Improve your fiber intake and reduce your blood pressure by eating more fresh produce.
A diet high in vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods can “significantly and quickly” lower blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In an eight-week nationwide trial of a diet known as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), NIH researchers found that people could reduce their blood pressure by changing their diets—but without following a weight-reduction plan or modifying alcohol or sodium intake. The study involved 459 adults with a systolic blood pressure of less than 160 and a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 95 (a normal range for adults is 110/80 to 140/90). Those who ate eight to ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables and two to three daily servings of low-fat dairy foods (twice the average amount most Americans eat) showed the largest reductions in blood pressure, and the reductions occurred quickly—within two weeks of starting the diet. On average, systolic blood pressure dropped by 5.5 points and diastolic by 3 points. The reductions occurred in both men and women and in all ethnic groups.
The researchers estimate that if Americans followed the DASH diet, coronary heart disease cases would drop 15 percent and strokes 27 percent. (1)
What’s in a Serving?
One serving of vegetables:
• 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
• 1 half-cup other cooked or
• 1 medium potato or carrot
• 3/4 cup vegetable juice
One serving of fruit:
• 1 apple, banana, kiwi,
orange, peach, or pear
• 2 figs or plums
• 3 to 4 apricots or prunes
• 1/2 grapefruit
• 1/2 cup cantaloupe,
pineapple, or strawberries
• 3/4 cup fruit juice
Teens and adults living in the United States eat less fiber than health experts recommend and may be missing out on valuable health benefits, according to two recent reports.
Children between the ages of three and eight eat sufficient fiber to prevent disease, control weight, and allow normal bowel functioning. However, teens and adults eat less than the Recommended Daily Allowance of 25 g of fiber, according to the American Heart Association.
Additionally, a six-year study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that eating enough dietary fiber is strongly associated with reduced risk of heart disease and may help reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. The study involved 43,757 male health professionals who were free of heart disease. After controlling for other heart-disease risks such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity, researchers found that the men who ate an average of 29 g of fiber daily had a 41 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate an average of 12 g daily. (2, 3)
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