According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 32% of Americans have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Furthermore, only about half of those with high blood pressure have their condition under control. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease and stroke. To help prevent or control high blood pressure, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a dietary plan known as DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This is an eating strategy that focuses on increasing heart-healthy food choices. Additionally, the DASH eating plan promotes decreasing the consumption of foods that contribute to hypertension.
The AHA recommends five serving of vegetables each day as part of a heart-healthy diet. Green leafy vegetables, as well as sweet potatoes and tomatoes, are high in potassium. Potassium is important for blood pressure regulation and is often deficient in American diets. Green vegetables also contain calcium, which plays a role in the relaxation and constriction of blood vessels. Vegetables like green peas, cauliflower, and carrots also provide dietary fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and prevent the risk of heart attack. Colorful vegetables are also good sources of antioxidants, which prevent heart disease.
Four servings, or two cups, of fruit each day, are recommended in the American Heart Association’s DASH eating plan. Bananas, cantaloupe, and avocado are rich sources of the potassium necessary for blood pressure management. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are colorful fruits containing antioxidants that may prevent heart damage. Cantaloupe, oranges, and kiwifruit are rich in vitamin C, which may help lower blood pressure. Fruits can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. If you choose canned fruit, avoid those packed in syrup. Instead, select fruit packed in juice and free from artificial coloring.