Got Diabetes and High Blood Pressure? 9 Diet Tips

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on August 08, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

Two out of three people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. Keeping your diet in check -- counting carbs, limiting sugar, eating less salt -- is key. You can still eat well and manage your conditions with these easy tips.

1. Get zesty.

Since you have high blood pressure, you should get no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. That's less than a teaspoon.

So retrain taste buds. Instead of reaching for the saltshaker, flavor food with citrus zest, garlic, rosemary, ginger, jalapeno peppers, oregano, or cumin.

Cooking at home also helps. “If you’re eating something from a bag or box or off a restaurant menu, chances are you’re getting too much sodium,” says Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, author of Blood Pressure Down.

“Look for visible seeds and grains in your food to ensure you’re getting whole grains.” -- Amber L. Taylor, MD

2. Clock your meals.

To get in the habit of having a balanced diet, “visualize your plate as a clock,” says Amber L. Taylor, MD, who directs The Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. A quarter gets lean protein like baked fish, beans, or chicken. The last quarter holds grains, preferably whole, like brown rice.

You’ll still need to count carbohydrates and make sure you're not getting too much sodium.

3. Rethink your coffee drink.

Caffeine can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure. If you have higher blood sugar or blood pressure after drinking coffee, “limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams -- about 2 cups of coffee -- a day,” says Torey Jones Armul, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Skip the French press or espresso and choose coffee made with a paper filter. The paper soaks up an oily compound in coffee beans called cafestol, which can hike up cholesterol.

You can also consider switching to decaf. “Some research suggests it can reduce blood sugar,” Armul says.

4. Seek out seeds and grains.

“Look for visible seeds and grains in your food,” Taylor says. “The grainier, the better.”

Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals, plus contain fiber, which keeps you full and helps steady blood sugar. Aim for three to five servings of grains each day, and make at least half of those servings whole grains.

Try swapping white rice or pasta for amaranth, barley, bulgur, or quinoa. “Many whole grains now come presoaked or precooked to make preparation quick and easy,” Taylor says.

5. Go bananas.

Bananas are a good source of potassium. So are cantaloupe, broccoli, raw carrots, lentils, potatoes, whole wheat bread, bran flakes, and nuts.

“Potassium naturally reduces the effects of sodium, helping to control blood pressure,” says Lauren Elkins, RD, nutrition director at Marina Del Rey Hospital in Marina Del Rey, CA.

If you have kidney problems, too much potassium can make them worse, so ask your doctor if you need to limit how much you get.

6. Socialize more, drink less.

When you're getting together with friends or family, have fun, but skip or limit the alcohol.

“Beer, wine, and most cocktail mixers contain sugar and will cause your blood glucose to rise, as well as your blood pressure and triglycerides,” Elkins says. “Alcohol also stimulates your appetite and can cause you to overeat.”

Moderation is key, Elkins says. “Men should limit themselves to two drinks per day, and women to one.”

One drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1-ounce shot of liquor.

7. Know your fats.

Favor fats from plant foods. Some options: olive oil, avocado, nuts, and flaxseed.

Saturated fats, like you find in skin-on chicken, butter, and cheese, should make up less than 10% of your daily calories.

Avoid trans fats -- the partially hydrogenated oils found in fried foods and baked goods. And limit saturated fats, which are mostly found in fatty cuts of meat and whole-fat dairy products. “Both of these unhealthy fats are linked to increased cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease,” Armul says.

8. Kiddie-size it.

If you're treating yourself, use portion control. “Try ordering the kid-sized ice cream, splitting an appetizer with the table, or opting for a side salad with your burger instead of fries,” Armul says.

9. Track your progress.

“The best thing you can do to change your diet is be accountable,” Brill says. Keep a food diary or smartphone app to track your eating habits, or regularly check in with a family member or friend.

Show Sources


Lauren Elkins, RDN, director of nutrition, Marina Del Ray Hospital, Marina Del Rey, CA.

Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, LDN, nutrition director, Fitness Together Inc.; author, Blood Pressure Down, Harmony, 2013.

Whitehead, N. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, April 2013.

Torey Jones Armul, MS, CSSD, registered dietitian nutritionist, Chicago; spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Amber L. Taylor, MD, endocrinologist; director, The Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Hospital, Baltimore.

American Diabetes Association: “High Blood Pressure.”

American Heart Association: “Potassium and High Blood Pressure,” “Saturated Fats,” “Trans Fats.”

Mayo Clinic: “10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Coffee and Health.”

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