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Code:FLASH

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High blood pressure diet: Could DASH be the answer?

A table full of fruits, vegetables and nuts,
Can you get a vitamin D test at home? The low-down on getting a blood test for vitamin deficiency is over on the The Health Hub.

If you’re looking for natural ways to help reduce your blood pressure, following a high blood pressure diet could make an important difference to your next reading. Diet isn’t a substitute for medical treatment for high blood pressure, but a mindful, balanced diet can contribute to getting your blood pressure back into a healthy range.

DASH – a diet for high blood pressure

If you’re looking for the best diet for high blood pressure, DASH is a great place to start. DASH stands for ‘Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension’ and is an approach to healthy eating that's specifically aimed to help lower blood pressure. It’s built around the following core principles:

  1. Correct portion sizes
  2. Reducing sodium
  3. Avoiding or limiting foods that are high in saturated fat (e.g. fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils)
  4. Reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
  5. Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods (e.g. vegetables, fruits, and whole grains)

Your DASH diet portion guide

Rather than listing exactly what foods you can eat, the DASH diet focuses on portions of food groups1 . Here is an example of how this looks for a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Food group Servings Serving example
Whole grains 6-8 per day

- 1 slice of whole-grain bread

- 95g of cooked rice, pasta or cereal

Vegetables 4-5 per day

- 30g of spinach or kale

- 45g of brocoli, carrots, squash or tomatoes

Fruits 4-5 per day

- 1 medium apple

- 50g of dried apricots

Dairy products 2-3 per day

- 240ml or low-fat milk

- 285g of low-fat yoghurt

Lean chicken, meat and fish No more than 6 per day

- 28g of cooked meat, chicken or fish

- Limit red meat to occasionally

Fats and oils 2-3 per day

- 4.5g or soft margarine

- 5ml of vegetable oil

Added sugars (refined and natural) 5 max per week - 12.5g of sugar

What foods cause high blood pressure?

There are three main food groups you’re best to avoid if stabilising rising blood pressure is your aim.

1. Salt (or sodium)2

Consuming too much salt can raise blood pressure. Adults should aim to limit their salt intake to a daily maximum of 6g (around 1 teaspoon.) That’s equivalent to 2.4g of sodium per day3 .

2. Sugar

Sugar can increase your blood pressure in several ways. However, the most significant is its contribution to weight gain and obesity, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure

3. Saturated fats and trans fats

Both of these fats can raise your LDL cholesterol, which can cause blood pressure to increase too. The government recommends that women should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat each day and males no more than 30g 4  . And the limit for trans fats is 5g for all adults 5 .

What foods can help to lower high blood pressure?

Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is a great basis for a DASH high blood pressure diet. But here are a few additional foods you might want to include:

1. Oily fish

The Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and other oily fish support normal, healthy blood pressure. A daily dose of 3g is recommended. And if you’re not a fish fan, try fish oil supplements instead.

2. Algae-based foods

Although flaxseed oil and chia seeds are a source of Omega 3, they don’t have the same effect on lowering blood pressure as fish oil. However, algae products (such as spirulina) show promising signs of blood pressure lowering potential. This offers a good alternative for vegetarians and vegans.

3. Potassium6

Potassium reduces the effects of sodium which can help with lowering raised blood pressure. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of potassium, especially sweet potatoes, greens, peas and bananas.

What is the best drink for high blood pressure?

What is the best drink for high blood pressure?

It’s not all about what you eat. There are certain drinks with a reputation for helping with the regulation of blood pressure too. Here are three examples:

And a couple of drinks to limit or avoid:

  • Caffeine 9 . Limit daily intake to 400mg.
  • Keep below 14 units a week.10

What is the best breakfast for high blood pressure?

If you’re wondering where to start with your high blood pressure diet, the first meal of the day seems sensible. Here are a few blood pressure-friendly foods to get your day started healthily:

  • Eggs
  • Oats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Bananas and berries

Can drinking lots of water lower blood pressure?

There are connections between dehydration and high blood pressure, but more research is needed to fully understand the link. However, whether you have high blood pressure or not, drinking water and staying hydrated is a good, healthy habit. The NHS suggests making six to eight glasses of fluid a day your target. That’s roughly 1.2 litres11 .

Summary: Can a high blood pressure diet help?

A nutritious, balanced diet can help to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. However, DASH, or any other diet, isn’t a treatment for high blood pressure, so it’s important to first seek medical advice for your condition.

Last Updated: 17th November 2020

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