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The DASH Diet: Good for Your Blood Pressure

By Laura Stepp RD,LD, CDE at LMC

High blood pressure (hypertension) and pre-hypertension are two conditions that can be controlled with diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that about half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure (140/90) or Pre-hypertension (120/80-139/89) is one of those risk factors.

shutterstock_200040200Making a few changes to your food choices can help to naturally lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can go unnoticed therefore it is important to have your blood pressure checked annually.

The DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a well-researched and documented pattern of eating that has been shown to help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is a plant-based diet high in potassium and fiber and lower in saturated fat and sodium. In addition to helping to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet has been shown to help people naturally lower cholesterol and for many obtain a healthy weight. The DASH diet is closely related to another very well researched diet: the Mediterranean diet. Both of these dietary lifestyles are based on increasing ones intake of whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds. Adopting the DASH diet lifestyle helps to increase the intake of vitamins and minerals (such as Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium) needed by the body to help maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.

A DASH diet based on 2000 calories per day (what the food labels are based on) consists of:
Whole Grains and whole grain products: Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Corn
6-8 oz (1 oz = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal hot or cold, ½ c cooked grain)

4-5 (1/2 cup cook or 1 cup Raw = serving)

4-5 (small/medium, ½ cup cooked, 2/3 cup mixed raw = serving)

Low Fat Dairy
2-3 (8 oz milk, ½ cup plain yogurt, 1 oz cheese = serving)

Nuts, Seeds, Legumes (dried beans, black eyed peas, split peas, lentils)
4-5/week (1 oz nuts/seeds = ¼ cup; ½ cup cooked legumes)

Lean Meats: Fish/Poultry (skinless)
2 (for Women 3-4 oz = serving; Men 4-6oz = serving)

Fats & Sweets
Limited: keep small and in moderation, use liquid oils such as Canola or olive oil, use butter spreads with expeller pressed oils vs stick margarine. If used, limit butter and other high saturated fat foods. Desserts on special occasions vs. daily.

A fresh and simple recipe we tested (which received good reviews for both taste and simplicity):

chickpea-wraps.jpg_1_272×1_005_pixelsChickpea Wraps with Grapes and Walnuts

    1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
    1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
    2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
    1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    Freshly ground black pepper
    8 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

    In large mixing bowl, gently mash chickpeas with potato masher just to break skins. Add all remaining ingredients except tortillas and gently combine.

    On bottom half of tortilla, spoon 1/2 cup mixture in broad line. Fold left and right sides toward center until almost touching. Fold bottom edge toward center. Roll wrap firmly upwards. Place toothpick 2 inches from each end. Slice wrap diagonally and place cut side up on plate or platter. Repeat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Makes 8 servings
    Per serving (2 halves): 367 calories, 10 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 58 g carbohydrate,
    15 g protein, 10 g dietary fiber, 425 mg sodium (lower with low sodium beans & no added salt)

Take 5 for Heart Health: Eat Right!

LMC dietitian Donna Quirk, a regular contributor to our “Ask the Dietitian” blog posts, was a guest on WIS-TV last week with a delicious and healthy recipe for chocolate pudding that incorporates chia seeds. She also talked about the health benefits of flax and chia seeds, from antioxidants to fiber. Learn more in the link below.

And here’s the recipe for “Chocolate Chia Pudding.”

6 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cup Almond Milk
3 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
6 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Combine all ingredients, whisking together until cocoa powder absorbs. Refrigerate for four hours, or overnight.

The chia seeds will absorb the liquid from the mixture. The texture of the finished product will be similar to tapioca pudding. You can also put all ingredients in the food processor for a smoother dish, similar to a chocolate mousse.

Lower Blood Pressure by Reducing Sodium Intake

by Laura Stepp RD, LD, CDE at LMC

February is heart month. As we think about the ways we are going to show our loved ones how much we care about them, one of those ways may be to pay closer attention to how much excess sodium we might be consuming.

shutterstock_43584655During the last two years, the recommendations for sodium intake have been reviewed with new guidelines and new food labels being proposed. According to an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reducing sodium intake by 400mg/day in those with uncontrolled hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90) could save $2.3 million in medical costs annually.

The sodium recommendations for lowering blood pressure include:
•reducing daily intake to less than 2300mg/day
•Reducing daily intake to 1500mg/day for those at high risk for heart disease or stroke (51 yrs or older, African American, already diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease) to

To put the recommendations into perspective: 2300mg/day = 1 level teaspoon and 1500mg/day = approx 2/3 teaspoon.

The final recommendations to help lower blood pressure is to adopt a plant based diet such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), try to get to and maintain a healthy weight, and to exercise daily.

Reducing daily sodium intake may be easier than it first appears. According to research, the majority of our excess sodium intake comes from packaged foods and eating out at restaurants. Understanding how to read a food label can help everyone to choose lower sodium products. Below is an example of how food labels look now and the proposed new food labels.


First, pay attention the serving size – everything on the label pertains only to the suggested serving size. Then, look at the sodium. To be sure the food is truly a low sodium product, each serving should be 140mg or less. Unfortunately, we can’t always find a low sodium version of the food we want. If that’s the case, pair a higher sodium food with low sodium foods to keep your sodium intake under control. When working with canned goods, simply drain and rinse the canned goods with fresh water to help lower and remove some of the excess sodium.