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The DASH Diet

Animation Movie AvailableHigh Blood Pressure and the DASH Diet

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:

Good choices include:

 

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:

 

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:

 

Low-fat or Fat-free Dairy Foods

Dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein.

Examples of 1 serving include:

Good choices include:

 

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:

Here are some tips for eating the healthiest meats:

 

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:

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

 

Fats and Oils

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

Examples of 1 serving:

Good choices include:

 

Sweets

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

Examples of 1 serving:

Good choices include:

 

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:

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