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10 ways to beat high blood pressure with food, from the Harvard Heart Letter

Altering your diet to control cholesterol makes perfect sense. Doing it to control blood pressure doesn’t seem quite so straightforward. Yet food can have a direct effect on blood pressure, according to the October 2010 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Salt certainly plays a role—reducing intake often reduces blood pressure. But fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, beans, nuts, whole-grain carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats also have healthful effects on blood pressure. There isn’t a single “magic” food. Instead, these foods set the foundation for an all-around healthful eating strategy that is good for blood pressure and much more.

A healthful diet is an excellent initial treatment when blood pressure creeps into the unhealthy zone, and a perfect partner for medications. The Harvard Heart Letter outlines some evidence-based advice about diet and blood pressure:

  • Eat more poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes (beans) and less red meat.
  • Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products instead of full-fat versions.
  • Turn to vegetables and fruits instead of sugary or salty snacks and desserts.
  • Select breads, pasta, and other carbohydrate-rich foods that are made from whole grains.
  • Eat fruit instead of drinking juice.
  • Use unsaturated fats like olive, canola, soybean, peanut, corn, or safflower oils instead of butter, coconut oil, or palm-kernel oil.
  • Rely on fresh or frozen foods instead of canned and processed foods.
  • Choose low-sodium foods whenever possible; use herbs, spices, vinegar, and other low-sodium flavorings instead of salt.
  • Don’t skip meals; try to eat one-third of your calories at breakfast.

If you need help, record everything that you eat day by day for a week. Have this information reviewed by a dietitian.

Read the full-length article: "Beating high blood pressure with food"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Information about the OmniHeart diets
  • October 2010 references and further reading
  • Beating high blood pressure with food
  • Standing guard over blood vessel health
  • Choosing the right replacement heart valve
  • New heart rate estimate for women
  • Heart Beat: Geography influences treatment of clogged carotid arteries
  • Heart Beat: Treat yourself to better blood pressure
  • In Brief
  • Ask the doctor: Am I exercising too much?
  • Ask the doctor: Are raw oats better than cooked oats?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.