Best Diet for Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 02 2023.

Blood pressure monitor.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common chronic health problems, affecting about one in four adults. Though it rarely presents symptoms, without treatment, hypertension increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of these issues is to eat a healthy diet. But which diet is best? To learn more, we reached out to Robert Lafelice, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert at SetForSet, and Krutika Nanavati, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with ClinicSpots. 

Nanavati and Lafelice say small dietary changes can protect your ticker and help you live a long, healthy life. What’s more, good nutrition can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels and prevent the need for medication.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension (high blood pressure) occurs when the force of blood pumping through your blood vessels remains too high. A blood pressure reading has two numbers and looks like this: 120/80 mmHg

“The top number represents systolic pressure and the bottom number represents diastolic pressure,” explains LaFelice. “Systolic pressure is a measurement of the blood pressure in your arteries while your heart beats. Diastolic pressure is a measurement of your blood pressure in between beats.” 

Normal, healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or below. A reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher indicates hypertension.

How Does Diet Contribute to High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is a complex condition, influenced by various factors, including genetics and lifestyle. Your diet also plays a role. 

“Certain foods and beverages can increase the risk of developing hypertension or exacerbating existing blood pressure,” Nanavati says. “These include excessive consumption of salt, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and alcohol. Alternatively, adopting a heart-healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy can effectively lower blood pressure levels.”

The Best Diets for Hypertension

Several diets can help keep you or your loved one’s blood pressure within the healthy range, including:

1) The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet

“The DASH diet is a heart-healthy eating plan low in salt but rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats,” explains LaFelice. “These foods provide important minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium) that play essential roles in blood pressure regulation.”

“ For example, potassium increases sodium excretion and dilates blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. Magnesium also helps lower blood pressure by relaxing and contracting the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels.” 

Nanavati agrees, noting that “adhering to the DASH diet can significantly reduce blood pressure levels within two weeks. As an added benefit, the DASH diet has demonstrated effectiveness in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.” 

The DASH Diet doesn’t include specific foods. Instead, it focuses on recommended servings from different food groups.

 Everyone’s nutritional needs vary, but general recommendations include:

  • 6-8 servings of whole grains daily

  • 4-5 servings of vegetables daily

  • 4-5 servings of fruit daily

  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy daily

  • 2-3 servings of healthy fats daily

  • 6 or fewer servings of lean proteins daily

  • 4-5 servings of nuts, legumes, and/or seeds weekly

  • 5 or fewer servings of added sugars weekly

Changing your diet can be challenging if you’re used to eating what you want. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can make personalized recommendations to make the process easier. 

2) The High Protein, Low Carb Diet

“I typically recommend the high protein, low carb diet to my clients with hypertension,” says Lafelice. “This works in two ways: 1) it counters insulin resistance; and 2) it reduces salty, processed foods which are primary carbs.” 

These factors help your heart function more efficiently and increase the amount of sodium eliminated in your urine. Like the DASH diet, the high protein, low carb diet doesn’t recommend specific foods. Instead, it emphasizes high-quality animal protein, including poultry, fish, eggs, and full-fat dairy. 

3) The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is inspired by the food cultures of Spain, Greece, Italy, and Southern France. It emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and seafood, rather than “Western proteins” like poultry and red meat. 

This diet is particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health. One study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, followed 1,294 healthy adults aged 65-79 who followed the Mediterranean Diet for one year. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that those who stuck to the program experienced “clinically relevant reductions in blood pressure and arterial stiffness.” 

The Mediterranean Diet doesn’t make specific food recommendations. To follow the diet:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based fats daily

  • Get protein from lean sources, like fish, poultry, beans, and legumes

  • Enjoy dairy in moderation

  • Limit the amount of red meat you eat

  • Cut back on foods with added sugar and salt

4) The Vegetarian Diet and Vegan Diet

The Vegetarian and Vegan Diet both focus on plant-based meals and snacks. The main difference is that the vegetarian diet allows for some animal products, like dairy and eggs, while the vegan diet excludes them altogether. 

Both of these diets have proven benefits for heart health, and more specifically, hypertension. One study, published in the Journal Nutrients, concluded that “evidence from clinical trials has shown that vegetarian diets, especially vegan diets, reduce blood pressure when compared with omnivorous diets, suggesting that they may be crucial in the primary prevention and overall management of hypertension.

Carewell Tip

Everyone has unique dietary needs, particularly those with more than one medical diagnosis. Before making any drastic changes, talk with your loved one’s doctor or another qualified medical professional. 

Other Dietary Tips for Managing Hypertension

In addition to eating a heart-friendly diet, Nanavati encourages family caregivers to make several other nutritional changes, including:

  • Limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day (or 1,500 mg for those with severe high blood pressure or a risk of heart disease)

  • Avoiding processed and packaged foods high in sodium (e.g., lunch meats, frozen dinners, and fast food)

  • Opting for low-fat or fat-free dairy products (for example, skim milk instead of whole milk)

  • Choosing lean protein sources, like fish, poultry, and beans instead of red meat

  • Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men

The Best Diet for Hypertension - The Bottom Line

Managing high blood pressure is something that many family caregivers deal with. Improving your loved one’s diet is one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on their cardiovascular health and blood pressure levels, in general. 

Still, it’s important you don’t make these changes alone. Partnering with your loved one’s medical team can help guide you in the right direction and reduce the risk of potential complications. 

Have questions about heart-healthy foods? Need help finding a home blood pressure monitor? Get in touch! Our friendly Care Specialists regularly assist family caregivers with these and other important decisions. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to We’re here to make your journey easier. 

Best Diet for Hypertension - Commonly Asked Questions

1) Do I have to commit to a specific diet to lower high blood pressure?

Not necessarily. Navanvati says that if you or your loved one aren’t ready to commit to a specific diet, there are certain foods you can incorporate into daily meals to help lower blood pressure. These include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like kale, spinach, and collard greens

  • Berries which are packed with antioxidants and polyphenols 

  • Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, which are high in fiber and magnesium

  • Avocados, which have been shown to decrease blood pressure by up to 17% when consumed regularly

2) Can high blood pressure remain after making dietary changes?

Yes. “Although making dietary changes can effectively lower your blood pressure levels, it’s important to note that hypertension is a chronic condition that requires long-term management,” Nanavati says. “In some cases, even with dietary modifications, high blood pressure may remain elevated. This is where medication may be necessary.” 

3) What are some other proactive ways to manage hypertension?

Improved cardiovascular health requires a whole lifestyle approach. To optimize your results, take your medication(s) as prescribed, regularly monitor your blood pressure, quit smoking, and manage stress. These factors can prevent your blood pressure from spiking and help you feel your best.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.