A Heart-Healthy Diet: Recommended Foods for High Blood Pressure

While it's important for everyone to eat a healthy diet, those with high blood pressure might need to pay special attention to what they eat. Eating a diet that is heart-healthy is an important component of managing blood pressure and reducing the risk of conditions related to high blood pressure such as heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

The basic principles of healthy eating are the foundation for those with high blood pressure. These include eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. To help you stick to your goals, keeping a diary of what you eat can be helpful. Pay attention to serving sizes, frequency of meals and snacks, and whether you eat more or less during times of stress. 

However, if you are looking for a specific nutrition plan that outlines exactly what you should and shouldn't eat, you might consider the D.A.S.H. plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This plan, endorsed by the American Heart Association, has been proven effective at decreasing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure for all types of patients. 

The D.A.S.H. plan emphasizes lowering your intake of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugary drinks while eating more foods from the following categories.

Whole Grains

Whole grain bread
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Whole grain foods are very good for you. They are a powerful source of complex carbohydrates (a great long term energy source) and can help to control cholesterol and balance secretion of hormones like insulin.

These hormone balancing effects can help decrease appetite and lower body weight, which is another important facet of high blood pressure control. Add the following to your diet to boost your intake of whole grains: 

  • hearty breads
  • natural oat products
  • barley

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables
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Probably the most familiar piece of dietary advice: eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They are a good source of stable energy, low in calories, help curb appetite, and work to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals.

The easiest rule of thumb to remember is to eat at least three different colors of vegetables with each meal. So, a few pieces of carrot, two cherry tomatoes, and a serving of green, leafy vegetables would do the trick. Remember, too, that when it comes to cooking fruits and vegetables, steaming is better than boiling, and some nutritionists believe raw is the best.

Lean Meats

Chicken dinner
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Traditionally, lean meats have been identified as

  • poultry (white meat)
  • fish
  • lean pork
With the continued expansion of food choices, though, some interesting new options are available. For those who relish the taste of a steak, or love spicy tacos, the increasing availability of both buffalo and ostrich are worth looking into. Buffalo tastes nearly identical to beef but a serving contains less than half the fat and only one third of the calories as a serving of white meat chicken! Ostrich is positioned similarly on the health ladder. Both can be used in any recipe that calls for beef.

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