dash diet
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Just a DASH Will Do

One of the tools your doctor may use to dial back your blood pressure is DASH -- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s not a diet but a way of eating. You cut back on salt, load up on fruits and veggies, and round out your meals with whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy.

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woman chopping kale
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Go Green (and Leafy)

Salt makes your body hang on to more fluid. That bumps up your blood volume and the pressure on your arteries, which make your blood pressure climb. Fill your plate with leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, or collards for a potassium boost. The mineral helps flush sodium out of your body through your pee and relaxes your blood vessel walls.

Recommended daily serving: 3-6 cups (raw leafy veggies).

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mixed berries
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Berry Good for You

The pigments that give blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries their rich colors also come with a benefit for your blood vessels: anthocyanin. It’s a natural compound that can help artery walls become wider and more flexible to lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

Recommended daily serving: 2-3 cups (frozen or fresh fruits).

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spoon of yogurt
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Yogurt

Calcium is a key player for good blood pressure because it helps your blood vessels tighten and relax when they should. Plain, low-fat yogurt is a good way to add calcium in your diet without too much added sugar or fat. Looking for a flavor twist? Throw some berries in for some natural sweetness and even more blood pressure help.
 

Recommended daily serving: 2-3 cups (yogurt or milk).

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canned fish
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Fatty Fish

Another good source of calcium is bone-in fish, like canned salmon or sardines. Oily fish like mackerel and sardines also are flush in omega-3s, the fatty acids that boost health and help your heart. Studies on fish oil supplements show they may lower your blood pressure, especially if your high blood pressure is moderate or severe.

Recommended daily serving: 3-6 ounces (fish, lean meat, and poultry).

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seeds on salad
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Sprinkling of Seeds

Add unsalted seeds like pumpkin, flax, and sunflower to salads, yogurt, or oatmeal to help lower your blood pressure. Seeds are a source of vital minerals like magnesium, which helps control your blood pressure and relax your blood vessels.

Recommended daily serving: 1-1.5 tablespoons (seeds).

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oatmeal
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Oatmeal

This whole grain is healthy, filling, and low in sodium. It’s also full of fiber, which helps keep your weight and blood pressure under control. Cook your rolled or steel-cut oats with water or low-fat milk. Swap out the maple syrup or brown sugar with raisins or bananas for a touch of sweetness. 

Recommended daily serving: 3-5 cups cooked (whole-grain cereal, rice, and pasta).

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beet juice
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Turn Up the Beet

A study shows that drinking 2 cups of a mix of three parts beetroot and one part apple juice can make your systolic blood pressure (the top number) go down in just a few hours. Men may see a bigger benefit than women. High systolic pressure can raise your chances of strokes. Cooked beets and beet greens, which pack lots of potassium, are a good alternative.

Recommended daily serving: About 2 cups (raw or cooked vegetables, or vegetable juice).

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garlic
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Garlic

Garlic can add more than just zest to your dishes. It may also have a hand in boosting your nitric oxide levels, which dilates blood vessels. The more relaxed your blood vessels are, the less your heart has to work to pump blood through them. That helps keep your blood pressure down.
 

Recommended daily serving: 1-2 cloves.

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pistachios
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Pistachios

Tree nuts -- hold the salt! -- like walnuts and almonds can be a great source of healthy fats that help your heart. But for high blood pressure, your best pick is pistachios. They seem to have the strongest effect on lowering both your top and bottom blood pressure readings.

Recommended serving: 1-2 cups per week (nuts).

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pomegranate
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Pomegranates

Drinking pomegranate juice regularly may help chisel away at your blood pressure numbers. But watch out for the added sugar. Also, juices don’t have the fiber you get from the fruit. So be sure to add fiber from other foods to help keep your heart healthy and your bowels regular.

Recommended daily serving: 2-3 cups (fresh, frozen, or canned fruit).

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olive oil
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Olive Oil

The polyphenols, which are protective antioxidants, in olive oil give it a leg up over other oils. Polyphenols improve blood vessel health and help them stay elastic. It’s a smart choice for a healthy fat. Use it instead of butter, vegetable oil, or canola oil in your cooking.
 

Recommended daily serving: 2-3 teaspoons (oil, mayo, or salad dressing).

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bean soup
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Legumes and Beans

A daily cup of peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, or beans can keep your blood pressure in check and even lower it. Legumes and beans are big on fiber and can help ward off coronary heart disease, too.

Recommended daily serving: 1 cup (cooked beans and peas).

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dark chocolate nib
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Dark Chocolate

Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.

An occasional nibble.

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couple eating snack outside
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Foods Are Not the Whole Treatment

If you have high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure, a healthy diet and savvy food picks can help you manage your condition or prevent it. But what you do off the plate matters, too. So lose any extra weight, exercise, and take any medication your doctor prescribes.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 7/17/2018 Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on July 17, 2018

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SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure,” “Fish oil.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “High Blood Pressure,” “Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH.”

American Heart Association: “Low Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure.”

Nutrients: “The Effect of Anthocyanin-Rich Foods or Extracts on Vascular Function in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.”

Harvard Health: “Key minerals to help control blood pressure.”

Archives of Internal Medicine: “Dietary Fiber and Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials,” “Effect of legumes as part of a low glycemic index diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized controlled trial.”

Nutrition Journal: “Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Kidney Disease: High- and Moderate-Potassium Foods.”

Pharmacognosy Reviews: “Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension.”

American Family Physician: “Health Effects of Garlic.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.”

Pharmacological Research: “Effects of pomegranate juice on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.”

American Journal of Hypertension: “Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease Blood Pressure and Improve Endothelial Function in Young Women with Mild Hypertension.”

BMC Medicine: “Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis.”

Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on July 17, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.