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:
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:
- 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
Grains that provide good nutrition include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Pita bread
- Brown rice
- Whole grain cereals or Oatmeal
- Low-fat, whole grain crackers and bread sticks
- Air-popped popcorn
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 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
Balanced 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:
- 2.5 to 3.5 ounces of cooked meats, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg
Here are some tips for 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 1.5 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:
- Low-fat mayonnaise
- Light salad dressing
- Vegetable oils such as olive, corn, canola, safflower
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
Choices that can help with sweet tooth include:
- Real maple syrup
- Jellies and jams
- Fruit-flavored gelatin
- Candy: jelly beans and hard candy
- Fruit punch
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.
- Avoid fruits of vegetables that are stored in syrup or high in salt. Read labels on frozen or canned options.
- Opt for 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 2,027 calories, 64 grams of total fat (28% of total calories from fat), and 2,035 mg of sodium.
- 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
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
- 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
- ½ cup almonds, unsalted
- ¼ cup of dried apricots
- 1 cup fruit yogurt, fat-free, no sugar added
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