High blood pressure diet
I use the term 'high blood pressure diet' as a general term for any diet that systematically includes food categories that are good for your blood pressure. On this page I will outline some of the components of such a diet. In subsequent pages we will look in greater detail at specific diets, some of the research that shows how effective this can be, recipes, diet plans and more. But for now, let's talk about general principles. Remember, good nutrition is vital to your overall health.
What is Nutrition?
Do visit this site to learn more about how nutrition helps healthy living to get you on the path to a happy healthy lifestyle.
The high blood pressure diet works - period!
'You are what you eat' someone once said - that's perhaps a bit extreme (and worrying to someone with as eclectic a diet as I have) but as far as blood pressure goes it is fair to say 'your blood pressure depends upon what you eat . . . and drink'. Not quite so catchy - I know.
It has been proven that with moderate and eminently achievable changes to the diet you can reduce your blood pressure in a matter of weeks by 10 or more mmHg. That is the difference between drugs and no drugs; between stroke and no stroke - or whatever complication you are putting yourself at risk of.
If that is not a motivating thought, then how about this: a good high blood pressure diet also reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease and will promote weight loss thus reducing the risk of arthritis, respiratory disorders and will provide a variety of other health benefits. Best of all - it's free!
So why do so few people take advantage of a decent diet? In my experience it is a combination of factors - the temptation by unhealthy foods, lack of knowledge, the difficulty in maintaining the needed discipline, not fully understanding the risks, and not realising how simple it can be. Lets have a look at what food types s a high blood pressure diet should contain:
- Low sodium / salt
- Low in saturated fats
- High in fruit and vegetables
- High in grains
- Moderate in nuts
- Low in alcohol
Remember, the diet is only part of the jigsaw - it doesn't have to do the whole job of getting you down below the high blood pressure threshold. It is probably the most important lifestyle change you will need to make though. Since there are many types of food important to the high blood pressure diet you can see that by making many moderate changes, your overall impact on blood pressure can be significant.
The DASH Eating Plan
One proven example of a high blood pressure diet is the DASH eating plan, often simply called the DASH diet.
Salt / sodium
Without going into too much scientific detail, sodium intake affects the body's ability to keep blood vessels as relaxed as they should be. This is the most important element of the high blood pressure diet - there is no getting round it. The modern diet is excessively high in salt. Way over what the human body needs, and in many people, more than it can deal with - which is why they have high blood pressure of course. If you are one of those whose body is more sensitive to salt than average, then you will find that reducing your intake may well have a dramatic impact upon your blood pressure. Everybody, however, can lose a few BP points by reducing sodium intake.
Sodium and salt are not synonymous - we explain further on the page devoted to salt.
The most encouraging thing about taking on a reduced salt diet is that your palate adjusts. In other words if you can put up with food tasting, well, saltless, for a while, you will find that your taste buds become more sensitive and food tastes adequately salted at lower levels.
The other benefit to your palate is that, by reducing salt, you are able to savour subtler tastes that hitherto you may have stopped recognising - salt has a way of blitzing subtle flavours and reducing us to a rather one-dimensional experience.
To read more about recommended intake, expected BP drop, sources of salt and how to reduce salt in your diet, including information on high-salt foods click here.
Saturated fat is found in meat, particularly red meat, (and it is not always visible) and dairy products. Don't concern yourself with the term saturated - it refers to a chemical property - not the amount, just think of them as bad fats. They affect blood pressure by affecting your metabolism . Since these are mainly found in red meats you can easily enough reduce saturated fats by eating more poultry and fish. You don't need to completely stop red meat intake, when you do eat it, go for lean cuts of meat and ensure you trim off any visible fat. Low fat dairy products are easy to come by and it is as much about changing shopping habits as anything else.
Reducing saturated fats also reduces your cholesterol levels which reduces your risk of heart disease and obesity which has other health benefits too.
Click here for more detail on cutting down on saturated fats
Fruit and vegetables
When I was young, I knew that as an adult I would relish making my children eat their greens - a kind of revenge for what my parents put me through. I didn't expect myself to be admonishing adults and complete strangers though. Oh well, here we go; you must eat your greens! Greens (and vegetables of other colours) and fruit are an essential part of a high blood pressure diet - packed with vitamins, minerals and roughage - simple to cook, versatile and, yes, tasty.
You probably do eat fruit and vegetables but possibly just not enough, so make sure you eat some with each meal of the day.
(NOT included in this category are grains of salt!)
Otherwise, rice, pasta, beans and pulses - and bread - are included. Fully exploiting the range of options available here will probably result in you reaching parts of your local supermarket you have never seen before. It will be well worth it.
Grains are often refined - rice, pasta for example. So one habit you will need to get into is choosing the 'brown' or wholemeal version of everything - 'brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal cereal (see interesting research findings here) etc. Remember, you do not have to abandon your old habits totally - just add more of the above into your daily menu. Talking of choosing - I think I should round up with a note on shopping.
Blood pressure-friendly shopping
This does not mean stress-free supermarkets with easy parking and carts that wont insist on steering themselves and with nice wide uncluttered aisles - it means buying the right stuff. You would be amazed how many people say something like, 'I never seem to have the right foods', as if the food somehow selected itself. (Many men probably do think it happens like that!)
You have to be proactive with your shopping - make sure certain things are always on the list. You will have to know (or write down) certain numbers that will enable you to read labels and know what to avoid. I'll repeat that - 'read labels!'. The government has done its bit and made the manufacturers put labels on the food telling us what is in it. Now we have to use that information to ensure we buy food that is appropriate for the high blood pressure diet. And, I'm sorry but you will have to avoid certain sections of the supermarket like the plague.
Trust me, once you shop right you will eat right!
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|This page was last modified on : May 16, 2011. |