Healthy High Blood Pressure Diet (DASH): Best Foods and Recipes to Eat

The importance of high blood pressure diet cannot be over stressed. The right diet can lower blood pressure in high blood pressure patients by a few points in just two weeks – and that too without medications.

Your systolic blood pressure could come down by seven to twelve points, which could significantly reduce your risk of complications.

There are so many healthy diet recipes available and they have their own reasons to be followed, but the DASH diet formulated specifically for high blood pressure patients takes the cake.

The US National Institutes of Health sponsored a research, which developed the DASH diet plan. This plan is a healthy eating diet plan for high blood pressure patients, which not only helps to lower the raised blood pressure and cholesterol but is also in line with the dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. As a sort of a “side effect”, it will also help you shed a few unnecessary pounds. It is the best healthy eating diet plan available, which you and your family can even otherwise follow.

This high blood pressure diet for hypertensive patients is also strongly recommended by:

  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
  •  The American Heart Association
  •  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  •  US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure

DASH, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension has been proven to lower blood pressure. It consists of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy, whole grains and contains less refined grains compared with a typical diet.

It is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber.

It is low in sodium and calories. Less of salt in the diet can be compensated by using  herbs, spices, garlic, and onions to make up for the taste.

What are the goals of the DASH diet?

In essence, the DASH diet aims to

  • Increase intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, proteins and fiber
  • Decrease intake of sodium to 2400-3000 mg/day
  • Decrease intake of fat, especially saturated fats (7-8 % of the total calories), sweets, and sugary beverages

DASH diet chart for high blood pressure: What foods to eat?

The recommended servings for a 2000 calories per day diet include the following;

DASH Food Groups DASH Daily Servings DASH Serving Sizes
Vegetables such as romaine lettuce, spring greens and fresh spinach, broccoli and leafy greens such as collard or mustard greens, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes. 4-5 250 mL (1 cup) raw leafy  vegetables
125 mL (½ cup)  cooked vegetables
170 ml (6 oz) juice
Fruit 4-5 1 medium piece of fruit
63 mL (¼ cup) dried fruit
125 mL (½ cup) fresh, frozen or canned fruit
Grains
(mainly whole grains)
7-8 1 slice brown bread
250 mL (1 cup)  ready to eat cereal
125 mL (½ cup) cooked brown rice, pasta or cereal
Low  Fat or No-Fat Dairy Foods 2-3 250 mL (1 cup) milk
250 ml (1 cup) yogurt
50 g (1½ oz) cheese
Lean meats, poultry without skin and fish 2 or less 3 ounces cooked lean meats, poultry without skin,
or fish
Nuts, seeds and legumes such as dry beans, peas, lentils, kidney beans, almonds, sunflower seeds 4-5 per week 1/3 cup (1.5 oz.) nuts
30 mL (2 tbsp) peanut butter
2 tbsp (1/2 oz.) seeds
1/2 cup cooked dry beans or peas
Fats and Oils 2-3 5 ml (1 tsp) soft margarine
15mL (1 tbsp) low-fat mayonnaise
30 mL (2 tbsp)  light salad dressing
5 ml (1 tsp) vegetable oil

Limit Alcohol and caffeine intake 

  • Alcohol intake should not be more than 2 pegs ( 1 peg = 60 ml) for men and one peg for women
  • Limit caffeine intake as caffeine temporarily causes rise in blood pressure

Importance of the DASH diet ingredients explained

How whole grains in diet benefit high blood pressure?

Whole grains contain all three naturally present parts of a grain – the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains are rich in fiber content and nutrients, while refined grains are not. Nutrients in whole grains include fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and selenium.

Whole grains help in lowering blood pressure in the following ways:

  • Helps in weight loss because the rich content of fiber makes you feel full for a longer time so that you eat less.
  • Increases your potassium intake, which is known to reduce blood pressure.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association’s 74th annual Scientific Sessions, June 2014, eating whole grains decreased their resistance to insulin and upped the function of insulin-producing beta cells.
  • Vitamin E, selenium and phytic acid present in whole-grains have antioxidant properties, which may help prevent damage to blood vessels while the soluble fiber helps to reduce blood cholesterol.

How vegetables and legumes lower blood pressure?

Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils benefit high blood pressure because they are a good source of soluble fiber, potassium, and magnesium. All these three nutrients are known to lower blood pressure.

Most of the dark green vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C and magnesium and lower blood pressure.

How fruits in diet lower blood pressure?

Many fruits are packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium, which have a blood pressure lowering effect. Another benefit is that they are low in fat, except coconuts and avocados.

Why lean meats, skinless poultry, and fish?

These are included mainly for their nutritional value. They provide you with a good source of proteins, B vitamins, iron, and zinc.

Why fats and oils?

You cannot omit fats and oils from your diet completely. They are required for the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. However, as shown above, the DASH diet emphases on limiting total fat to 27 percent or less of daily and saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total calories.

Use corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower oil for the nutritional supply of omega-6 fatty acid. Don’t over use these oils. Just stay within limits.

You can obtain your quota of omega-3 fats from flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish, with fish being the best source.

Both these fats are healthy fats.

Other dietary foods for high blood pressure, which you should eat

Blue berries, strawberries  and raspberries

According to a recent British and American study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition these berries protect you against high blood pressure because of the natural compounds called anthocyanins, which they contain. Just one serving once a week will help.

Beet juice

According to a Queen Mary University of London study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, drinking just one glass of beet juice can lower your blood pressure within a few hours. Beet contains high levels of inorganic nitrate. When ingested, inorganic nitrate is converted to nitric oxide, which has a relaxation effect on the blood vessels.

Dark chocolate

This might seem like a rather surprising inclusion, but the health benefits of dark chocolate cannot be ignored just because it is chocolate. Dark chocolate is chocolate without milk added. Dark chocolate contains biochemicals called flavonoids, which are antioxidants.  Look at the benefits:

  • Causes dilation of the blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure
  • Helps lower LDL cholesterol
  • Lowers the risk of blood clots
  • Lowers blood glucose and improves insulin function

Buy dark chocolates whose labels say that they contain 60-70 % cacao. And don’t worry about the fat in the chocolate. 

Red wine

Though two pegs for men and one peg for women can be permitted in patients of high blood pressure, a better and more healthy option would be to drink red wine.

When taken in moderation, red wine reduces blood sugar and consequently your risk of diabetes.  It soothes the arteries, reduces blood pressure and your cardiovascular risk.

The Department of Agriculture defines moderate consumption of wine as one five-ounce glass per day for women and up to two per day for men.

This effect of lowering high blood pressure of red wine is due to the presence of a combination of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and antioxidant polyphenols, including resveratrol and procyanidins.

A gradual changeover

It may not be possible to start on the diet at one go. The best way to go about it is to change over gradually — one item at a time, day by day.

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