To Help Lower Your High Blood Pressure, Add a Little DASH to Your Diet

The DASH Diet is the most researched diet in history for lowering high blood pressure. DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is the eating plan that resulted from a study by the National Institutes of Health and several of the top medical research hospitals in the country. It’s richer in potassium, magnesium, and calcium; protein; and fiber than the typical American diet.

In the study, participants ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods than in a typical diet. The eating plan included meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans. It allowed, but limited, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats.

The DASH diet recommends:

  • Grains: 6-8 daily servings
  • Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
  • Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
  • Meat, poultry, and fish: maximum of 6 daily servings
  • Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4-5 servings per week
  • Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings
  • Sweets: maximum of 5 servings per week

The plan is based on a daily goal of 2000 calories, broken into 55% carbohydrates, 18% protein, and 27% fats. It allows a maximum of the total fats to be 6% saturated fats. Even though the plan was designed specifically for lowering high blood pressure, it’s based on a heart-healthy diet. One of the benefits of DASH is that it also lowers cholesterol, which plays a key part in developing heart disease. It’s seen as a sound eating plan for healthy eating for most people.

How to Get Started

Begin with gradual changes to your diet. Here are some tips to get you started on the DASH diet. Try one or two to start:

  • Replace one processed food that you buy normally with a serving of fresh fruit or vegetables. Leave the processed food in the store.
  • Add one serving of your favorite vegetable at lunch and another at dinner.
  • Add one serving of your favorite fruit to each meal.
  • Replace one snack with a serving of fruit. Dried fruits are OK unless you’re allergic to them.
  • Use half the amount of butter, margarine, or salad dressing you’re using right now.
  • Instead of pouring salad dressing all over your salad, pour some into a cup. Dip each bite of lettuce into the cup. You will use less salad dressing this way.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free sauces, citrus fruits, olive oil, and vinegar to add more flavor to your foods. This makes it easier to use less salt.
  • Drink low-fat or skim milk, cheese, and other dairy products three times per day.
  • Limit meat to 6 ounces per day. Try no-meat or vegetarian days. You might be surprised by how much you like them.
  • Add dry beans to your meals at least once a week.
  • Eat more rice and pasta.
  • For snacks, try nuts; fruits; raw vegetables; raisins; low-fat and fat-free yogurt and frozen yogurt; unsalted pretzels; or popcorn with no salt or butter.
  • Become a label reader. Start paying attention to how much sodium boxed, canned, and other store-bought products have in their ingredients. They can easily put you over your salt limit for the day. Choose lower-sodium products. Use other seasonings, fruit, and oils to build layers of flavor into your food.

Download the complete DASH diet.