Altering your diet to control cholesterol makes perfect sense. Doing it to control blood pressure doesn’t seem quite so straightforward. Yet food can have a direct effect on blood pressure, according to the October 2010 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.
Salt certainly plays a role—reducing intake often reduces blood pressure. But fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, beans, nuts, whole-grain carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats also have healthful effects on blood pressure. There isn’t a single “magic” food. Instead, these foods set the foundation for an all-around healthful eating strategy that is good for blood pressure and much more.
A healthful diet is an excellent initial treatment when blood pressure creeps into the unhealthy zone, and a perfect partner for medications. The Harvard Heart Letter outlines some evidence-based advice about diet and blood pressure:
- Eat more poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes (beans) and less red meat.
- Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products instead of full-fat versions.
- Turn to vegetables and fruits instead of sugary or salty snacks and desserts.
- Select breads, pasta, and other carbohydrate-rich foods that are made from whole grains.
- Eat fruit instead of drinking juice.
- Use unsaturated fats like olive, canola, soybean, peanut, corn, or safflower oils instead of butter, coconut oil, or palm-kernel oil.
- Rely on fresh or frozen foods instead of canned and processed foods.
- Choose low-sodium foods whenever possible; use herbs, spices, vinegar, and other low-sodium flavorings instead of salt.
- Don’t skip meals; try to eat one-third of your calories at breakfast.
If you need help, record everything that you eat day by day for a week. Have this information reviewed by a dietitian.
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