DASH Diet for Blood Pressure

Control Hypertension Naturally
a journal, a blood pressure monitor, and a diet journal

DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, can help control blood pressure. People who adopt DASH can see their blood pressure drop a few points in two weeks, and over time, up to 8 to 14 points.

DASH helps you reduce sodium and enjoy nutrient-dense foods that naturally lower blood pressure because they provide potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

The standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, about one teaspoon. A lower-sodium DASH, recommended if you already have hypertension, aims for 1,500 mg a day—about two-thirds of a teaspoon. Replace table salt with your favorite herbs and spices, or lemon or lime juice for great flavor.

Food Servings for a DASH Diet
Food Group Servings Notes
Grains 6 to 8 a day
  • A serving is 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
  • Whole grains, brown rice, oats, and whole-wheat pasta for fiber and nutrients.
Vegetables 4 to 5 a day
  • A serving is 1 cup of raw leafy greens or 1/2 cup of cut raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Potassium and magnesium in vegetables (fresh or frozen) help lower blood pressure.
  • For canned, choose low-salt, or rinse veggies to reduce sodium.
Fruits 4 to 5 a day
  • A serving is 1 medium-sized fruit or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned.
  • Low in fat, high in fiber, full of nutrients.
  • For canned, rinse to remove sweetened syrup to cut calories.
Low-Fat Dairy 2 to 3 a day
  • A serving is 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces reduced-fat cheese.
Fish, poultry, or lean meat 6 or less a day
  • A serving is 1 ounce.
  • Remove skin, trim fat, and broil, poach, or roast.
  • Choose heart-healthy salmon or tuna to lower cholesterol.
Nuts, seeds, or legumes 4 to 5 a week
  • A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked beans.
  • High in calories, serving sizes are small.
  • Almonds, sunflower seeds, lentils, beans, and others in this group offer protein, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Avoid salted nuts and seeds.
Fats and oils 2 to 3 a day
  • A serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine or 1 tablespoon low-fat mayo.
  • Avoid trans fat in processed baked goods and fried foods.
  • Choose margarine and salad dressing lowest in saturated fat.
Sweets 5 or less a week
  • Choose low-fat options, such as sorbets or graham crackers.
  • If you add artificial sweeteners, use them sparingly.
Sources: 

“DASH Diet: Healthy Eating to Lower Your Blood Pressure” by Mayo Clinic Staff, www.mayoclinic.com, 5/15/10 

“High Blood Pressure and the DASH diet,” www.webmd.com, 10/18/11

Contributor

Elaine Ambrose

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