Diet tips to eat your way to healthier blood pressure, cholesterol

WASHINGTON — Diet changes can go a long way to help Americans battle high blood pressure and cholesterol and could reduce the need for medication, says Lean Plate Club blogger Sally Squires.

Roughly 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease — the leading cause of death for both men and women. But a healthy lifestyle, a healthy weight, exercise and not smoking can help prevent heart disease. And some carefully selected foods can help too.

DASH diet

The DASH (dietary approaches to stopping hypertension) diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and can help lower blood pressure and help with weight loss.

This common-sense approach to food focuses on lean meats, seafood, lots of fiber, beans and nuts, low-fat dairy and loads of fruits and vegetables — especially those that are rich in potassium, Squires says.

Although similar to the Mediterranean and Nordic diets, it differs in fat content. The Mediterranean diet has a bit higher fat from olive oil; the Nordic diet uses canola oil. But both of these regional diets can help reduce blood pressure, she says.

Portfolio diet

Researchers in Toronto developed the portfolio diet by combining various foods that each help lower cholesterol a little bit, Squires says.

The diet is largely vegetarian, and incorporates soy, almonds and other nuts, plus vegetables. Okra and eggplant are a key feature to this diet; the high fiber content helps lower cholesterol. Beans and oatmeal are part of the diet.

This approach can cut total cholesterol by as much as a third, rivaling statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs in terms of effectiveness, Squires says.

“Here’s another way that you might help yourself if you can lower either your blood pressure medication or cholesterol medication by eating more healthfully. That’s a win-win for everybody,” she says.

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