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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. The DASH diet is rich 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. Some of what you eat now may be in this plan. Track what you eat for a few days. See how it matches to the foods below. Try to swap in food choices below. 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 type of food you should aim for. The servings will depend on how many calories you need each day. Calories are based on your weight and whether 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. Many bread products can also have a lot of salt. Check food labels.

Example of one serving includes:

Grains that provide good nutrition 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:

Balanced 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 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:

Choices that can help with sweet tooth 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 2,027 calories, 64 grams of total fat (28% of total calories from fat), and 2,035 mg of sodium.

Breakfast

  • 1/2 cup instant oatmeal
  • 1 mini whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk

Lunch

  • Chicken breast sandwich:
    • 3 ounces of chicken breast (skinless)
    • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
    • 1 slice (¾ ounces) of natural cheddar cheese, reduced fat
    • 1 large leaf of romaine lettuce
    • 2 slices of tomato
    • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, reduced-fat
  • 1 cup of cantaloupe chunks
  • 1 cup apple juice

Dinner

  • 1 cup of cooked spaghetti
  • ¾ cup of low-salt vegetarian spaghetti sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
  • Spinach salad:
    • 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves
    • ¾ cup of fresh carrots, grated
    • ¼ cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 tablespoon vinegar and oil dressing
  • ½ cup corn, cooked from frozen
  • ½ cup canned pears, packed in juice

Snack

  • ½ cup almonds, unsalted
  • ¼ cup of dried apricots
  • 1 cup fruit yogurt, fat-free, no sugar added
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. Accessed November 21, 2020.

Dash diet serving sizes. The Dash Diet Eating Plan website. Available at: http://dashdiet.org/servingsizes.asp. Accessed November 21, 2020.

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. Accessed November 21, 2020.

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 November 21, 2020.

Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 1/29/2021