Lower Your Blood Pressure By Eating Vegetables

Lower Your Blood Pressure By Eating Vegetables

Neal Templin, a story editor at Barron’s, was surprised when his doctor told him that his blood pressure was high. Templin said he thought he had followed most of the recommendations on lowering your blood pressure. For instance, Templin said he was not overweight, he occasionally drank alcohol, he never liked salted food, and he exercised a lot for a 65-year-old.

So, why was his blood pressure reading 146/94?

Templin’s doctor gave him a flier on Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), a diet designed to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and other fats in the blood by limiting foods high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Templin realized his blood pressure was high because he ate a lot of meat, milk, butter, and cheese.

After a few weeks of following the DASH diet, Templin saw a significant change in his blood pressure reading.

“Within a month on this diet, my blood pressure had dropped more than 10 points,” Templin wrote in an article for Barron’s. “After reading up further on the links between diet and cardiovascular health, I decided to go a step further and move to an even more plant-based diet.”

Studies have found that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. It lowers the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, in the blood. High blood pressure and high LDL levels can lead to heart disease and stroke.

The DASH diet comes highly recommended by medical professionals and nutritionists. Also, U.S. News & World Reports ranked DASH No. 2 in Best Diets Overall for 2022. DASH was second to the Mediterranean Diet, which was named Best Diet Overall for 2022.

The DASH diet includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. What makes the diet compelling for people with high blood pressure is that it limits sodium intake.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults limit sodium intake to under 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day, which is equal to about one teaspoon of table salt. However, the FDA says Americans eat, on average, about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, an amount that can easily raise blood pressure.

Fruits and vegetables help to lower blood pressure primarily because they contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, like potassium and magnesium, which are essential in keeping the body healthy. Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories.

The number of servings you should have of fruits, vegetables, and other foods in the DASH diet depends on your daily calorie needs, according to the Mayo Clinic. For instance, to get the most out of a 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet, the following are the recommended servings:

Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day. One serving is 1 cup of raw leafy green vegetables, 1/2 cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice.

Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day. One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup of fruit juice.

Foods That Help Lower Blood Pressure

Studies show that certain foods can help to lower blood pressure, and many of them are found in the DASH diet. Foods that come highly recommended include:

    • • Berries


    • • Bananas


    • • Beets


    • • Dark chocolate


    • • Kiwis


    • • Watermelon


    • • Oats


    • • Leafy green vegetables (cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard)


    • • Garlic


    • • Fermented foods (kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, miso, tempeh)


    • • Lentils and other pulses (peas, beans, chickpeas)


    • • Natural yogurt


    • • Pomegranates


    • • Cinnamon


    • • Nuts


    • • Citrus fruits


    • • Oily Fish


    • Tomato extract

Research has also shown that eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day helps to lower blood pressure. So, what counts as a “portion?” According to Blood Pressure UK, the following counts as a portion:

    • • A small bowl of salad


    • • Three heaped tablespoons of vegetables


    • • Three heaped tablespoons of pulses, such as chickpeas, lentils, or beans


    • • One medium-sized fruit (one apple, orange, pear, or banana)


    • • Two smaller fruits (plums, apricots, and satsumas)


    • • One slice of a large fruit (melon, pineapple, or mango)


    • • Two to three tablespoons of berries or grapes


    • • A glass (5 fluid ounces or 150 ml) of fruit or vegetable juice


    • One tablespoon of dried fruit

Eating “portions” of fruits and vegetables may not be ideal, especially for those who do not like these foods. But keep in mind that fruits and vegetables come in various forms, such as fresh, dried, frozen, canned, or liquid. So, instead of eating these foods raw, you can:

    • • Drink vegetable juice or add more vegetables to soup.


    • • Add a side salad to dinner and use balsamic vinegar instead of high-calorie dressings.


    • • Replace some of the meat in shepherd’s pie or spaghetti Bolognese with lentils and more vegetables.


    • Replace starchy potatoes with roasted vegetables, such as carrots, onions, squash, and sweet potatoes.

Since switching to the DASH diet, Templin said his bad cholesterol levels have dropped sharply, and he unintentionally lost seven or eight pounds. He also started doing a few minutes of yoga every night.
Now that he’s switched to a largely plant-based diet, Templin said he misses some foods, like butter, that he loves to put on toast. He also has to plan his meals and spend more time slicing and cooking vegetables or preparing lentils, compared to the days when he used to “throw a piece of meat in a frying pan and rustle up a few other things to go with it.”

Overall, Templin said he’s happy with the outcome.

“This old dog is learning new tricks or at least trying to,” Templin wrote.


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