How to eat a well-balanced diet to control your blood pressure
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a balanced eating pattern that promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, and has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The diet contains foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium - nutrients that help control blood pressure.
What does the DASH diet include?
Limiting sodium intake
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat (e.g. fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel and palm oil)
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, food and snacks
- Ensuring a low sodium intake
Sodium is an essential mineral found in many common foods, sometimes naturally and sometimes added as salt during the cooking process. It may also be added during the manufacturing process for flavour or as a preservative. The DASH diet is lower in sodium than a typical diet.
Aim for no more than 2000 to 2400 mg of sodium a day, or about 1 teaspoon of salt.
Tips to reduce sodium intake
When cooking at home
- Use salt, seasoning and sauces sparingly
- Use fresh herbs and spices to flavour food (e.g. curry powder, pepper, garlic, vinegar, lemon, oregano, basil, parsley, and many more!)
- Use fresh vegetables when cooking soup to replace ready-to-use broth
- Choose foods that requires minimal preparation, such as broiled, baked or roasted meats made without sauces, breading or batter
When grocery shopping
- Choose fresh produce over processed (e.g. sausages, hams, luncheon meats, instant noodles and microwave meals) or preserved food items (e.g. canned pickled lettuce, salted vegetables and kimchi)
- Choose food products that are labelled ‘no added sodium’ or ‘lower in sodium’
- Choose food products that do not list sodium as the first few ingredients. Also avoid products that show sodium appearing multiple times in the ingredient list. Sodium can be listed as salt, sea salt, vegetable salt, rock salt, sodium chloride, monosodium glutamate or compounds with sodium in its name (e.g. sodium bicarbonate, sodium inosinate and sodium guanylate).
When eating out
- Leave soup behind and avoid excess gravy
- Avoid consuming dipping sauces
- Choose plain rice over flavoured rice
- Avoid fast food
Limit alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure. If you drink regularly, practise moderation by taking no more than one standard drink per day for women and no more than two standard drinks per day for men.
One standard alcoholic drink comprises:
- 1 can (330 ml) of regular beer
- ½ glass (100 ml) of wine
- 1 nip (30 ml) of hard liquor
- Article contributed by Nutrition & Dietetics Service, Allied Health Services -