Clinical trials show that the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It also includes whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. Red meat, sweets and sugary beverages are kept to a minimum.
In one study, individuals with hypertension who followed the DASH diet for eight weeks lowered their systolic blood pressure by 11 mm Hg, compared with people who ate a typical American diet (low in fruits and vegetables and high in fat). This result is similar to the amount that a single blood pressure drug can lower blood pressure.
In another trial, the combination of a low-sodium intake (1,500 mg a day) and the DASH diet was more effective than either approach alone.
Another DASH-style diet that replaced some of the carbohydrates with protein (mostly from plants) or with fat (mostly monounsaturated fat from olive oil) lowered blood pressure even further. What's more, this DASH-style diet lowered triglycerides and raised the "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.