The DASH Eating Plan was designed to help lower your blood pressure.  DASH is an abbreviation for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or high blood pressure (HBP). Regardless whether you have HBP or not, DASH was recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the most effective eating plan.  DASH is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle that will keep you strong and healthy.  It offers you endless tasty options that will leave you feeling good.

1)  Cut Down Your Salt or Sodium

Excess salt or sodium causes fluids to build up in your body, which places extra pressure on your heart causing high blood pressure.  By following DASH you can easily lower your salt intake by replacing salt with exciting new spices, processed foods with fresh produce, and when dining out asking for the salt on the side.  Studies have shown that the excess salt that we consume comes mainly from eating out.  We do not realize how much restaurants overload their food with salt and then we add more at the table, before even tasting to see if we need it.

2)  Eat Your Grains Whole

Grains are important because they provide your body with the fiber it needs.  What’s the big deal about fiber?…you may ask.  It helps lower cholesterol and allows you to feel full for a long time and reduces over snacking.  Stick to whole grains like:  whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and unsalted pretzels or popcorn. According to WebMD, “for a diet of 2,000 calories per day: Eat six to eight servings a day.  One serving is a slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta, rice, or oatmeal (about the size of half a baseball).”

3)  Eat as Many Green Vegetables as You Like

Green vegetables give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals – potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  This Mineral-Vitamin Trio is imperative to managing your blood pressure as we discussed in our post:   The Vitamin-Mineral Trio to Your Lower Blood Pressure (link to this article).  Vegetables are also low in calories and will fill you up.  According to WebMD, you can have up to “four to five servings of vegetables a day. That’s 1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice for each serving.”  You can easily add vegetables to soup, eggs, pasta, rice and much more instead of eating them plain.

4)  Snack on Fruits Every Day

Like vegetables, fruits also offer your body fiber and many vitamins that are good for your heart. Many also have the blood pressure lowering potassium and magnesium. For example, a banana a day could make a positive difference in your blood pressure.  You can easily add it to yogurt in the morning, throw it in your bag to have as a snack later in the day, purchase it form the local fruit stand and not have to worry about washing it.  WebMD recommends having, “four to five servings of fruit every day. One serving is a medium apple or orange, or 1/2 cup of frozen, fresh, or canned fruit. One-half cup of fruit juice or 1/4 cup of dried fruit also counts as a serving.”

5)  Get Your Calcium with a Yogurt or Two a Day

Calcium is part of the Vitamin-Mineral Trio that is important to regulating your blood pressure. Like other nutrients, calcium is easy to get with low and nonfat dairy foods like yogurt.  A great way to start your day is with low-fat yogurt dressed with a chopped banana, chopped kiwi and whole grain cereal.  WebMD recommends, “two to three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk, buttermilk, and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese — about the size of three dice.”

6)  Get Your Protein from Quinoa, Fish or Poultry – try to keep it lean.

Protein is extremely important and there are many foods that you can eat to get just the right amount, such as:  meat, poultry, egg whites, quinoa, etc. Many of us love meat, but too much of it can cause health problems.  Stick to lean, low-fat sources of protein on a regular basis and consider enjoying a hearty steak for special occasions – something to look forward to.  And, remove the skin when eating poultry and excess fat from meat.  If you are concerned about your meat or poultry being too dry without the skin and extra fat, there are a few cooking tricks to avoid. Make sure you cover the pan when cooking meat and poultry, it keeps the moisture in.  WebMD recommends limiting your servings to: “six or fewer a day. A serving is 1 ounce of cooked meat, fish, or poultry, one egg…” or 2 egg whites.  ”Limit egg yolks to no more than four in a week…” since they are extremely high in cholesterol.

7)  Throw in Nuts and Legumes

Nuts, legumes, and seeds can add a lot of flavor to your food, such as: salads, soups, rice, pasta, etc.  You can also enjoy them raw as a great snack.  They are also rich in magnesium, protein, and fiber. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown they help lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease. WebMD advises that you, “enjoy as many as five servings of these foods each week. That’s 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or a 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans or peas in each serving. Grab a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack. Or add beans to your salads or soups.”

8) Discover how Food Can Taste Great Without all the Fat

We know that many people love their butter, various oils, fatty dressings, mayo and so on with their food.  Well, we also know that everyone is aware of the fact that it’s just not good for you.  Well, if you take small steps and reduce the amount of fat in your diet, with time you will probably discover that, you don’t need them and that your food is tastier. Eating too many fats can cause high cholesterol and heart disease. The DASH Eating Plan demonstrates how easy it is to get rid of all that unnecessary fat. WebMD recommends limiting “fats and oils to two to three servings a day. A serving is 1 teaspoon of margarine or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing. When cooking, use vegetable oils like olive or canola instead of butter.”  Start with one reduction a week and see where it gets you.

9)  Try Healthy Sweets Instead

No one expects you to give up your sweets and you should not.  Like everything else, enjoy your sweets in moderation, but you can also replace your usual suspects – ice cream, milk chocolate, strawberry shortcake, etc – with healthy sweets.  There are many great sweets you can enjoy after a meal, that are delicious for example: dark chocolate, yogurt, fresh sorbet, fruit salad with dark chocolate chips and nuts with honey.  Try to have five or fewer servings a week, as recommended by WebMD.

10)  Write it All Down

For many people it is not so simple to make changes in their lifestyle and with today’s instant gratification culture, we get disappointed easily and stop trying. We suggest that you keep a diary of what you eat every day to help you through the transition.  By writing things down you will find yourself thinking more clearly about what you eat and don’t eat and how to improve every day.  The goal is not to change the way you live and eat over night, but to improve your health and that takes patience and time.

Keep us posted on your progress.

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