Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(5):865-866

You can help lower your blood pressure by eating foods that are part of a healthy diet. If you want to keep your blood pressure normal, the best diet is one that is low in salt, sugar, and fat, and high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

You should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. You should limit red meat, sugar, fat, foods high in cholesterol, and alcohol. You also should try to stay at a healthy weight.

Here is a sample diet for you to follow. It has 2,000 calories per day. You may need fewer or more servings per day, depending on your height and weight, and how active you are. Talk to your doctor about the number of servings that is right for you.

Food groupDaily servings for 2,000 calorie dietSample serving sizes
Whole grains7 to 81 slice whole-grain bread
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta
Non-starchy vegetables4 to 51 cup raw leafy vegetables
1/2 cup cooked or raw vegetables
6 ounces low-sodium vegetable juice
Fruits4 to 51 medium fresh fruit (such as apple, banana, or pear)
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup canned fruit, drained
Low-fat dairy2 to 38 ounces skim milk
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 ounces cheese (the size of 1 1/2 dominoes)
Lean meats1 or 23 ounces (the size of the palm of your hand) cooked lean meat, skinless poultry, or fish
Nuts, seeds, dry beans4 to 5 per week1/3 cup nuts
1 tablespoon seeds
1/2 cup cooked beans
Fats/oils2 to 31 teaspoon margarine
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Sweets5 per week1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon jelly or jam

How can I get to a healthy weight?

Talk to your doctor about whether you need to lose weight. Your doctor may recommend certain kinds of exercises for you. Start exercising slowly and gradually build up until you are exercising for 30 to 40 minutes on four to six days a week. Most people who lose weight and keep it off are successful because they eat a healthy diet every day and exercise almost every day.

Here are some other things you can do to reach a healthy weight:

  • Limit alcoholic drinks to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

  • Limit your salt to 2.4 grams per day. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest that you eat even less salt. Salt is already in many foods, but processed foods and condiments (such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce) have the most salt. Check food labels to see the salt content.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on lowering your blood pressure through diet and exercise, contact the following organizations:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians

  • Web site:www.familydoctor.org

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

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