Sodium or salt intake can be an important factor to consider with regard to high blood pressure, but there are other factors to consider as well. At a time when it had been commonly accepted that a low-salt diet would reduce high blood pressure, Harvard Professor Frank M. Sacks was skeptical about the impact of sodium. This skepticism led him and other researchers to study whether other changes in diet would significantly impact hypertension.

While he would later side with the "low-sodium" folks, the study found that other components of diet could, in fact, also serve to reduce blood pressure. The system that was developed became known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet.

DASH Diet Guidelines

These guidelines have been compiled assuming a daily caloric intake of 2,000. This number can fluctuate for each individual, and the diet should be scaled for each individual. Every diet should be modified for each individual; each person does unique work and each person's body has unique demands. If you are seeking to create a diet for yourself, see a licensed nutritionist.

Grains and Grain Products - 7 to 8 servings.
One serving equals 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked rice, or ½ cup pasta.

Fruits - 4 to 5 servings.
One serving is 1 medium fruit, ½ cup canned fruit, or 6 oz. fruit juice.
Good examples include apricots, bananas, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, melons, strawberries, kiwi, and apples.

Vegetables - 4 to 5 servings.
One serving equals 6 oz. vegetable juice, 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, or ½ cup cooked vegetables.
Tomatoes, broccoli, peas, carrots, potatoes, squash, and leafy greens are all good choices.

Dairy - 2 to 3 servings.
One serving is equal to 8 oz. skim milk or yogurt, 1 cup soy milk, or 1 ½ oz. portion low-fat cheese.

Meats, Poultry, and Fish - 2 or fewer servings.
One serving is approximately 3 oz. of lean meat, poultry or fish.
Note that the study focused much on vegetarians, and thus did not consider meat necessary (neither do many others).

Seeds, Legumes, and Nuts - 1 to 2 servings.
One serving is 2 tablespoons seeds, ½ cup cooked legumes, or one-third cup nuts or soy nuts.
Suggested seeds include sesame, sunflower, and most notably flax seeds. Legumes include kidney beans, lentils, and soup beans.

Additional Concerns

Weight Control
Changing to the DASH diet will likely have an impact on one's weight, and diet should always be complimented with healthy exercise. Other suggestions include eating breakfast every day, adding 2 tsp. flax seeds (ground) to each meal, specifically seeking out fruits and vegetables, and avoiding liquid calories (soda is particularly bad).

Cholesterol
Again, flax seed is recommended as flax seed oil is binding to cholesterol (thus much of your cholesterol is flushed out of your system). Use olive or canola oil rather than butter or margarine. If you are eating meat (or flesh), choose fish or poultry over red meat. Soy protein is a healthy addition to find protein while eating less meat. Soy protein is found in soy nuts and soy milk (or any soy food). Also recommended is green tea, grape juice, or red wine (once a day), as well as using onions and garlic in cooking.

Resources
This information comes mostly from a lecture delivered by Ann Marchant, Nutrition Consultant at Oregon State University Student Health Services. She is a certified nutritionist.

Additionally, some background on the DASH diet and the impact of sodium on hypertension can be found at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/review_winter_02/rsdash.html.

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