Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

The DASH Diet

Animation Movie AvailableHigh Blood Pressure and the DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a pattern of eating that has been found to lower blood pressure. DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. It is also low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. even further.

The plan works by decreasing harmful foods but also increasing good nutrients. Magnesium, potassium, calcium, and fiber are found in many foods of DASH diet. They can all play a role in decreasing blood pressure. The eating habits of DASH also have good overall health benefits. It may help you manage your weight and decrease the risk of other illnesses like heart disease.

It can be hard to change your eating habits. Luckily, DASH allows a wide variety of foods. You may be able to find healthier options for your current meals. Check out the one-day sample menu below for an idea of what is in a DASH meal plan. Consider working with a registered dietitian to help reach your goals.

How Many Servings Do You Need? ^

There are different food groups with DASH. An easy way to plan your day is to see how many servings of each types of food you should have. Your calorie intake is based on your weight and whether you are training 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 6-8 12-13
Vegetables 3-4 4-5 6
Fruits 4 4-5 6
Low-fat or fat-free dairy 2-3 2-3 3-4
Meats, poultry, and fish 3-4 or less 6 or less 6-9
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans 3 per week 4-5 per week 1
Fats and oils 2 2-3 4
Sweets 3 or less per week 5 of less per week 2 or less

Grains and Grain Products  ^

Grains are rich in carbohydrates. They give you quick energy for exercise. If you choose whole grains, you will also get a good dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Note that many bread products can also have a lot of salt. It may be better to make your own salt-free bread or buy baked goods with reduced salt or baking powder.

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. This includes potassium and magnesium which can help manage blood pressure.

Example of one serving includes:

Good choices include:

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:

Good choices include:

Low-fat or Fat-free Dairy Foods  ^

Dairy foods are excellent 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 great sources of magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber.

Examples of 1 serving:

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

Fats and Oils  ^

Fats and oils should be limited. When choosing fats, select those lowest in saturated fat, such as oils.

Examples of 1 serving:

Good choices include:

Sweets  ^

Sweets rarely provide any nutrients. Select those that are low in fat and limit your overall intake of them.

Examples of 1 serving:

Good choices include:

Be Aware of Sodium Intake  ^

Some people are sensitive to sodium in their diet. This means salt that they eat can increase their blood pressure. Lower sodium intake along with the DASH diet can reduce blood pressure further than diet alone.

It is good to know where your salt comes from. Most of your sodium intake 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)—see recipe below
  • 1 cup of scallion rice (2 grains)—see recipe below
  • 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)

 Spicy Baked Fish

makes 4 servings, serving size is 3 ounces

  • 1 pound of cod (or other fish) fillet
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of spicy seasoning, salt-free
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking oil spray.
  2. Wash and pat dry fish. Place in dish. Mix oil and seasoning in separate bowl and drizzle over fish.
  3. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
  4. Cut into 4 pieces and serve with rice.

  Scallion Rice

makes 5 servings; serving size is 1 cup

  • 4-½ cups of cooked rice (in unsalted water)
  • 1-½ teaspoons of bouillon granules, unsalted
  • ¼ cup of scallions (green onions) chopped
  1. Cook rice according to directions on the package.
  2. Combine the cooked rice, scallions, and bouillon granules, and mix well.
  3. Measure 1 cup portions and serve.
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