You may not feel high blood pressure but it is still a problem. It can increase your risk for serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The first goal should be to keep your blood pressure in a good range with healthy habits. However, if your blood pressure creeps up, changes in your diet may play a large part of treatment.
Food choices can have a big effect on your blood pressure. The DASH diet was made as a guide to help people control their blood pressure. It was created based on information found during a large study. It found that adults that ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods was linked to healthy blood pressure. The diet was also low in saturated fat and cholesterol. For some, the DASH diet works as well as some blood pressure medicine.
Eating the DASH Diet
The DASH basics calls for:
- Grains: 6 to 8 servings each day
- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings each day
- Fruits: 4 to 5 servings each day
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2 to 3 servings each day
- Meats, poultry, eggs, and fish: 6 servings or less each day
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings each week
- Fats and oils: limit of 2 to 3 servings each day
- Sweets: limit to 5 servings or less in a week
Grains and Grain Products
Choose whole grains foods. Stay away from white breads, pastas, or rice. Whole grains will give you a good amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Examples of 1 serving are:
- 1 slice of bread
- ½ to 1-¼ cup of dry cereal; check the label on the cereal box for serving size
- ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal
Good choices include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Whole grain cereals
- Air-popped popcorn
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are low in calories. Most have almost no fat. They are also good for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Some minerals like potassium and magnesium help to manage blood pressure. Eating more fruits and vegetables increases the amount of these minerals that you get. Examples of 1 serving of are:
- 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- ½ cup of vegetable juice
- ½ cup of fruit juice
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- ¼ cup of dried fruit
- ½ cup of fresh (cut up), frozen, or canned fruit
Any fruits and vegetables are good choices. Try different types. Look for different colored food to get a good mix of minerals and vitamins.
Low-fat or Fat-free Dairy Foods
Dairy foods are a good sources of calcium and protein. Examples of 1 serving of dairy are:
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 1-½ ounces of cheese
Meats, Poultry, and Fish
Meats, poultry, and fish are packed with protein and magnesium. Be sure to buy lean cuts of meat and poultry. Examples of 1 serving are:
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces of cooked meats, poultry, or fish
- One egg
Nuts, Seeds, and Dry Beans
Nuts, seeds, and beans are great source of magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber. Examples of 1 serving are:
- 1/3 cup of nuts
- 2 tablespoons of seeds
- ½ cup of cooked dry beans
Look for unsalted nuts or seeds.
Fats and Oils
Fats and oils should be limited. Looks for those that are lowest in saturated fats. Examples of 1 serving are:
- 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
- 1 tablespoon of low fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons of salad dressing
- 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
Sweets have few if any nutrition value. When you do have sweets, choose those that are low in fat. Examples of 1 serving are:
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam
- ½ cup of sorbet, gelatin dessert
- 8 ounces of lemonade
Some people are sensitive to salt. This may increase their blood pressure. Lowering salt intake may decrease blood pressure. Most salt comes from processed or canned foods. Look for low sodium options. Choose fresh meats, poultry, or fish and prepare them at home. That will help you control how much salt is used. Be aware of foods that are high in salt such as cured meats or brined foods like pickles.
American Heart Association
The DASH Diet Eating Plan
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T170319/DASH-diet. Updated January 15, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2019.
Description of the DASH eating plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan. Accessed November 14, 2019.
Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/how_make_dash.html. Accessed November 14, 2019.
Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD Last Updated: 11/14/2019