“You are what you eat”, this saying is especially true when you have chronic lifestyle disorders like hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. Over the years, doctors, nutritionists, and researchers have studied various diets to determine how they affect blood pressure. So how does an Indian diet plan for high blood pressure fit into a healthy lifestyle? Which Indian foods should you eat and avoid to keep your BP in check? Let’s find out!
High Blood Pressure and the Role of Diet
The food you eat plays a vital role in maintaining your health and keeping your body functioning as it should. Having a balanced and nutritious diet is important to prevent or manage many health conditions and lifestyle disorders like hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) .
A balanced diet consists of macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, and fats, as well as micronutrients like minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other trace components. Consuming too much or too little of any one nutrient can negatively affect your body.
Your blood pressure is similarly dependent on the foods you consume on a daily basis, particularly the following:
When you have too much sodium in your body, your kidneys retain more water to maintain electrolyte balance. This results in increased blood volume, which leads to increased pressure on the walls of your arteries. Thus, high sodium intake results in elevated blood pressure levels.
Consuming fats like oil, butter, cheese, cream, ghee, etc., raises the cholesterol levels in your blood. High blood pressure can cause minute tears and damage to the inner walls of your arteries, and the excess cholesterol in your food accumulates in these tears. This results in the buildup of plaque, which clogs your arteries and makes them stiff and narrow, further raising your blood pressure levels.
- Excess sugar
Similar to high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels can cause inflammation and damage to the inner lining of your blood vessels, increasing your chances of developing plaque. Thus, too much sugar in your diet can result in clogged arteries and high blood pressure.
Foods You Should Eat
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, which are essential for maintaining normal blood pressure levels. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are also high in satiating macronutrients like fibre and protein while having little to no saturated or trans fats that are harmful to your health.
- Foods rich in potassium
Potassium can help eliminate excess sodium from your body. Thus it is important to include potassium-rich foods in your diet.
- Foods rich in fibre
Studies have shown that adding fibre to your diet can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can lead to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can make them clogged, stiff, and narrow, leading to elevated blood pressure levels.
- Foods rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants like polyphenols, omega-3-fatty acids, flavonoids, catechins, etc., have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals and the effects of inflammation caused by conditions like hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. Thus, antioxidants can lower your blood pressure.
- Low-fat dairy products
Milk is a rich source of bioactive peptides (derived from the digestion of milk proteins) like Valine-Proline-Proline (VPP), Isoleucine-Proline-Proline (IPP), casein, and lactalbumin that have anti-hypertensive properties. Dairy products are also rich in essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help regulate blood pressure levels. However, whole milk products are high in fats, which can increase your cholesterol levels. Hence, opt for low-fat or non-fat milk products to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.
For a more extensive list of foods that you should include in your diet, click here.
Foods You Should Avoid
- Overly salty foods
Cut down on salty foods like chips, namkeen, and condiments with high amounts of sodium, which can raise your blood pressure further. Limit the amount of salt you use in your regular cooking, and try switching to salts that have a lower sodium content, like Himalayan salt.
Caffeinated drinks like coffee, sports drinks, sodas, etc., spike your blood pressure as caffeine constricts your blood vessels. Limit your consumption of coffee to one cup a day or switch to drinks with lower caffeine content, like tea.
- Saturated and trans fats
Foods that have a high fat content, like fast food, deep-fried food, dairy products like cream, butter, etc., can clog your arteries and make them narrower, which can make your hypertension worse. Switch to healthy sources of unsaturated fats like nuts and seeds to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
- Added sugars
Store-bought desserts, baked goods, sweets, candies, etc., have high amounts of added sugars, which can damage your blood vessels in the long run. Cut down on your intake of these products to once or twice a week and replace them with sources of natural sugar like fruits in your daily diet. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your daily intake of sugar to a total of 24 g for women and 36 g for men.
Long term consumption of alcohol or binge drinking can cause several ill effects on your health, elevated blood pressure levels being one of them.
What is the DASH Diet for Hypertension?
The DASH or “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” diet is a healthy and balanced diet plan endorsed by the AHA to treat or prevent hypertension. It includes high amounts of nutrients that lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fibre. The DASH diet also recommends cutting down on foods that may negatively affect your blood pressure and overall health, like excess sodium, added sugars, and saturated or trans fats.
The DASH diet recommends including the following food groups in your daily diet to improve your blood pressure levels and heart health.
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats, poultry, and fish
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy products
- Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas
The DASH diet also recommends limiting your consumption of the following foods:
- Sodium (limit consumption to 2300 mg, which amounts to 6 g of table salt per day)
- Fats and oils
You can read more about the DASH diet and the recommended serving sizes of each food group here.
How Often Should You Eat With Hypertension?
Based on your appetite and required calorie intake (dependent on your BMI, muscle mass, activity levels, etc.) you can consume about 3 to 5 meals a day to maintain normal blood pressure levels. Hunger can cause your blood pressure levels to fluctuate, and also cause irregular heartbeat. You can avoid this by having smaller meals at regular intervals or snacking between major meals.
Indian Hypertension Diet Chart
The following is a sample Indian diet chart for hypertension patients. Make sure you prepare the dishes mentioned with as little fat (oil, butter, ghee, cheese, etc.) and salt as possible. Always consult your doctor or dietitian before formulating a personalized meal plan for yourself.
1. Indian Breakfast For Hypertension
- Stuffed cabbage and dal (lentil) paratha made with bajra (pearl millet) flour is filled with the goodness of lentils, whole grains, and high potassium from cabbage.
- Oats upma, made with oat bran and vegetables like carrots, broccoli, beans, etc. will give you a nutritious breakfast. The soluble fibre in oats keeps you full for a long time while also lowering your cholesterol levels.
- Ragi (finger millet) and spinach idli, made by substituting sooji (semolina) with ragi when making the batter and adding ground spinach to the batter just before steaming the idlis.
- Berry and banana smoothie bowl, made by blending frozen berries of your choice and bananas with low-fat milk or yoghurt and oats, topped with dry fruits, and seeds of your choice.
- A boiled potato or sweet potato with hard-boiled eggs and a slice of whole-wheat toast.
2. Indian Lunch For Hypertension
- One bowl of dahi bhindi (okra) with two bajra rotis.
- One bowl of brown rice and sambar, rasam, or dal made with green leafy vegetables.
- One bowl of dalia (broken wheat) pulao with rajma (kidney beans) curry.
- One portion of grilled or poached skinless chicken with boiled brown rice.
You can start your meal with a bowl of salad made with roasted chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and any other vegetables of your choice.
3. Indian Dinner For Hypertension
- One bowl of vegetable curry (pumpkin, brinjal, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, etc.) with green peas pulao.
- One bowl of chicken gravy with two whole wheat rotis.
- Steamed or grilled fatty fish like salmon, tuna, cod, etc. with one bowl of boiled brown rice and stir-fried vegetables
- One bowl of chole (chickpeas) or soyabean nuggets curry with two bajra or jowar (sorghum) rotis.
You can start your meal with a bowl of beetroot, tomato, pumpkin, or carrot soup.
4. Indian Snacks For Hypertension
- One bowl of sprouted moong (mung bean or green gram) chaat.
- One bowl of boiled sweet corn with a pinch of pepper or garam masala.
- One bowl of low-fat yoghurt with berries, bananas, apples, etc.
- A square of dark chocolate, weighing about 25 to 30 g.
- One mid-size seasonal fruit that is high in potassium, such as bananas, apricots, oranges, pomegranates, grapefruit, a cup of berries, a slice of watermelon, etc.
5. Indian Drinks For Hypertension
- Pomegranate juice, made by blending the seeds without any added sugar.
- Fresh coconut water, without any added sugar.
- Beetroot juice, made by blending a beetroot with some water and mint or ginger for taste.
- A cup of black tea, green tea, or hibiscus tea, made without milk or sugar.
- Juice of citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits or lemon water.
- A glass of non-fat or low-fat milk.
Additional Diet Tips for Blood Pressure Control
- Having a meal plan for high blood pressure and planning your meals in advance can help you make healthy diet choices that improve your blood pressure and heart health.
- Try to record your food intake in a journal or an app on a daily basis. This can help you track your fibre, potassium, sodium, and fat intake.
- Instead of salt, use more spices like ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, etc. along with fresh or dried herbs to make your food more flavourful. This will help you keep your salt intake within the recommended range of 6 g a day.
- Instead of deep-frying food in fats like oil, butter, or ghee, use cooking techniques like grilling, roasting, air-frying, sauteing, etc. to prepare your food. This will help cut down on your saturated fat intake and keep your cholesterol levels in check.
- Eat fresh fruit or dark chocolate for dessert instead of sweets or baked goods that are high in added sugars. This will help you avoid inflammation caused by high blood sugar levels.
- Snack on homemade snacks like popcorn or makhana (fox nuts) instead of store-bought chips or namkeen. This will lower your intake of saturated and trans fats, thus lowering your blood cholesterol levels.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- The food you eat plays a vital role in maintaining your health, including your blood pressure levels.
- Sodium, fats, and sugars are some of the foods that you consume daily, which can have a negative impact on your blood pressure levels if consumed in excess.
- Foods high in potassium, fibre, antioxidants, low-fat dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables can help keep your blood pressure down.
- Avoid foods with high-fat content, excess sodium, added sugars, caffeine, and alcohol if you have high blood pressure.
- The American Heart Association recommends following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to treat or prevent high blood pressure.
- Depending on your body’s caloric requirement, you can have three to five meals in a day to keep your blood pressure levels stable.
- Use more spices to add flavour to your cooking instead of salt; use fewer quantities of fats like oil, butter, ghee, or cheese when cooking; swap out foods that are high in added sugars with fresh fruits for desserts; and eat homemade snacks like popcorn or makhana instead or store-bought chips or namkeen.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet consists of guidelines recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). The DASH diet is good for lowering blood pressure as well as improving heart health as it is low in sodium and fats while including healthy sources of macronutrients.
Yes, curd or yoghurt is a rich source of calcium, protein, and bioactive peptides that can lower your blood pressure levels. However, it is ideal to consume low-fat curd in order to avoid the high concentrations of saturated fats present in whole-milk dairy products.
Lentils like moong dal, urad dal, masoor dal, tur dal, etc. are a great source of potassium and magnesium. Hence, they are a good addition to your diet if you have high blood pressure. Adding green-leafy vegetables can boost the nutritional profile of dal while increasing your intake of minerals and vitamins that are essential for blood pressure control.
No, ghee or clarified butter has a high amount of saturated fats, which can increase your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels increase your chances of developing clogged and narrow arteries caused by plaque build-up. This can increase your blood pressure. Limit your intake of ghee if you have high BP.
Yes, potatoes and sweet potatoes are both rich sources of potassium and are thus great for blood pressure control. However, refrain from eating potatoes that are cooked using too much oil, butter, cheese, or other forms of fat as it can increase your cholesterol levels. Instead, opt for dishes like baked, oven-roasted, or air-fried potatoes that use very little or no fats.
Most vegetables have a very low sodium content and almost no fat content, thus do not increase your blood pressure levels. However, vegetables that are rich in folate and other B-complex vitamins, such as Brussels sprouts, avocado, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables, can help prevent or treat anaemia, which improves low blood pressure.