Q. I have been diagnosed with hypertension – what should I eat?

A. Too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure so aim for no more than 2,300 mg a day – about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Avoid foods that are high in salt, like canned foods, snack and fast foods, and use salt-free seasonings and herbs and spices to flavour food. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet – which focuses on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy – has been clinically proven to significantly lower blood pressure in just a few weeks. Studies show that losing weight reduces high blood pressure and cuts the need for anti-hypertensive medications. Research also suggests that the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) found in fish oil will reduce high blood pressure. The B-group vitamin folate may lower high blood pressure in some people, possibly by reducing elevated homocysteine levels. The herb hawthorn is traditionally used for high blood pressure because it dilates the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily.

Melanie Rivers is a nutritionist, personal trainer, hypnobirthing practitioner and trained teacher in natural fertility and conception.