Eat Nuts and Legumes 4-5 Times Per Week To Help Lower Blood Pressure

The first study to show a link between diet and high blood pressure, published in the April issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, recommends eating nuts and legumes 4 to 5 times per week as part of a low fat diet high in fruits and vegetables.

The diet, know as DASH for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has less than 30% calories from fat, 8 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, 7 to 8 servings of grain per day, 2 to 3 servings of low or non-fat dairy products per day, 2 or fewer servings of meat per day, and 4 to 5 servings of nuts and legumes per week.

In just two weeks the study participants' blood pressure dropped an average of 11.4 points systolic (the high number) and 5.5 points diastolic (the low number) and they maintained the drop throughout the study.

In the study, financed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 459 men and women with mild hypertension followed the DASH diet for 8 weeks. The researchers did not lower salt or alcohol consumption and did not change the participants' physical activity level. In addition, the participants' caloric intake was adjusted to keep their weight stable, even if they were overweight, so any lowered blood pressure could not be attributed to weight loss. Participants took no pressure-lowering drugs or vitamin/mineral supplements.

The diet does not call for any drugs or vitamins and should be relatively easy to follow. In fact, the biggest complaint among study participants was they were full before they had eaten their whole meal since researchers were trying to maintain the participants' weight and this diet provides more bulk in the way of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. An average person following this diet might be inclined to eat less and lose weight.

Conveniently, the DASH diet is similar to diets shown to reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease. So, drink your milk, eat your fruits and vegetables and snack on peanuts and peanut butter 4 to 5 times per week for your health!

Check the Facts
Food Group
Servings
Examples
Grains 7 to 8 per day whole wheat bread, English muffins, pita bread, cereals, grits
Vegetables 4 to 5 per day tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peas, squash, broccoli, turnip greens, collards, beans, artichokes, spinach
Fruits 4 to 5 per day apricots, bananas, grapes, oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, melons, peaches, pineapples, raisins
Low-fat or non-fat dairy 2 to 3 per day skim or 1% milk, low- or non-fat yogurt, part-skim mozzarella, non-fat cheese
Meat, poultry and fish 2 or few per day only lean meats, with visible fat trimmed; broiled, roasted or boiled, not fried; poultry with skin removed
Nuts, seeds and legumes 4 to 5 per week peanuts, peanut butter, almonds mixed nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils