Half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure (aka hypertension) and may not even know it, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What you eat throughout the day, including breakfast, can play a role in managing high blood pressure. That’s why the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan was created. Below you’ll find an explanation of the DASH diet and the breakfast to eat if you have high blood pressure.
Pictured Recipe: Summer Skillet Vegetable & Egg Scramble
What Is High Blood Pressure?
You have high blood pressure if blood flows through your arteries at a higher-than-normal pressure. If you’ve looked at your blood pressure reading, the top number is systolic, or the blood pressure pumped out of the heart. The bottom number is diastolic, or the pressure between heartbeats.
Your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities. According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is when your systolic number is less than 120 mm Hg, and your diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg (or 120/80 mm Hg). High blood pressure is considered when your blood pressure has a consistent systolic number of at least 130 mm Hg or a diastolic number of 80 mm Hg or higher.
Controlling or lowering your blood pressure can help delay or prevent health issues like heart attack, chronic kidney disease, heart failure and stroke. To help control high blood pressure, a heart-healthy lifestyle is recommended. This includes choosing heart-healthy foods like those in the DASH eating plan.
The History of the DASH Eating Plan
The DASH diet began in 1997 when health professionals recognized that obesity, as well as high consumption of salt and alcohol, affected blood pressure. However, researchers did not want to focus on one food or specific nutrients to avoid. Instead, they wanted to study the effects of wholesome, inexpensive food that supports good health and lowers blood pressure.
The landmark clinical trial was published in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this randomized controlled trial, researchers divided participants into three groups following either a control diet (low in fruits, vegetables and dairy), a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, or a “combination” diet that included fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and had reduced total and saturated fat. The researchers found that folks with or without high blood pressure had the most significant reduction in blood pressure when they consumed fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and reduced their saturated fat intake compared the produce-rich diet or the control diet. As a result of this study, the DASH eating plan was born.
What Is the DASH Eating Plan?
The DASH eating plan provides daily and weekly nutrition goals using wholesome, affordable foods you can find at your local market. The plan recommends eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils. The plan limits foods high in saturated fat, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy and tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oils. It also limits sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda) and sweets.
Below are the target daily and weekly servings on the DASH eating plan, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the NHLBI:
|Meats, poultry and fish (1-oz. serving)
|6 or fewer
|Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
|Fats and oils
|2,300 mg (ideally 1,500 mg)
|Nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas
|5 or fewer
The Best Breakfast for High Blood Pressure
When it comes to a DASH breakfast, this Summer Skillet Vegetable & Egg Scramble does a good job of including wholesome foods on the eating plan and is a top pick for breakfast for high blood pressure. The bowl has eggs for protein, a variety of vegetables (whatever you have on hand, really!) and potatoes for carbohydrates. Since fruit is important on the DASH eating plan, pair it with 1 cup of strawberries or blueberries or enjoy fruit for your morning snack.
What About Lunch and Dinner?
Enjoying heart-healthy meals the rest of the day is also important. Choose foods low in saturated fat, rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein and lower in sodium. A few lunch and dinner options that fit the DASH eating plan include:
Snacks Are Important Too
Snacks are mini meals that provide heart-healthy nutrients between meals. If you go for over five hours between meals or feel hungry between meals, it’s a good time for a snack. Snacks should be around 150 to 250 calories, and you may eat one to three per day. A few heart-healthy snack options include:
The Bottom Line
The DASH eating plan is a heart-healthy eating plan that can help manage or even lower your blood pressure. Breakfast should include numerous DASH diet foods, like in the Summer Skillet Vegetable & Egg Scramble. Don’t forget that what you eat the rest of the day counts, too. Lunch, dinner and snacks should also be part of the DASH eating plan to help you manage or control high blood pressure.