Nutrition for managing blood pressure

May is National Blood Pressure Education month. The foods that we eat can play an important role in managing blood pressure. The tips below are helpful for anyone to both manage high blood pressure or to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range as a proactive approach.

You may have heard of the DASH diet. But, what exactly is the DASH diet? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet aims for a lower sodium intake, limited fats and increased whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium per day. For those with high blood pressure the recommendation is lower at 1500mg of sodium per day. This means avoiding some of the big offenders such as restaurant foods, canned foods, frozen foods, certain meats, and even some bread products. Most of the sodium we consume during the day comes from sodium already in our foods, not the salt we may add. However, decreasing the added salt it a good place to start if you add salt to your foods as 1 teaspoon = 2300 mg (in other words, a whole day’s worth of sodium). You can still add flavor to your meals through fresh herbs, spices, flavored oils, or salt-free seasonings. A food that is naturally low in sodium is fresh fruits and veggies.

A high intake of fruits and veggies is another main component of the DASH diet. We are just about to the time of year where fresh fruits and veggies are in abundance. This is a great time to get in a good habit of including both to your daily meals. The recommendation is for 4-5 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of veggies per day for someone eating 2000 calories. If you require less calories than your goal amount would be slightly less.

One serving of veggies is ½ cup cooked or one cup raw. One serving of fruit is generally one medium fruit or ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned. If you are looking at that recommendation and wondering how to fit in that many fruits and veggies keep in mind that any increase to your current amount is a step in the right direction. So, if you are eating one veggie per day, just try to increase your intake by one extra serving. You can always add more if you wish.

Buying fruits and veggies that are “in season” will provide you with budget friendly, great tasting options. Trying new fruits and veggies or preparing them in new ways can make the whole process more enjoyable. Pick one part of your day and focus on that meal or that time of day to begin with. You do not have to overhaul your whole day. As with any diet change, gradual changes are often times most effective and long lasting.

Guidelines based on 2,000 calories:

  • 7-8 servings of grain
  • 4-5 servings of veggies
  • 4-5 servings of fruit
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy
  • 2 or fewer portions of protein (3 ounce serving)
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils
  • 4-5 servings per week of nuts, seeds and beans
  • 5 or less servings of sweets per week

Here’s a sample day: (~1700 calories)

Breakfast:

  • 1 medium orange
  • 1-piece whole grain toast
  • 1 tsp. peanut butter

Lunch:

  • 3/4 cup chopped chicken breast + T. light mayo
  • ½ whole grain pita
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • 6 oz low fat Greek yogurt plus ½ cup raspberries
  • 1 cup raw carrots and radishes

Dinner:

  • 4 oz herb baked fish
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta, (½ cup cooked broccoli, ½ cup stewed tomatoes, ½ cup bell peppers mixed with pasta)
  • (1 cup spinach salad with 1 T. slivered almonds, 2 T. light Italian dressing)
  • 1 cup of melon

Snacks Options:

  • Snack 1: ½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup pineapple
  • 6 whole grain crackers, 1 low-fat string cheese
  • 1 cup raw veggies, 2 T. hummus

About the author.

Abbey Bubolz is a registered dietitian with the HFM Diabetes Center. Call (920) 320-4576 to schedule an appointment with Abbey or learn more at hfmhealth.org/diabetes.