Focus on plant-based proteins to help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health with this delicious plan.
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Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Olives & Feta
Credit: Kelsey Hansen

With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States and nearly half of American adults experiencing high blood pressure, many of us are looking for strategies to protect our hearts. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can be particularly tricky to navigate because it often presents without any symptoms and requires routine medical care to catch it early. Left untreated, it can have some serious health repercussions by increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Fear not! There are a few powerful measures you can take to protect your ticker. Improving your diet, participating in aerobic exercise and losing weight all play a significant role in lowering blood pressure.

In this plan, we focus on plant-based vegetarian proteins, whole grains and plenty of nutrient-rich produce throughout each day. By including proteins like beans, nuts and seeds and tons of fruits and vegetables, this plan packs in plenty of fiber (at least 33 grams per day!), which can help protect your heart and improve gut health. Because weight loss plays a role in improving blood pressure, we set this plan at 1,500 calories per day, which is a level where most people will achieve a healthy weight loss. In case you have different calorie needs, we've included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories per day.

How to Lower Blood Pressure

The following five tips can help you effectively lower your blood pressure:

1. Follow the DASH diet

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, continues to rank as one of the healthiest eating patterns. Essentially, the DASH diet emphasizes a high intake of whole grains, plant-based and lean proteins, tons of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. It limits processed foods, excess sugar, refined grains and higher-fat meats. As a bonus, it's a nutritious way of eating even if you don't have high blood pressure.

2. Get plenty of sleep

Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep per night have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Though it's not always possible, aiming for more shut-eye can have some serious health benefits and may even help with weight loss.

3. Reduce stress

Though a stressful event tends to cause brief, temporary upticks in blood pressure and is less related to long-term hypertension, chronic stress can still negatively impact your heart health. Chronic stress can impact sleep and decrease quality of life, and you may also be less likely to take part in the healthy habits that improve heart health, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

4. Get more physical activity

Research shows that increasing physical activity has some serious perks for our heart health. Aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as a daily brisk walk, plus including at least two days a week of full-body strength training is a good goal. If that's above your current ability, increasing activity in any way you're able to has benefits too!

5. Improve your gut health

Focusing on probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi) plus pumping up your fiber intake can populate your microbiome with the balance of the right bacteria to improve your gut health. Of course, this benefits digestion but a healthy gut can also improve your weight and heart health and lower blood pressure.

Vegetarian Foods to Focus on for High Blood Pressure

Aim for foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium to lower your blood pressure, such as:

  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons, especially watermelon
  • Dark leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, collards, chard)
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Legumes (beans, lentils)
  • Edamame
  • Nuts and seeds (including natural nut butters)
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Berries
  • Beets
  • Whole grains (quinoa, whole wheat, oats, bulgur, freekeh and more)
  • Avocados and avocado oil
  • Olive oil

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

Make Vegan Superfood Grain Bowls to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.

Day 1

Spinach & Egg Scramble with Raspberries

Breakfast (295 calories)

A.M. Snack (110 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain kefir

Lunch (472 calories)

P.M. Snack (206 calories)

  • ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (431 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,515 calories, 63g protein, 168g carbohydrate, 45g fiber, 72g fat, 1,338mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1/4 cup blueberries and change P.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium apple with 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack, add 1 large peach to lunch, plus add a 1-oz. slice whole-wheat baguette to dinner.

Day 2

Greek Stuffed Eggplant

Breakfast (262 calories)

A.M. Snack (166 calories)

  • ¾ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (259 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame (in pods)
  • 1 medium peach

Dinner (439 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,507 calories, 71g protein, 173g carbohydrate, 49g fiber, 68g fat, 1,320mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit yogurt at A.M. snack and omit edamame at P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie to breakfast and add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack.

Day 3

Easy Pea & Spinach Carbonara

Breakfast (286 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp. sliced almonds

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (262 calories)

  • 20 dried walnut halves

Dinner (430 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,489 calories, 70g protein, 155g carbohydrate, 36g fiber, 73g fat, 855mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1 medium peach and change P.M. snack to 1 plum.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 4

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Breakfast (262 calories)

A.M. Snack (154 calories)

  • 20 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (110 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain kefir

Dinner (588 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,495 calories, 62g protein, 165g carbohydrate, 40g fiber, 74g fat, 1,274mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1/2 cup raspberries, and change dinner to 1 serving Spinach Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, White Beans & Basil.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie to breakfast and add 15 dried walnut halves to P.M. snack.

Day 5

Mexican Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Breakfast (286 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp. sliced almonds

A.M. Snack (252 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1½ Tbsp. natural peanut butter

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (59 calories)

  • 1 medium peach

Dinner (503 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,480 calories, 63g protein, 141g carbohydrate, 40g fiber, 82g fat, 936mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit almonds at breakfast and omit peanut butter at A.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 2 Tbsp. peanut butter at A.M. snack, add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch, and add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 6

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Olives & Feta
Credit: Kelsey Hansen

Breakfast (262 calories)

A.M. Snack (166 calories)

  • ¾ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 10 dried walnut halves

Lunch (315 calories)

P.M. Snack (200 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame (in pods)

Dinner (404 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,477 calories, 70g protein, 152g carbohydrate, 33g fiber, 70g fat, 1,596mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit walnuts at A.M. snack plus switch P.M. snack to 1 small apple.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie to breakfast and add 1 medium apple with 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to P.M. snack.

Day 7

Chipotle Tofu Tacos
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Breakfast (295 calories)

A.M. Snack (205 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain kefir
  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (315 calories)

P.M. Snack (231 calories)

  • 30 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (443 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,488 calories, 65g protein, 144g carbohydrate, 33g fiber, 79g fat, 1,539mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Omit apple at A.M. snack and switch P.M. snack to 1 plum.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 serving Berry-Kefir Smoothie to breakfast and add 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to A.M. snack.