It’s widely recognised that diet plays a vital role in helping to address high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and premature death. It’s estimated that 6,3 million South Africans (or one in three people) suffer from this ‘silent killer’. While all vegetables and fruits contribute to the low blood pressure diet, one stands out for meeting all the dietary criteria – the avocado.

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in arteries which is needed to keep blood flowing through the body. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is when the blood vessels persistently raise this pressure.

Like many of the other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol, obesity, diabetes mellitus and cigarette smoking, high blood pressure can be prevented and successfully treated.

The first step is knowing what your blood pressure is, as about 50% of sufferers are unaware that they even have hypertension. The next step is relooking your diet. Well-known registered dietitian, Jane Badham, says high blood pressure can often be controlled by making simple lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy, balanced diet and a regular exercise regime.

“From a dietary perspective, the best approach to managing high blood pressure is to eat a diet high in fruit and vegetables (at least five a day), wholegrains, beans and lentils, low-fat dairy and lean, unprocessed meats. A low salt and sugar intake, together with appropriate portion sizes, is also recommended,” explains Badham.

Although all fruit and vegetables contain potassium, avocados provide a significant dose of this vital mineral. They are also low in sodium and free from cholesterol.

“The DASH diet – the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension – is an eating plan that was specifically developed to address high blood pressure. Avocados meet all the criteria for this diet, in that they are naturally free from sodium, contribute to increased fruit and vegetable intake and are a source of potassium – just half an avocado provides 420mg of potassium. In addition, their high monounsaturated fat content helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk for heart disease when used to replace saturated and trans fats,” Badham adds.

Avos can be included as part of a healthy eating plan, and it’s with this in mind that the South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA) is encouraging all South Africans to ‘Add an avo’ to their meals. The 2017 local avo season has begun, so there’s no excuse not to stock up on homegrown avos!

Badham says foods that contain ‘bad’ saturated fats can be substituted by replacing them with avos on sandwiches, burgers and in salads. She says avos can also be used to introduce ‘good’ fats into your diet, by adding them to every meal as a tasty topper or side accompaniment. – Press release