Help for High Blood Pressure

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Help for High Blood Pressure

Most Americans will develop essential hypertension in their lifetime and more than half of adult Americans have a blood pressure that is higher than normal. One in four Americans already has hypertension which puts them at increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Now is the time to take stock of your eating plan to see if it has enough of the right stuff, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which were shown to be important minerals in lowering blood pressure in the DASH study and less of the wrong stuff: salt.

Potassium is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Healthy, rich sources of calcium include: skim milk, nonfat ricotta and nonfat yogurt, green leafy vegetables, and fortified orange juice.

Magnesium is found in whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, nuts, dried beans and peas, soybeans, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Here are some tips for keeping your intake of these minerals high:

Eat a whole grain cereal, fresh fruit and skim milk for breakfast.

Choose raw vegetables and fresh fruit for snacks.

At lunch and dinner, fill ½ of your plate with vegetables and salad, ¼ with a grain product, and ¼ with beans, fish, or lean poultry.

Treat yourself to fresh fruit and nonfat yogurt for dessert.

Have a meatless meal two or more times per week that is based on grains, vegetables and beans.

Eat fish often, especially salmon and tuna.

Enjoy a palm full of unsalted nuts for a snack 2 or 3 times per week.

Limiting sodium intake is easy when you are basing your meal plan around fresh whole foods such as the ones listed above. Here are some more tips:

Instead of adding salt to your food, get creative with herbs, spices, lemon and lime juice and hot peppers. There are many salt-free seasonings on the market so check out your grocery store spice shelf the next time you shop.

Avoid processed foods such as canned soups, processed meats, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, and boxed convenience meals. Read labels and compare brands of all packaged and canned foods before buying. Sodium content varies between brands.

Limit or avoid snacks such as chips, pretzels, salted crackers, popcorn, and nuts, or look for low salt or unsalted products.

Choose lower-sodium versions of your favorite condiments, such as ketchup and soy sauce, and go easy on them.

The good news is that a diet to prevent high blood pressure is a very healthy diet that goes along with recommendations from many health experts for optimal health: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes with nonfat dairy products and lean poultry and fish. Sound familiar?

By: Beth Fontenot, MS, RD



The “Nutrition Fact Sheet” in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association offers more information on salt-free cooking.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation at Louisiana State University offers 4 excellent salt-free seasoning blends for sale: Pepper, Creole, South of the Border, European & Mediterranean. For more information, call 1-225-763-2512.

Visit the DASH website at

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