By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
One of the best ways to lower blood pressure, and maintain optimal blood pressure, is to eat healthy. Evidence-based research over the past two decades shows that the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan is one of the healthiest diets around. U.S. News & World Report Diet Ranking has consistently ranked the DASH Eating Plan in the top spots for best heart-healthy diets, best diets for healthy eating, and overall best diet. Not only is this way of eating healthy, but it is also very effective. You’ll see results in blood pressure-lowering in as little as two to four weeks. No special foods are required with this eating plan—just gradual lifestyle changes with what you choose to eat.
What do you get to eat in the DASH Eating Plan?
The DASH Eating Plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts/seeds, lowfat dairy, fish, and poultry. These foods deliver essential blood pressure-lowering minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Red meat and foods/beverages high in added sugars are limited. It should come as no surprise, but the DASH Eating Plan contains less salt and sodium than most other diets. The overall sodium recommendation is to aim for less than 2300 milligrams per day, with higher-risk individuals needing closer to 1500 milligrams or less per day.
A typical 1,600 calorie per day meal plan would look like this:
- Whole grains: 5-6 (1/2 cup or 1 ounce) servings
- Vegetables: 3-4 servings
- Fruit: 3- 4 servings
- Dairy: 2-3 servings
- Lean meats/poultry/fish: 3-6 (1 ounce) servings
- Nuts/seeds/legumes: 3 or more servings per week
- Fats & oils: 2 servings
- Sweets/added sugars: 0-1 servings
8 Ways to Ease Into to DASH:
- Eat vegetables at least two meals each day. Gradually increase the amount at meals.
- Eat fruit for a snack. Top cereal with fruit.
- Eat fruit for dessert in place of sweets.
- Switch to whole grain versions of starchy foods.
- Start with one vegetarian or meatless meal per week, then increase to two or more meals.
- Choose poultry or fish in place of red meat. Limit red meat and processed meats to two servings per week.
- Choose whole foods and minimally processed foods as much as possible.
- For packaged and canned foods look for low-sodium and no-salt-added versions.
For more detailed information on following the DASH Eating Plan, check out these resources:
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/new_dash.pdf (longer version with meal plans)
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf (shorter version)
or check out these books by Marla Heller, MS, RD:
- The DASH Diet Action Plan
- The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution
- The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook
- The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution
- The DASH Diet Younger You