain health. And if you already have health problems, well, the ratio should be much higher.

The best way to boost potassium levels is to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The easiest way to lower sodium intake is to avoid prepared foods and table salt, and use potassium chloride salt substitutes, such as the popular brands Solo and LoSalt, instead.

Also Himalayan Pink Salt has become very popular and seems to be a better option than ordinary salt as it contains a lot of other minerals that are actually very beneficial to the body.

Please be sure to read Heidi Boudro's interesting article on Salt and High Blood Pressure.

The High Blood Pressure Diet

DASH diet

Two large studies have shown quite clearly that diet can be effective in lowering blood pressure.

These studies, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), tested a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturated and total fat.

The DASH diet was also low in cholesterol, high in dietary fibre, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and moderately high in protein.

The second study included sodium intake reduction, which provided even more benefits than dietary manipulation alone.

Diet Prescription for High Blood Pressure

  • The number one thing you can do is eat more fruits and vegetables of all kinds that are overflowing with known and unknown blood pressure lowering agents, including vitamin C, potassium and calcium.
  • Fish is another must for those who want to be on a high blood pressure diet. Its oil seems essential in keeping blood pressure on a healthful plateau. Eat fatty fish, such as mackerel, sardines, salmon or herring, three times a week.

Sodium Chart
  • Go easy on the salt shaker when cooking. And don't add salt at the table. Most of all, be wary of processed foods, which are often loaded with sodium. One study found that about 70% of all sodium in typical diets came from such processed foods.
  • Keep your alcohol intake to a drink or two a day. And avoid binge-drinking, which can drive your blood pressure up considerably.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight, which is a sure way to bring blood pressure down.

Summary of Foods to be Included in Your High Blood Pressure Diet

(Follow the links to see them discussed in more detail or click on the NEXT link to see them in order)

High blood pressure is very much related to other conditions such as heart disease and high cholesterol, so foods suitable for those conditions will benefit people with hypertension as well.

So you might want to have a look at these pages:

Healing Foods for Heart Disease

Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

Atherosclerosis Diet



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