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updated: 10/19/2010 1:11 PM

Fruits and vegetables and your blood pressure

Ask the Nutrionist

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Q. If blood pressure control is all about limiting sodium, what has eating more vegetables and fruits got to do with better blood pressure?

A. Limiting sodium is an important step to reduce risk of high blood pressure and, for many people, to control it. However, eating lots of vegetables and fruits adds another layer of protection.

In the ENCORE study, overweight men and women with above normal blood pressure achieved drops of 11 mm Hg / 8 mm Hg after just four months on a diet that limited sodium and fat and loaded up on vegetables and fruits. These foods supply potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, all of which seem to help control blood pressure.

Aim for at least one cup total of vegetables and fruits at each meal and a snack, and you'll easily reach the level consumed in studies of the DASH diet, a high vegetable-fruit diet that consistently reduces blood pressure. The ENCORE study showed that adding exercise and weight loss of about a pound a week to this high-produce eating style can reduce blood pressure even further.

Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at