Eat This Not That: Hypertension Edition

Jun 05, 2023
Eat This Not That: Hypertension Edition
Approximately one in two Americans has high blood pressure, a serious health condition with life-threatening complications. Luckily, it’s highly treatable and even preventable with the right approach — and you can start with the food on your plate.

Nearly one in two adults (47%) in the United States has hypertension, or high blood pressure. Commonly known as “the silent killer,” hypertension can exist for many years without causing symptoms or health problems — until it’s already inflicted significant damage to your body. 

But it’s not all bad news: Finding out you have high blood pressure is the first step in getting this serious problem under control before it undermines your health. You can control — and in some cases, reverse — hypertension by:

Your daily eating patterns can also influence hypertension: The right foods can help lower your blood pressure, while the wrong foods can keep it elevated. Here, our experienced team of board-certified providers at Direct Primary Care New Braunfels explains how the DASH diet works to treat hypertension.

What is the DASH diet?

Initially developed to help people lower their risk of high blood pressure, the DASH diet — which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — is backed by years of in-depth research and proven by decades of real results.

Introduced by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in 1997, the DASH diet is a flexible and balanced eating approach designed to help you establish heart-healthy eating patterns for life. 

Its benefits are well documented: Multiple studies show that adhering to the principles of the DASH diet can lower your blood pressure within a few weeks. It can improve other aspects of your health, too. DASH can help you:

  • Reach a healthier body weight
  • Improve your cholesterol levels
  • Reduce your breast cancer risk
  • Protect against colorectal cancer
  • Lower your type 2 diabetes risk
  • Protect your cardiovascular health
  • Prevent stroke and heart attack

Simply put, the DASH diet encourages you to choose a variety of foods that are beneficial to your cardiovascular health — and limit foods that are known to be harmful. 

Foods included the DASH diet

DASH isn’t just another low-sodium diet, it’s an eating plan that emphasizes whole foods rich in essential nutrients that have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and heart health.

The DASH diet includes the following foods: 

  • Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds
  • Fish and lean poultry 
  • Soy foods (tofu)
  • Eggs 
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy 
  • Heart-healthy fats (olive oil, avocado) 

The DASH diet is a versatile eating plan that doesn’t require special foods; instead, it simply encourages you to attain most of the building blocks of your diet from the produce area of your grocery store.

Foods limited by the DASH diet

At the same time, the DASH diet also encourages you to cut back on foods — and harmful nutrients — that can raise your blood pressure and/or damage your cardiovascular health. Specifically, the DASH diet limits sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and added sugars.

The DASH diet encourages you to cut back on:

  • Fast food and deep-fried foods 
  • Processed snack foods (
  • Fatty meats 
  • Full-fat dairy 
  • Tropical oils 
  • Sugary foods

The DASH diet encourages you to restrict your alcohol intake, too. DASH doesn’t require you to eliminate any of these foods, drinks, and nutrients, however; instead, it encourages you to take gradual steps toward healthier choices each day.

DASH diet sodium limitations

Many Americans consume too much sodium, an essential nutrient that supports good health in small amounts, but promotes high blood pressure when consumed in excess. Sodium is found in a wide range of foods, but at especially high levels in many or most:

  • Fast food meals
  • Restaurant meals
  • Frozen meals 
  • Packaged snacks
  • Processed meats

Many unexpected foods also contain considerable levels of sodium, including bread, tomato sauce, and cheese. Becoming aware of how much sodium you consume on an average day is the first step in controlling your intake and making healthier choices.

To promote healthier blood pressure levels, the DASH diet suggests consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. For stronger results, go with the low-sodium DASH diet, which recommends consuming 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day or less. 

Gradual changes are powerful

Gradual dietary changes can lead to big health benefits — one meal at a time. The NHLBI provides excellent DASH diet resources, from meal planning tips to recommended daily servings and advice for healthier sodium habits. Our team is here to support you each step of the way.

Ready to revamp your eating habits? Direct Primary Care New Braunfels can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Thomas KayDr. Georgina Bustamante, or nurse practitioner Becky Spencer at our office in New Braunfels, Texas, today.