The Best Diet for Hypertension

Diet is a part of the treatment for high blood pressure. Learn what to include, what to avoid, and some tips about it.
The Best Diet for Hypertension

Last update: 14 August, 2021

A diet for hypertension is an important part of the treatment to control your blood pressure. In conjunction with medications for high blood pressure, exercise, and breaking bad habits (such as smoking and stress), nutritional changes are essential in order to prevent stress levels from rising dangerously.

However, patients often don’t know where to start. Today we’ll bring you an initial guide that you can take into account to guide your eating habits. You can also apply this if you’ve been diagnosed with prehypertension or want to have your levels controlled as a preventive method.

DASH diet for hypertension

The hyperglycemia typical of diabetes can be improved with food
While the DASH diet isn’t the only way to prevent high blood pressure, it is very helpful. This is characterized by the high consumption of antioxidants and the low presence of salt.

The first thing you should know is that there are many diets for hypertension. However, specialists have been recommending that people follow the DASH diet for a couple of years. The Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension, known simply as the DASH diet, is a diet that allows you to adapt the daily intake to the disease.

According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the diet was first presented in 1996 at an American Heart Association conference. A year later it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In short, the diet is committed to including different food groups to overcome the limitations of strict diets for hypertension.

Since then, this diet has become the diet of choice for controlling blood pressure. Based on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, we can summarize its characteristics like this:

  • It isn’t based on special foods
  • The diet meets the requirements of 2000 calories a day
  • It avoids beverages sweetened with refined sugar and sweets
  • Encourages the consumption of low-fat dairy products.
  • The plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, non-tropical vegetable oil, beans, and white meats.
  • It avoids sodium and fat intake

The diet doesn’t completely eliminate some groups, but rather avoids or reduces them during the week. There are many variants of the diet, depending on your age, level of daily activities, caloric needs and gender. Here’s the basic 2,000 calorie plan for a middle-aged man:

  • Grains: between 6 and 8 servings.
  • Vegetables: between 4 and 5 servings.
  • Fruits: between 4 and 5 servings.
  • Low-fat dairy: 2 to 3 servings.
  • Lean meats: 6 or fewer servings during the week.
  • Nuts and legumes: 4 or 5 servings per week.
  • Fat and oil: between 2 and 3 servings.
  • Sweets and sugars: less than 5 servings per week.
  • Sodium intake: 2300 milligrams maximum per day.

Except in the groups outlined, the amounts correspond to a daily intake. The information on how to choose the portions, what foods to prefer for each group, how to distribute them in your meals, how to assemble each plate, tips to vary each week and others can be found in the link to which we gave you above from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The plan is for each patient to choose their own food combinations, as long as they generally respect the limitations of the groups to avoid during the week. To reduce the margin of error, we encourage you to turn to a nutritionist for guidance on how to start the plan.

Sodium and diet for hypertension

You’ve probably heard that sodium and a high blood pressure diet don’t get along. However, it’s likely that you don’t understand why or know the exact amount of the mineral that you should include in your diet. High sodium intake is contraindicated in hypertensive patients because it contributes to fluid retention in the body.

By increasing this, blood volume also increases, which results in blood pressure rising. Sodium is an essential mineral for maintaining cell function, promoting the transmission of nerve impulses, regulating plasma volume, and other functions. It shouldn’t be completely removed, as you could develop hyponatremia.

You just have to avoid consumption in excess. That being said, how much sodium should you eat during the day? The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend a maximum of 2,300 milligrams per day, as stipulated by the DASH diet for hypertension. Despite this, the American Heart Association suggests gradually reducing the amount to 1,500 milligrams.

In general, this amount corresponds to a teaspoon of table salt distributed in your meals. The problem is balancing it with other foods. Processed groups, cold cuts, and some beverages, for example, have excessive amounts of sodium. This is why the DASH diet dispenses with them and opts for natural and healthier options.

Questions and answers about the diet for hypertension

To finish explaining this diet for high blood pressure, we’re briefly going to answer the questions you may have about it.

Is the DASH diet safe?

Yes, multiple studies and research have supported the use of this diet, both for hypertensive patients and for those who wish to prevent the disease.

Even so, some sectors criticize the diet for being very free (in the sense that the combination of the portions is made by the interested party). That’s why we encourage you to seek the support of a professional to avoid some mistakes during the process.

What do I do if I don’t like foods without salt?

The diet for hypertension is effective
While it may be difficult to get used to dietary changes at first, especially low salt intake, there are ways to adjust progressively.

You can try seasoning your food with spices or herbs. Remember that it’s not about eliminating sodium intake completely, but about reducing it. It’s also important to remember that in a couple of weeks your sensitivity to the mineral will graduate. You’ll soon get used to this new flavor threshold and you won’t want to go back to the one you had before the diet.

Is there only one diet for hypertension?

No, there are many options that you can use. Although the DASH diet is more famous, some studies and research suggest that good results can be achieved with the Paleolithic diet and the Mediterranean diet, respectively. However, consult a specialist before starting any protocol.

Is it better to eat out or prepare food from home?

Ideally, you should choose to prepare food at home, so you can control the percentage of sodium and calories in each dish. However, today there are hundreds of restaurants in every city that are friendly to healthy options. If you know how to choose, you shouldn’t have major problems.

What drinks can I use as a side?

Try to opt for natural drinks or, even better, water. The Association of UK Dietitians encourages patients to limit alcohol consumption, as it can raise their blood pressure. Again, it’s about reducing your consumption, not eliminating it completely.

Are there foods that lower blood pressure?

There aren’t any foods that miraculously reduce hypertension, at least not as advertised by some media. The consumption of some nutrients and groups has been associated as beneficial for health in general, including the pressure of the blood vessels. Potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber are some of them.

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Los contenidos de esta publicación se redactan solo con fines informativos. En ningún momento pueden servir para facilitar o sustituir diagnósticos, tratamientos o recomentaciones provenientes de un profesional. Consulta con tu especialista de confianza ante cualquier duda y busca su aprobación antes de iniciar o someterse a cualquier procedimiento.