The #1 Diet to Lower High Blood Pressure, According to Science
An alarming number of Americans have high blood pressure. Data tells us that almost half of the country's population has hypertension. Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. And over time, this additional stress on the body can increase a person's risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you are one of the many people who are managing hypertension, know that all hope is not lost. Sure, some factors are completely out of your control when it comes to developing this condition—like genetics and family history. But, there are other factors that play into blood pressure health that are completely modifiable.
When it comes to reducing blood pressure levels, changing your diet has produced promising results. And, for over 20 years, following the DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure among people who suffer from hypertension. DASH is the acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—one of the healthiest diets available. These results make it the #1 diet to lower high blood pressure, according to science.
Research Backs Up the DASH Diet
The DASH diet is a way of eating that—as the name implies—was developed to stop hypertension. Unlike many fad diets that have their time in the spotlight and then fizzle out, the DASH diet has been popular since the early 1990s and isn't stopping anytime soon, thanks to the results that have been seen by people following this diet.
If you are going to follow the DASH diet, plant-based foods will make up the bulk of your plate. Foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes will be the shining stars, and ultra-processed foods that contain large amounts of added sugars and salt will only make a rare appearance.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute promotes the DASH eating plan. In general, there are some important guidelines to follow when incorporating the DASH diet into your lifestyle:
- Emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts and vegetable oils
- Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils
- Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks
- Limit alcohol intake
- Limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/day
Along with emphasizing and limiting certain foods, the DASH diet also suggests focusing on specific nutrients. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are micronutrients that play a role in blood pressure regulation and are highlighted in this diet. The nutrients that this diet provides the body help support healthy blood pressure in a natural way.
Research has shown that fiber helps to control blood pressure and prevent other cardiovascular diseases. As does a daily intake of calcium, which also helps with blood lipids and stress. From fiber to calcium to the many other micronutrients that this way of eating provides, the DASH diet is certainly an evidence-based approach to managing blood pressure.
Older data suggests that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. And over and over again, results from large, randomized, controlled trials show that the DASH diet reduces blood pressure significantly. Because of this strong evidence, DASH has been a consistent part of national blood pressure and dietary guidelines.
Related: 27 Days of DASH Diet Recipes
Easy Tips to Follow the DASH Diet
Having high blood pressure is unfortunately very common. But with some changes in eating habits, it is entirely possible to lower blood pressure in a natural way, particularly by following the DASH diet.
When starting the DASH diet, here are some tips to get you going:
- Enjoy a serving of fresh or frozen fruit as dessert after a meal instead of a sugar-sweetened treat––frozen grapes are delicious.
- Incorporate unexpected vegetables to your traditional dishes, like adding sweet potatoes to this chicken chili.
- Swap out fattier cuts of meat for chicken breast or other lean choices.
- Explore meatless lunch options like a Veggie & Hummus Sandwich instead of a deli meat sandwich.
- Use herbs and spices instead of table salt to add flavor to your dishes.
- Drink infused water or sparkling seltzer instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Use your own homemade salad dressing and replace other processed food products.
- When making breakfast, opt for whole-grain options like Peanut Butter-Banana Cinnamon Toast instead of toast made with white bread.
- Use whole grains as a base for your dishes, like in Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes.
Making small changes to your diet can go a long way to lower your blood pressure. Keep in mind that the DASH diet alone may not be enough to curb the blood pressure—some people may need to make other lifestyle changes or even take medications to bring their blood pressure under control. While the DASH diet is promising, always consult with your primary care provider and registered dietitian to see if combining it with other lifestyle changes is more effective in lowering your blood pressure to achieve your health goals.