DASH stands for D ietary A pproaches to S top H ypertension. It is a way of eating that can lower blood pressure. DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. These foods are high in minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and fiber. They all play a role in blood pressure control as well as your overall health.

DASH allows a wide range of foods. You may find that some of what you already eat is in this plan. Track what you eat for a few days. See how it matches to the recommended food below. Try to swap unhealthy foods for better choices. A registered dietitian can also help you build a meal plan if you are having trouble.

How Many Servings Do You Need?

An easy way to plan your day is to see how many servings of each types of food you should have. The servings will depend on how many calories you need each day. Calories are based on your weight and if your goal is to lose or maintain weight. Once you know how many calories you need you can see how many servings you need of each food group:

Food Group Number of Servings Per Day if you eat:
1,600 calories per day 2,000 calories per day 3,100 calories per day
Grains and grain products 6 6 to 8 12 to 13
Vegetables 3 to 4 4 to 5 6
Fruits 4 4 to 5 6
Low-fat or fat-free dairy 2 to 3 2 to 3 3 to 4
Meats, poultry, and fish 3 to 4 or less 6 or less 6 to 9
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans 3 per week 4 to 5 per week 1
Fats and oils 2 2 to 3 4
Sweets 3 or less per week 5 of less per week 2 or less
 

Grains and Grain Products

Grains are a type of carbohydrate. They give you quick energy for activity and basic body needs. Whole grains also have a good dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Note that many bread products can also have a lot of salt. Check food labels.

Example of one serving includes:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 ounce of dry cereal—½ to 1-¼ cup; check the Nutrition Facts label on the cereal box
  • ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal

Good choices include:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Pita bread
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain cereals or Oatmeal
  • Grits
  • Low-fat, whole grain crackers and bread sticks
  • Air-popped popcorn
 

Vegetables

Vegetables are low in calories and have almost no fat. They are also excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They have plenty of potassium and magnesium.

Example of one serving includes:

  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup of cooked vegetables
  • ½ cup of vegetable juice
 

Fruits

Fruits are low in fat and calories. They are also good sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

Examples of one serving of fruit include:

  • ½ cup of fruit juice
  • 1 medium piece of fruit
  • ¼ cup of dried fruit
  • ½ cup of fresh (cut up), frozen, or canned fruit
 

Low-fat or Fat-free Dairy Foods

Dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein.

Examples of 1 serving include:

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1-½ ounces of cheese

Good choices include:

  • Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat buttermilk
  • Fat-free or low-fat regular or frozen yogurt
  • Fat-free or low-fat cheese (Remember, though that most cheeses—including cottage cheese—can be quite high in salt.)
 

Meats, Poultry, and Fish

Meats, poultry, and fish are packed with protein and magnesium. Be sure to buy lean cuts of meat and poultry.

Examples of 1 serving:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces of cooked meats, poultry, or fish
  • One egg

Here are some tips for eating the healthiest meats:

  • Choose lean or low fat meats.
  • Trim away fat that you can see.
  • Cook food in a low fat way. Broil, roast, or boil are good choices.
  • Remove skin from chicken or turkey before eating.
 

Nuts, Seeds, and Dry Beans

Nuts, seeds, and beans are good sources of protein and fiber. They also have magnesium and potassium.

Examples of 1 serving:

  • 1/3 cup or 1-½ ounces of nuts
  • 2 tablespoons or ½ ounce of seeds
  • ½ cup of cooked dry beans

In most cases, you will want to choose unsalted varieties. Good choices include:

  • Nuts: almonds, filberts, mixed nuts, peanuts, and walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dry beans: kidney beans, black beans, lentils, peas
 

Fats and Oils

Limit fats and oils. Choose those lowest in saturated fat, such as oils. Avoid trans fats.

Examples of 1 serving:

  • 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
  • 1 tablespoon of lowfat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

Good choices include:

  • Soft margarine
  • Low-fat mayonnaise
  • Light salad dressing
  • Vegetable oils such as olive, corn, canola, safflower
 

Sweets

Sweets have little or no nutrition. Limit them in your diet. Choose those that are low in fat.

Examples of 1 serving:

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam
  • ½ cup of sorbet, gelatin dessert
  • 8 ounces of lemonade

Good choices include:

  • Real maple syrup
  • Jellies and jams
  • Fruit-flavored gelatin
  • Candy: jelly beans and hard candy
  • Fruit punch
  • Sorbet
 

Be Aware of Sodium Intake

Salt in the diet can increase blood pressure for some people. Lower salt intake may help to decrease blood pressure along with the DASH diet.

Most of the salt in your diet does not come from the salt you sprinkle on food. Processed and canned foods as well as fast foods are some of the highest sources. To keep your sodium intake in check:

  • Choose low- or reduced-sodium versions of foods and condiments.
  • Read labels on fruits and vegetables that are frozen or canned. Avoid those stored in syrup or high in salt.
  • Use fresh meats, poultry, and fish. Avoid canned, smoked, or processed meats or fish.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts label on breakfast cereals and snacks. Choose those lowest in sodium.
  • Limit cured foods. This includes bacon and ham.
  • Limit foods packed in brine. This includes pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut.
  • Limit condiments. MSG, mustard, horseradish, ketchup, and barbecue sauce can all be very high in salt.
  • Cut the amount of salt you add to your food in half. Decrease this amount more over time.
  • Instead of seasoning with salt, use other sources of flavor. Herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends can help.
  • Do not add salt when you are cooking rice, pasta, and hot cereal. Cut back on instant mixes of these foods. They are often high in salt.
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna. It will help to remove some salt.
  • Cut back on convenience foods. This includes frozen dinners, packaged mixes, and canned soups or broths.

Putting It All Together

This sample menu for one day provides 1,944 calories and 31 grams of total fat (14% of total calories from fat).

Breakfast

  • 1 lowfat granola bar (½ grain)
  • 1 medium banana (1 fruit)
  • 1 cup of fruit yogurt, fat-free, no sugar added (1 dairy)
  • 1 cup of orange juice (1-½ fruit)
  • 1 cup of fat-free milk (1 dairy)

Lunch

  • Turkey breast sandwich: 3 ounces of turkey breast (1 meat), 2 slices of whole wheat bread (2 grains), 2 slices (1-½ ounces) of natural cheddar cheese, reduced fat (1 dairy), 1 large leaf of romaine lettuce (¼ vegetable), 2 slices of tomato (½ vegetable), 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise, lowfat (2/3 fat), 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 1 cup of broccoli, steamed from frozen (2 vegetables)
  • 1 medium orange (1 fruit)

Dinner

  • 3 ounces of spicy baked fish (1 fish)
  • 1 cup of scallion rice (2 grains)
  • ½ cup of spinach, cooked from frozen (1 vegetable)
  • 1 cup of carrots, cooked from frozen (2 vegetables)
  • 1 small whole wheat roll (1 grain)
  • 1 teaspoon of soft margarine (1 fat)
  • 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)

Snack

  • 2 large rectangle graham crackers (1 grain)
  • 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)
  • ¼ cup of dried apricots (1 fruit)
RESOURCES:

Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
http://www.choosemyplate.gov

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 15, 2018. Accessed October 2, 2018.

Dash diet serving sizes. The Dash Diet Eating Plan website. Available at: http://dashdiet.org/servingsizes.asp. Accessed January 27, 2016.

Description of the DASH eating plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash. Updated September 16, 2015. Accessed October 2, 2018.

Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/how_make_dash.html. Accessed October 2, 2018.

7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:851-857.

Last reviewed January 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 3/27/2014