Healthy eating for high blood pressure

High Blood Pressure or Hypertension (HPT) is very common in South Africa. It is one of the MAJOR risk factors for developing heart disease.

Signs and symptoms of HPT are:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sore eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations

What causes HPT?

  • Family history
  • Being overweight
  • Poor diet with a high fat and salt intake
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • High intake of alcohol
  • Smoking

If you have a family history of HPT, or you have any of the symptoms mentioned, you should have your blood pressure checked. Most pharmacies can do this for you.

How is HPT treated?

HPT is often treated with medication, but a change of lifestyle and healthy eating habits is essential.

Eat a variety of food

Eat food from all food groups, everyday. Your meals should be made up of starch + low fat protein + vegetables/salad; e.g.

  • Brown rice + grilled fish + peas + corn
  • Baby potatoes + baked skinless chicken + tomato & onion relish + baby marrow
  • Wholewheat spaghetti + lentils or kidney beans stewed with mixed vegetables

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit everyday

Eat at least 5 vegetables and fruit every day. 2 - 3 different vegetables and 2 - 3 different fruits of different colours.

Eat dried beans, split-peas, lentils and soya regularly

These foods contain very little fat and have protein and fibre. Include them with, or in place of, animal proteins:

  • Beans, lentils and chickpeas with vegetables make tasty soups or stews
  • Baked beans on toast is an easy, healthy lunch
  • Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily
  • The way we prepare these foods is important:
  • Cut the fat off beef, lamb, pork and chicken before cooking
  • Rather grill, bake or steam food, instead of frying in oil
  • Boil, poach or scramble eggs without adding fat
  • Choose fat-free or low fat milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Avoid fatty meat such as salami, sausages and pies

Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day

Dairy foods provide your body with calcium which is important for strong bones and teeth, muscle and nerve function, blood clotting and hormone release.
Have milk, yoghurt, maas or egg with your breakfast

Use fat sparingly; eat vegetable oils rather than hard fats

  • Use small amounts of soft margarine instead of hard margarine or butter
  • Choose low oil varieties of mayonnaise, salad dressing and salad cream
  • Include foods that contain essential fats, eg. avocadoes, unsalted nuts, seeds, mackeral, sardines and tuna, in moderate portions.

Use salt and food high in salt sparingly

Eating a lot of salt can raise your blood pressure, so avoid salt in cooking and at the table! Use herbs, lemon juice, pepper, chilli, curry, garlic or ginger to flavour your food.

Some foods contain a lot of salt and should be avoided, such as: packet soups, gravy powders, packet crisps & pretzels, tinned soup, other tinned food, processed meat, viennas and pies.

What to drink and what not to drink!

Drink lots of clean, safe water every day! Diluted fruit juice and rooibos or herbal teas are also good choices.


  • Having more than 2 cups of coffee or tea per day.
  • Alcohol - if you do drink alcohol, drink sensibly.
  • In excess, both caffeine and alcohol can raise your blood pressure!

Be active

Try to be as active as you can, even if it's just walking!

If you smoke, try to stop!

If you have a family history of HPT, or you have any of the symptoms mentioned, you should consider having your blood pressure checked.


Most pharmacies can do this for you, and it is a quick and painless health check!

**If you need more advice, click on the ''Ask the Dietitian'' to pose a question to our Registered Dietitian

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.