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A new healthy cookbook has been launched this Heart Awareness Month by SA’s leading cardiovascular medicines provider, Pharma Dynamics and the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA (HSFSA) to help South Africans control their blood pressure by following the DASH diet.

The “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” (DASH) diet is a proven way to reduce hypertension and is recommended by Hypertension Societies and healthcare professionals the world over.

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says while family history plays a role, hypertension is often due to an unhealthy diet, which prompted the development of the DASH cookbook – the fifth instalment in the Cooking from the Heart cookbook series developed with the Heart and Stroke Foundation partnership.

“Thousands of people have used the Cooking from the Heart recipe books in the last eight years to improve their eating habits in a practical and affordable way. It has become a go-to resource for many and has helped the public to eat, live and feel better.”

Jennings describes the DASH eating plan as an important advance in nutritional science given its blood-pressure-lowering effect.

“It includes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium – all nutrients which help to regulate blood pressure. Think fruits, vegetables, beans unsalted nuts, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy. The diet has its best result when foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and sugar are limited.”

A trial that compared the typical American diet to the DASH diet showed that the average American diet provided less than 25% of the recommended daily amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium, in contrast to the DASH diet that provided these minerals in values closer to 75% of the recommended daily amounts.

According to Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, at least 50% of hypertensive adults in South Africa don’t even know they have high blood pressure, which puts sufferers at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and kidney disease.

“Every day, 215 people die from heart disease or stroke, which is primarily as a result of uncontrolled hypertension – a disease which affects more South Africans every year. There are often no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, which is why it is referred to as the silent killer. The only way of knowing is if you have your blood pressure checked.” 

Prof Naidoo states that individuals with a family history of hypertension and those over the age of 45 years should have their blood pressure checked at least twice a year.

“Hypertension is most often associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices, which we are trying to curb by encouraging people to follow the DASH diet. The Cooking from the Heart DASH cookbook is completely free to the public and contains ten tasty, no-fuss recipes with advice on how to structure meals based on DASH guidelines.”

Jennings says that while there is a plethora of information available to consumers about healthy eating, it’s important that they get the right information in a simple and practical format. 

“The cookbook is designed to provide the public with ingredients and recipes that everyone should incorporate into their daily meals. It also shows how easy it is to enjoy delicious recipes, while including more micronutrients in your diet.”

For those who find it challenging to eat healthily, she shares some tips on how to slowly integrate the DASH diet at mealtimes:

  • Add a serving (one cup) of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
  • Eat a serving of fresh fruit for breakfast or enjoy it as a snack in between meals, instead of chips and sweets.
  • Try eating less of your usual serving of butter, margarine or salad dressing.
  • Limit meat intake by incorporating more beans and legumes.

“Fortunately, once diagnosed, hypertension can be treated,” says Naidoo. “It’s important that everyone has their blood pressure checked at least annually, so it’s detected early.”

“The DASH diet will not only help those suffering from hypertension, but is a healthy eating plan that everyone should follow to help regulate blood pressure.”

The Cooking from the Heart DASH cookbook can be downloaded from

Only a limited number of printed copies will be available at pharmacies and GPs during the month of September. 

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