DASH Diet Basics to Lower Blood Pressure

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life.

The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals.

This plan recommends:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

Most Americans will typically consume 6,000-8,000 mg of sodium per day, and not enough other minerals to help their blood pressure. This diet aims to reduce the added sodium we consume from processed foods, and sets a goal of around 2,000mg sodium per day.

Based on these recommendations, the following table shows examples of daily and weekly servings that meet DASH eating plan targets for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Talk with your Dietitian about how many calories you actually need, and they can help you tailor this list.

Food Group Daily Servings
Grains 6–8
Meats, poultry, and fish 6 or less
Vegetables 4–5
Fruit 4–5
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products 2–3
Fats and oils 2–3
Sodium* 2,300 mg*
Weekly Servings:
Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas 4–5
Sweets 5 or less
*1,500 milligrams (mg) sodium lowers blood pressure even further than 2,300 mg sodium daily.

When following the DASH eating plan, it is important to choose foods that are:

  • Low in saturated and trans fats
  • Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
  • Lower in sodium

What Does This Look Like?

Try out this 1800-Calorie menu for a day:

Breakfast

  • 1/2 whole-wheat bagel with 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (no salt added)
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • Decaffeinated coffee

Morning Snack:

  • 1 medium orange

Lunch

  • Spinach salad made with:
    • 4 cups of fresh spinach leaves
    • 1/2 sliced pear
    • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette
  • 12 reduced-sodium wheat crackers

Dinner

  • Herb-crusted baked cod, 3 ounces cooked (about 4 ounces raw)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice pilaf with vegetables
  • 1/2 cup fresh green beans, steamed
  • 1 small sourdough roll
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Herbal iced tea

Numerous studies have shown that the DASH diet reduces the risk of many diseases, including some kinds of cancer, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney stones, and diabetes. It has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight and become healthier at the same time. It is full of fabulous, delicious, real foods. Let's enjoy the food and stay healthy!

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