DASH Diet Guidelines
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on increasing the intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium and reducing the consumption of sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. The minerals emphasized on this plan help reduce blood pressure, so the foods included in the DASH diet contain these minerals and other essential nutrients.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Rich in calcium, folate, fiber, iron and vitamins, leafy green vegetables have several nutritional benefits. The Center for Young Women’s Health reports that the substances found in these vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers and protect the heart. Because some of the nutrients in these foods need fat for absorption, try eating some leafy green vegetables with olive oil or a small serving of cheese. Examples of leafy green vegetables that can help to reduce blood pressure include dandelion greens, broccoli, arugula, kale, Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and collard greens.
Fresh fruits contain vitamins and minerals, but they have little fat and cholesterol, making them suitable for inclusion in a DASH eating plan. Several fruits contain high levels of potassium, which could help to reduce blood pressure. These fruits include cantaloupe, tomatoes, honeydew melon, apricots, oranges, bananas and grapefruit.
Whole grains have more nutritional benefits than products made with refined grains. During the refinement process, a machine removes parts of the grain that have several health benefits. Whole grains contain the bran and germ, which have fiber, vitamins and iron, making them more nutritious than refined grain products. The DASH eating plan includes whole-grain bread, dry cereals and whole-wheat pasta.
Low-Fat Dairy Products
Dairy products contain potassium and calcium, so they can help reduce blood pressure when included in a diet that limits sodium consumption and emphasizes the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Use caution when eating cheese to reduce blood pressure. Processed cheeses, such as individually-wrapped cheese slices, contain high levels of sodium.
Although nuts and seeds contain significant amounts of fat, they contain mostly unsaturated fat. Some nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart and reduce inflammation. Walnuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts and peanuts contain fiber, protein and potassium, making them ideal for this type of diet. Limit your consumption of these nuts to small servings, as large servings will increase your total fat intake.
Red meat and poultry have an important place in a healthy diet, but those who want to reduce their blood pressure should use lean cuts of meat rather than fatty meats. Instead of 80/20 ground beef, choose extra-lean ground beef or lean sirloin. Purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trim the excess fat from them before cooking. Avoid processed meats like cured ham and bacon, as they contain high levels of sodium.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH
Center for Young Women’s Health: Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure