You're not alone - high blood pressure affects ~40% of Americans, and many more are at risk. While many factors affect blood pressure, what you eat is among the more influential. Here are just a few examples of simple food swaps that can make a difference.
DASH Meal Plan (for a 1600-calorie diet)
6 oz. per day
1 slice of whole-grain bread, ½ cup cooked whole-grain pasta or oatmeal, ⅓ cup cooked brown rice
3 to 4 servings per day
1 cup lettuce or spinach, ½ cup raw or cooked carrots, broccoli, eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes
4 servings per day
1 medium fruit, ½ cup fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit
Sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages, candy, jelly, baked goods, syrup
Up to 2,300 mg/day
(high-sodium foods include): canned soup and chili, dressings and condiments, pickles, snack foods, bread, deli meats, processed foods
1. Oatmeal for Honey Puffs
Benefits: more fiber and whole grains, and less sugar, sodium, and refined grains.
Many breakfast cereals often contain highly-processed refined grains and sugar:
Puffed wheat and rice
Regular or unflavored oatmeal is a high-fiber whole grain, without added sugar, that may help keep blood pressure in check. Mixing your oatmeal into yogurt, a high-calcium, high-protein food, and adding some potassium-rich, fiber-rich fruit, such as strawberries, can lower blood pressure further.
Additionally, overnight oatmeal, made by soaking oats in milk or yogurt and storing it in the refrigerator overnight, can save time in the morning. If you prefer a cold breakfast cereal, there are plenty of low-sugar, whole-grain choices such as:
Regular (not honey) oat "O's"
2. Chicken Breast for Bologna
Benefits: less sodium, saturated fat, and fewer calories and nitrates.
Bologna is a fatty processed red meat, with 2 to 3 times the calories per serving as chicken and a load of sodium and saturated fat. The DASH eating plan includes up to 6 ounces of lean protein, such as chicken, each day. Other lean proteins include:
Using whole-grain instead of white bread can make your sandwich even healthier. Other possible swaps include:
Cucumbers for pickles to lower sodium
Adding lettuce and tomatoes to increase fiber and potassium
Spreading hummus or pureed avocado instead of mayo or butter on your bread to make the fats healthier
3. Carrot Sticks for Potato Chips
Benefits: More fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, and less starch, unhealthy fat, and sodium.
Potato chips and tortilla chips are full of refined carbs, excess fats, and sodium. Other crunchy snack foods, such as pretzels and crackers, are just as high in refined, starchy carbs and sodium.
Crunching on carrots or other vegetables instead dramatically cuts the carbs, fat, and sodium. Adding a little protein can make the snack healthier and more satisfying. These are some examples:
Carrots or celery with peanut butter.
Broccoli or cauliflower florets with hummus.
Bell pepper strips with fat-free, low-sodium refried beans.
If raw vegetables really will not do the trick for you, there are other crunchy snack options that are healthy:
Roasted garbanzo beans or soybeans
Whole-grain low-fat crackers
4. Fruit for Dessert
Benefits: more fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, less added sugar and excess fat, and fewer calories.
Consuming high amounts of added sugars, such as those in most desserts, is linked to higher blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
In addition, baked goods that tend to contain high amounts of refined grains include:
And dairy-based desserts that tend to be high in saturated fat include:
In contrast, whole fruits have no added sugars, but can satisfy a sweet tooth and provide important blood pressure-lowering nutrients at the same time.
A piece or handful of fresh fruit is an easy option, or you can bump up the nutrition with some healthy additions. For example:
Baked apples with cinnamon and walnuts
Pureed frozen banana with optional cocoa powder and/or peanut butter
Parfait with plain yogurt, blueberries, and toasted oats
Regular sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages are packed with sugar and calories:
Sweet tea and flavored coffee beverages are also sugary choices:
A single 8-ounce portion of a soft drink has 25 grams of added sugar, which is the maximum recommended amount for a day. A 20-ounce bottle has 60 grams of sugar and 250 calories.
In contrast, water is calorie-free, sugar-free, and freely available. Staying hydrated supports proper blood pressure regulation and makes it easier for the body to eliminate toxin. If plain water is not for you, ice water or water with lemon or lime wedges, strawberry slices, or basil or mint leaves can work. Decaf unsweetened tea and coffee are hydrating, too.
The great thing about these swaps, besides that they work to lower blood pressure, is that they are not too hard to make. Lark can help you pick and choose ones that fit into your lifestyle, and work with you so that they can become habits. With smart choices, you can help manage your blood pressure.
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.