FRESH HERBS They're a healthy substitute for salt, which has almost 2,400 mg of sodium per teaspoon— more than what you should get in an entire day if you want to control your blood pressure. Instead, try sprinkling dishes you'd usually salt with chopped fresh herbs, which are typically more flavorful than dried ones. Chives and rosemary complement potatoes, parsley perks up eggs, sage goes well with poultry, and thyme can add zip to air-popped popcorn. As an added bonus, herbs are rich in antioxidants that protect your cells against the kind of damage that can lead to heart disease. If you simply can't cut out salt completely, try this trick: Use a mortar and pestle to crush the kosher variety (which has about half the sodium of table salt) with herbs like oregano, thyme, and lavender, suggests Connie Gutterson, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California.
LOWFAT OR NONFAT YOGURT Have yogurt for breakfast and as a snack. It has about 50 percent more blood pressure–lowering calcium and potassium than lowfat milk. In studies, people who ate enough of these two minerals and kept their sodium intake low experienced drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The reduction is larger in people with hyper- tension, but yogurt also lowers blood pressure a little in people with normal levels. This is important, because the closer you can get your blood pressure to a healthy level of 120/80, the better off your heart will be. If you're not a yogurt fan, drink lowfat or nonfat milk instead, or use it as an ingredient in everyday cooking, suggests Susan Moores, R.D., a nutritionist in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in heart disease. "Substitute an equal amount of milk for water in packaged foods that need to be reconstituted, like instant oatmeal, condensed soup, and hot chocolate."