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High Blood Pressure: Nutrition Tips - Topic Overview

Cut back on sodium

There is a link between eating sodium and having high blood pressure. Reducing sodium in the diet can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease and can help control high blood pressure. Limiting sodium is part of a heart-healthy eating plan that can help prevent heart disease and stroke.

Try to eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, if you are African-American, or if you are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.1

Sodium and High Blood Pressure
actionset.gif Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium
actionset.gif Low-Salt Diets: Eating Out

Eat fewer processed foods

Cutting back on the amount of processed or refined foods you eat can help. These foods, such as canned and instant soups, packaged mixes, and snack items, don't have enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium—the very nutrients you need to help lower your blood pressure. And these foods can be high in sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats.

Vegetarian diet

You also may try a vegetarian diet. In general, vegetarian diets reduce blood pressure, although experts don't know exactly why. The DASH diet could easily be a vegetarian diet if legumes (for example, beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts) were substituted for meat. Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as does the DASH diet. Vegetarian diets also are higher in fiber and unsaturated fats than other diets.

Potassium, calcium, and magnesium

Not eating enough foods containing potassium, calcium, and magnesium may contribute to high blood pressure.

To get enough of these nutrients, eat a balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and whole grains. Most people do not need to take dietary supplements to get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Good sources of potassium

All fresh fruits and vegetables and meats are good sources of potassium. Examples include the following:

  • Bananas, cantaloupe, oranges, and orange juice
  • Raw or cooked spinach, lima beans, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and artichokes
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes (cooked dried beans and peas) such as pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

Good sources of calcium

  • Low-fat dairy products (yogurt, skim milk, cheese)

Good sources of magnesium

  • Legumes (cooked dried beans and peas), seeds, and nuts
  • Halibut
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Brown rice and potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Bananas and watermelon
  • Leafy green vegetables

Dietary supplements

The safest way to ensure good nutrition is through a balanced, varied diet instead of through nutritional supplements.

Very large amounts of any of these minerals taken in the form of a supplement can cause problems, including possible death. See your doctor before taking large quantities of any supplement.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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