Food and Hypertension

Healthier eating habits lower your risk for high blood pressure

A person sells produce at a farmers market.What you eat can increase your risk of high blood pressure. You can stay on top of this by making small changes in how you cook and what you eat. Making changes to your diet now can lead to tastier, not just healthier, eating.

Make good food choices

Eating for your heart health can be simple with the DASH eating plan. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and includes foods from every food group. This eating plan can not only lower your blood pressure but also help you manage your weight.

One way you can use the DASH eating plan is by keeping healthy snacks at home. Here are some good snack options to include, starting with the best choices:

  • Unsalted nuts

  • Fresh vegetables

  • Whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese

  • Low-fat granola bars

  • Peanut butter, sunflower butter, almond butter

  • Slices of lean turkey or chicken

  • Fruits like oranges, grapes, raisins, and apples

Build healthy eating habits

Unhealthy habits can sometimes lead to bigger health problems like high blood pressure. Reducing unhealthy ingredients in your cooking is one path to lower your blood pressure risks. Try these options the next time you’re in the kitchen:

  • Take the salt shaker off the table

  • Minimize the use of processed foods

  • Use seasonings like lemon juice, garlic, onion, and herb mixes

  • Eat more fiber with beans, lentils, and oats

  • Choose low-fat meals, including lean meats such as turkey or chicken (without the skin)

Beware of false friends

Salt seems to make any dish taste better, but it's not your friend. The sodium in any type of salt can lead to elevated blood pressure which can damage your arteries. Keep an eye out for other names for these ingredients. For example, when you’re watching your salt intake, look for the amount of sodium per serving. Remember that high sodium foods don’t always taste salty.

In addition to excessive salt, try to stay away from trans fats or added sweeteners. Try swapping out some of your usual foods for recipes that don’t have those ingredients.

These video recipes can get you started on a path to tastier, and healthier dishes:

  • Low sodium tomato soup instead of canned tomato soup

  • Crustless quiche muffins instead of sweet doughnuts

  • Bean burgers or plant-based patties instead of cheeseburgers

Use all the tools in your kitchen to protect your health. Keep a food journal to track what you eat. If you’re unsure about which changes to make, send a Secure Message to your health care team to start the conversation.

Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Read More

Using the DASH Plan (Veterans Health Library)

Adding Flavor to Low-Fat Meals (Veterans Health Library)

Healthy Teaching Kitchens (VHA YouTube)

Handling a Silent Killer: Hypertension

Track Your Blood Pressure Online

Updated September 29, 2022