High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious public health concern.
According to the South African Heart and Stroke Foundation, as much as 13 % of deaths around the world are caused by high blood pressure.1
We’re well aware of how a diet excessively high in salt can increase our high blood pressure risk, but is there anything more that we can do to manage blood pressure?
What Does High Blood Pressure Mean?
A blood pressure reading is reported as a number “over” another.
For example, 140/90 mm Hg is read as 140 over 90.
Your blood pressure measurement is made up of two numbers: the systolic blood pressure (the first number) and the diastolic blood pressure (the second number).
The systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart contracts.
The diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest.
High blood pressure is diagnosed when either or both of these numbers are consistently raised on more than one occasion.
It is estimated that lowering systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by just 5 mmHg and 3 mmHg, respectively, would result in a 15% reduction heart disease and a 27% reduction in strokes. 2
Heard of DASH?
Yet we know that people have different sensitivities to salt due to genetic variations.
This means that some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt, and these are the people that have remarkable drops in blood pressure when removing salt from their diet.
But there is even more to the blood pressure puzzle then just restricting salt.
Enter the DASH diet – the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension- globally recognised as an effective dietary strategy to help lower blood pressure.
The DASH diet is so powerful that it reduces systolic blood pressure to a greater extent than merely just restricting salt. 4
The DASH diet came about when scientists found that blood pressure was reduced with an eating pattern that limits excess amounts of meat and salt, and emphasizes favouring fish and poultry and more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, healthy fats, and also dairy.
This means this eating pattern is low in saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar, and rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fibre.
The DASH eating plan, used alongside other lifestyle changes (such as aiming for a healthy weight, exercising, and stopping smoking) can help prevent and control high blood pressure.
The aim is to include in the diet rich sources of potassium, magnesium, and fibre, and less saturated (bad) fat and sugar. Here’s how:
- Limit sodium to 2 300 mg per day. That’s roughly the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Limit added sugar to the diet.
- Aim to include mostly wholegrains, such as brown rice, high fibre pasta or bread, oats, corn, etc.
- Include 4 – 5 servings of fresh vegetables, salad or soup each day. One serving is the same as 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup cooked vegetables.
- Include more fruit, about 2 – 3 servings.
- Focus on lean meat, chicken, and fish.
- Choose legumes 4 – 5 times per week.
- Include heart-healthy fats daily, such as avocado, olives, unsalted/raw nuts, and seeds.
The FitChef Difference
FitChef meals are low in salt, flavoured with natural fresh herbs and assorted spices like black pepper, curry, and cinnamon.
The flavour of our food is further enhanced by the natural flavours found in fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in salt and rich in potassium: a double win for blood pressure.
- Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa. Accessed 30 August 2021. Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.co.za/.
- Ndanuko RN et al. Dietary Patterns and Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Advanced Nutrition. 2016;(7):76–89.
- eng J, Tan M, Yuan M, MacGregor GA. Salt Reduction to Prevent Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease: JACC State-of-the-Art Review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2020;75(6):632-48.
- Filippou CD, Tsioufis CP, Thomopoulos CG, Mihas CG, Dimitriadis KS, Sotiropoulou LI, et al. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Blood Pressure Reduction in Adults with and without Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Advances in Nutrition. 2020;11(5):1150-1160.
- Ware LJ, et al. Associations between dietary salt, potassium, and blood pressure in South African adults: WHO SAGE Wave 2 Salt & Tobacco. Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular disease. 2017;27(9):781-91.