By Diann Douglas
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, a time to get your blood pressure checked and know your numbers. Consumers are often confused by products on the market that claim to reduce blood pressure. One proven meal plan is DASH, a researched based guide that can reduce blood pressure.
First conducted in the early 90’s, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), was a scientific dietary study to determine if a diet plan without medication could reduce blood pressure. The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and conducted at Harvard, Duke, John Hopkins and Louisiana State University. Results showed that both men and women eating the DASH plan experienced a significant drop in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.
The DASH eating plan emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetables and low fat dairy products. It is moderate in total fat and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It also includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nut. It also recommends reducing salt and sodium intake.
Starting on the DASH eating plan is easy. It requires no special foods and no recipes to follow. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Reduce your intake of sodium and foods high in sodium
Make gradual changes like adding a serving of fruit or vegetables at lunch and dinner.
Gradually increase your intake of fat free and low fat dairy products to 3 servings a day.
♦If you eat large portions of meat, cut them back by a half or third at each meal.
♦Try two or more meatless meals each week.
Try serving casseroles and stir-fry dishes, which have more vegetables, grains and dry beans.
♦Eat baked or grilled fish during the week but be careful of bottled marinades, they are often high in sodium.
♦Eat fresh fruit, raw vegetables, or low fat and fat free yogurt for snacks.
Use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of you foods instead of sodium.
Limit your meals eaten out, since most prepared food is high in sodium.
Make one or two changes each week. Eat a variety of foods and cut back on serving sizes. For more information about the DASH eating plan and recipes, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s “Your Guide to Controlling High Blood Pressure at www.nhlbi. nih.gov/hbp/index.html and click on Prevention.
If you are under a doctor’s care for high blood pressure, be sure you take you medication and follow the doctor’s recommendations. Your efforts to reduce sodium intake will help you overall health.
The Madison County Extension office has several fact sheets on eating to reduce sodium and alternative seasonings, which will give you creative ideas for seasoning food without salt or sodium products. For a free copy of our Extension fact sheets, call or stop by the Extension office.
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