Diet plays a critical role in managing hypertension, as it can directly affect blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular health.

A balanced diet is crucial for staying healthy and keeping your blood pressure in check. Certain foods can even have an immediate impact on your blood pressure, for better or worse, so your food choices are important when managing this condition.

Let’s delve into practical tips for managing your diet, incorporating supplements, and identifying foods to avoid.

The following foods may help lower your blood pressure:

  • Beets and beet juice: high in nitrates, which can help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow
  • Bananas: high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure
  • Leafy green vegetables: rich in nitrates, which help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow
  • Berries: contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help lower blood pressure
  • Fatty fish: rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation
  • Oats: rich in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health
  • Seeds: rich in omega-3s, fiber, and protein, which can help lower blood pressure
  • Garlic: contains allicin, a compound that may help lower blood pressure and improve heart health
  • Nuts: rich in magnesium, potassium, and healthy fats, which can help lower blood pressure
  • Whole grains: high in fiber and nutrients, which can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health

When adjusting your diet to manage hypertension, it’s especially important to focus on reducing your sodium intake, increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods, and adopting an overall heart-healthy diet.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Eat less sodium

The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day.

To do this, you can avoid processed foods, canned soups, and fast food, which are often high in sodium. And instead of salt, you can use herbs, spices, and lemon juice to flavor foods.

Increase potassium intake

Potassium helps balance sodium levels and can lower your blood pressure. Sources of potassium include bananas, oranges, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes.

Focus on fruits and vegetables

For heart health, fill half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Beet juice is a popular drink that has been found to temporarily lower blood pressure, offering a quick boost to your heart health regimen.

Choose whole grains

Opt for whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread rather than refined grains.

A 2020 study in Japan found that people who “sometimes or always” consumed whole grains had lower odds of developing hypertension than those who didn’t consume whole grains.

Limit saturated and trans fats

The results of a 2024 study suggest that consuming foods that are high in trans fatty acids, such as those containing partially hydrogenated oils, may have harmful effects on blood pressure.

Manage portions

Be mindful of portion sizes, especially when eating high calorie foods. You can consider using smaller plates at meals and avoiding eating snacks straight from the package.

Limit alcohol consumption

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For men, this means consuming no more than two drinks per day, and for women, no more than one drink per day.

Manage your weight

If you have overweight or obesity, losing even a small amount of weight can help lower your blood pressure. According to a 2018 study, as people get heavier, they’re more likely to have high blood pressure.

Stay active

Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling.

Here are some general guidelines based on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which has been found to be effective in lowering blood pressure:

  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings per day (e.g., 1 medium fruit or 1/2 cup chopped fruit)
  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings per day (e.g., 1 cup raw leafy greens or 1/2 cup chopped vegetables)
  • Whole grains: 6 to 8 servings per day (e.g., 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of a cooked whole grain)
  • Dairy: 2 to 3 servings per day (e.g., 1 cup of milk or yogurt)
  • Lean proteins: 6 or fewer servings per day (e.g., 3 ounces of cooked meat or 1/2 cup of beans)
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week (e.g., 1/3 cup of nuts or 2 tablespoons of seeds)
  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings per day of healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, avocado)
  • Sweets: no more than 5 servings per week

It’s important to note that these general guidelines are based on a diet of 1,800 calories per day, which may not be appropriate for everyone.

While older recommendations suggested low fat or fat-free dairy, newer research suggests that full-fat dairy products, especially yogurt and cheese, don’t have negative effects on health. They may even offer protective benefits against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The following vitamins and minerals may help manage blood pressure, especially if you have a deficiency:

  • Potassium: balances sodium levels and relaxes blood vessels, lowering blood pressure (but consuming too much, especially from supplements, can raise blood pressure, so be mindful of your intake)
  • Magnesium: helps relax blood vessels and regulate blood pressure
  • Calcium: regulates muscle contractions, including those of your heart and blood vessels
  • Vitamin D: regulates blood pressure by aiding calcium absorption
  • Vitamin C: acts as an antioxidant and widens blood vessels
  • Vitamin E: has antioxidant effects that improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: reduce inflammation and improve heart health, lowering blood pressure

One 2023 research review found that calcium and magnesium could reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly. Potassium and vitamin E lowered systolic blood pressure but not diastolic. Vitamin C and vitamin D did not show significant blood pressure-lowering effects.

Here are some snack ideas that are low in sodium and rich in nutrients that can help support healthy blood pressure levels:

  • Fresh fruits: Pair fruit such as apples, bananas, berries, or oranges with nuts or seeds.
  • Vegetable sticks: Dip carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, and celery sticks into hummus or guacamole.
  • Whole grain crackers: Choose low sodium options and pair them with cheese or nut butter.
  • Greek yogurt: Opt for plain yogurt and add cinnamon or honey for sweetness.
  • Popcorn: Make air-popped popcorn with olive oil. Avoid butter and excessive salt.
  • Nuts and seeds: Try almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, or flaxseed. Be mindful of portion sizes.
  • Smoothies: Blend fruits, vegetables, and a protein source such as Greek yogurt or protein powder.
  • Whole grain toast: Top with mashed avocado, tomato slices, and salt-free seasoning.

When you have hypertension, it’s important to limit the following foods and ingredients that can contribute to high blood pressure:

  • Sodium: High sodium intake is a major contributor to high blood pressure. Limit processed foods, such as canned soups, sauces, and packaged snacks, as they’re often high in sodium.
  • Added sugars: According to a 2014 research review, added sugars, rather than sodium, may be more strongly associated with hypertension and cardiometabolic risk. Limit sugary beverages, desserts, and processed foods with added sugars.
  • Alcohol: Limit alcohol intake to moderate levels — no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
  • Saturated and trans fats: These fats can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Avoid trans fats, which are found in partially hydrogenated oils and many packaged and fried foods.
  • Heated vegetable oils: Avoid foods fried in vegetable oils, especially when the oil is heated multiple times (e.g., fast food fries). A 2011 study found that while fresh palm and soy oils have no negative effects, consuming those oils after repeated heating can raise blood pressure and negatively affect vascular function.
  • Caffeine: While moderate caffeine intake is generally safe for most people, excessive caffeine consumption can raise blood pressure in some people. A 2021 research review suggests that short-term consumption of caffeinated beverages is associated with a slight increase in blood pressure.

A healthy diet is crucial for managing hypertension. Make an effort to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats in your meals. At the same time, try to limit processed foods, saturated fats, and added sugars.

Even small changes in your diet can significantly improve your blood pressure and your overall health.