LMQC Nutritionist blogger, Jeni Tackett, explains the concepts behind “The Dash Diet” and how can it help you control high blood pressure and hypertension.
by Nutritionist Blogger, Jeni Tackett, RD, LD
High blood pressure or hypertension is a common condition in the US. Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, which is defined as a systolic level greater than 130 mmHg and a diastolic level greater than 80 mmHg.
Both of my parents take blood pressure medicine, so keeping my blood pressure under control is important to me. Uncontrolled blood pressure can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, eye problems, and dementia.
Dealing with “the silent killer” starts with what you eat
Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because people with high blood pressure often have no symptoms. Some symptoms could be a headache, nose bleeds, and shortness of breath, but many people have no symptoms of hypertension and need to have their blood pressure checked to know if they are at risk.
There are many lifestyle habits that can help to reduce blood pressure, including regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, weight loss (if needed), avoiding nicotine, and limiting sodium intake (from added salt and processed foods like chips, boxed meals, and frozen dinners).
However, did you know you can add foods to your diet to improve your blood pressure? Following the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) for two weeks can lower blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or a family history of hypertension, why not follow a diet plan that could result in healthy blood pressure and reduced health risk?
What is the DASH diet?
The DASH diet is based on the idea that the typical American diet lacks the following nutrients important for blood pressure control: potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Also, the typical American diet is too high in saturated fat and sodium, which the DASH diet limits. The DASH diet focuses on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats.
What should you be eating to lower your blood pressure? Try following this diet for at least 2 weeks to see improvements in blood pressure levels:
Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day.One serving is one slice bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta. At least half of the servings should be whole grains like oats, whole wheat bread, or brown rice.
Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day.One serving is 1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup vegetable juice.
Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day.One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings a day.One serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces cheese.
Lean meats, poultry and fish: six 1-ounce servings or fewer a day.One serving is 1 ounce cooked meat, poultry or fish, or 1 egg.
Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week.One serving is 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked legumes (dried beans or peas).
Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day.One serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing.
Sweets and added sugars: 5 servings or fewer a week.One serving is 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade.
Want to know more?
If you are interested in lowering your blood pressure or following a diet which will help to keep your blood pressure normal for years to come, here is an excellent resource with DASH diet recipes and guidelines.
Remember, nutrition is not about restriction and what to avoid. Nutrition is about fueling yourself with the foods that are rich in nutrients and can keep your body running properly.
Jeni is a registered and licensed dietitian for Rock Valley Health. Jeni counsels her clients on weight loss and nutrition.