Healthy meals to lower blood pressure requires consumption of low fat, low sodium, and high potassium foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The DASH Diet Plan
The “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” or DASH diet plan is one good approach towards healthy meals to lower blood pressure. This diet to lower blood pressure recommends consumption of low fat, low saturated fat, low cholesterol, and low sodium foods, and foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber. The recommended foods include whole grains, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and the foods marked for elimination include red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
A sample DASH eating plan that provides 2000 calories a day may include the following
- Grains: A slice of bread, a cup of ready to eat cereal, or ½ a cup of rice, cereal or pasta, served 7 or 8 times a day
- Vegetables: a cup of raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 6 ounces of vegetable juice served 4 to 5 times a day
- Fruits: one medium fruit, ¼ dried fruit, or ½ cup of fresh fruit juice served 4 to 5 times a day
- Meat: 3 ounces of lean meat, skinless poultry or fish, served one or two times a day
- Low fat diary: 8 ounce of milk, a cup of yogurt, or 1 ½ ounce of cheese 2 to 3 times a day
- Nuts and Seeds: 1/3 cup of nuts, a tablespoon or seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dry beans, four to five times a week
- Sweets: a tablespoon of sugar or jelly, or 8-oz lemonade five times a week
Even without the DASH plan approach, the basic consideration in healthy meals to lower blood pressure is reduced sodium levels. The average recommended daily intake of sodium is 2400 milligrams, although most Americans consume anywhere between 4000 and 6000 mg of sodium a day. Those with hypertension need to consume even less than the recommended daily intake.
Ways to reduce sodium are many. Some of such ways follows:
- read nutrition labels and select low sodium foods
- use herb substitutes such as basil, cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, ginger, dill seed, nutmeg, marjoram, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Artificial salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, harmful for those with certain medical conditions.
- refrain from adding extra salt to the food. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2300 mg of sodium, equivalent to the daily limit.
- when opting for processed foods, opt for food labels with “low sodium” (140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving), “very low sodium” (35 milligrams or less of sodium per serving), “salt-free” or (5 milligrams or less of sodium per serving). Beware of “light in sodium” label, which only means that means the food has at least 50 percent less sodium than the original version of the food, or “reduced sodium” which only means that the food has at least 25 percent less sodium than the original version of the product
- limit consumption of processed foods such as cured and smoked meats, most pre-packaged, frozen and canned foods, soups, and condiments
- cook rice, pasta, and hot cereal without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes that come with added salt
- rinse canned foods such as tuna to remove much of the sodium
A primary consideration in diets to lower blood pressure is to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol in the meals you cook. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) guidelines stipulate 60 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, and a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol for an average person. People with heart complications may have a lesser daily limit. Read food labels of the cooking ingredients to ensure that consumption of fat does not exceed permissible limits.
Diets to lower blood pressure require foods rich in potassium. Foods rich in potassium, such as cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon, oranges and orange juice, potatoes, spinach, and zucchini may help reduce blood pressure. Potassium works in concert with sodium to regulate blood pressure, and studies show that people who consume more potassium have lower blood pressures than those who consume less.
Use vegetable oil or olive oil instead of shortening, coconut oil, margarine or butter. Olive oil especially has powerful anti-hypertensive effects. A diet of olive oil enhanced low-saturated fat food may even eliminate the need for blood-pressure lowering medications for some patients. Olive oil contains polyphenols, potent antioxidants that protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation by free radicals, thereby preventing atherosclerosis.
A discussion on healthy meals to lower blood pressure requires special mention of celery.
Ancient Chinese medicine recognized the power of celery to reduce high blood pressure. Preliminary research corroborates this fact. Phthalides, active compounds found in celery relax the muscles around arteries and allow blood vessels to dilate, leading to blood flowing at a lower pressure. Phthalides also reduce stress hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict in the first place. Celery is however high sodium food, and as such requires consumption in moderation. An optimal serving size is two stalks of celery that provides about four percent of the recommended daily value of sodium.
Healthy meals to lower blood pressure require supplementation with vigorous exercise and an active lifestyle.
This article does not constitute medical or dietary advice. Please consult your doctor before identifying healthy meals to lower blood pressure.
- Jackson, Frank, W. “High Blood Pressure Diet.” retrieved from https://www.gicare.com/diets/high-blood-pressure-diet.aspx on 14 March 2011.
- US Department of Health and HumanServices. “Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure.” Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/hbp_low/hbp_low.pdf on 14 March 2011.
- George Mateljan Foundation. “Celery.” Retrieved from https://www.whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=14
on 14 March 2011.
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