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High Blood Pressure: Nutrition Tips
The DASH diet
The DASH diet is an eating plan that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Following the DASH diet
- Eat 4 to 5 servings of fruit each day. A serving is 1 medium-sized piece of fruit, 1/2 cup raw or canned fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of fruit juice. Choose fruit more often than fruit juice.
- Eat 4 to 5 servings of vegetables each day. A serving is 1 cup of lettuce or raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of chopped or cooked vegetables, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of vegetable juice. Choose vegetables more often than vegetable juice.
- Get 2 to 3 servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy each day. A serving is 8 ounces of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1½ ounces of cheese.
- Eat 6 to 8 servings of grains each day. A serving is 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal. Try to choose whole-grain products as much as possible.
- Limit lean meat, poultry, and fish to 6 ounces or less each day. One egg counts as 1 ounce.
- Eat 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes (cooked dried beans, lentils, and split peas) each week. A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 1/2 cup of cooked beans or peas.
- Limit fats and oils to 2 to 3 servings each day. A serving is 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing.
- Limit sweets and added sugars to 5 servings or less a week. A serving is 1 tablespoon jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup of lemonade.
- Eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. If you limit your sodium to 1,500 mg a day, you can lower your blood pressure even more.
- Be aware that all of these are the suggested number of servings for people who eat 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. Your recommended number of servings may be different if you need more or fewer calories.
Tips for success
- Start small. Make small changes, and stick with them. Once those changes become habit, add a few more changes.
- Try some of the following:
- Make it a goal to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal and at snacks. This will make it easy to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Try yogurt topped with fruit and nuts for a snack or healthy dessert.
- Add lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion to sandwiches.
- Have a variety of cut-up vegetables with a low-fat dip as an appetizer instead of chips and dip.
- Sprinkle sunflower seeds or chopped almonds over salads. Or try adding chopped walnuts or almonds to cooked vegetables.
- Try some vegetarian meals using beans and peas. Add garbanzo or kidney beans to salads. Make burritos and tacos with mashed pinto beans or black beans.
Other nutrition tips
These tips, along with using the DASH diet, can help lower your blood pressure.
- Cut back on sodium.
Limiting sodium in your diet can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Try to eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. If you limit your sodium to 1,500 mg a day, you can lower your blood pressure even more.
- Get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Not eating enough foods containing potassium, calcium, and magnesium may contribute to high blood pressure.
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium include potatoes, bananas, spinach, oranges, and broccoli. Other high-potassium foods include milk, beans, fish, yogurt, turkey, and ground beef.
- Dairy products (yogurt, milk, and cheese) are good sources of calcium. Other foods that have calcium include kale, broccoli, canned sardines, and canned salmon. And calcium is sometimes added to tofu, soy and rice drinks, fruit juice, and cereal.
- Sources of magnesium include almonds, beans, tuna, potatoes, bananas, and watermelon.
- Eat fewer processed foods.
Processed foods such as canned and instant soups, packaged mixes, and snack items can be high in sodium and saturated fats.
- Cut down on fats.
Limit how much saturated fat you eat, such as in meat and cheese. Coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter are also saturated fats. Include healthy fats in your diet, such as olive oil, nuts, and fish. DASH recommends that a little less than a third of your total calories come from fats. And most of these calories should come from healthy fats.
- Try a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian diets may help reduce blood pressure. The DASH diet can easily be a vegetarian diet if you substitute legumes (for example, beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts) for meat. Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as does the DASH diet. Vegetarian diets also can be high in fiber and unsaturated fats.
- Avoid relying on dietary supplements.
The safest way to ensure good nutrition is through a balanced, varied diet instead of through nutritional supplements. Very large amounts of any of these minerals taken in the form of a supplement can cause problems, including possible death. See your doctor before taking large quantities of any supplement.
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