According to the DASH Study, one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted by U.S. scientists, the healthiest thing you can do for your heart is to consume five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a dietary pattern originally promoted by the U.S.-based National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to prevent and control hypertension.
The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods, while being limited in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat and added fats. While it benefits blood pressure (BP), it is now recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an ideal eating plan for all Americans.
In studies, the DASH diet has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure (BP) (the top number in a BP reading) by 6 mm Hg and diastolic BP (the bottom number) by 3 mm Hg in patients with high normal BP, also known as pre-hypertension. The same diet reduced systolic and diastolic BP in people with hypertension by 11 and 6 mm Hg, respectively.
Interestingly, these BP changes happened with no changes in body weight, and are the same results you can expect if you took drugs to control BP.
In a separate study of more than 40,000 test subjects, those who were ate ﬁve daily servings of vegetables and fruits daily were 39% less likely to have a stroke. Their BP also dropped…that too without using any drugs.
Clearly, what you eat is a critical risk factor in the management of heart disease and hypertension; and all the data show that a healthy dietary pattern has a very strong protective effect on the heart.
In fact, the strongest and most consistent protective associations are seen with fruit and vegetables, fish and whole grains. Several studies have shown that people following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or the very similar Mediterranean diet have a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease and a lower chance of developing hypertension.