couple making salad
1 / 12

What DASH Can Do for You

The DASH Diet can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. In fact, DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or high blood pressure. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, the DASH Diet is worth a look. It may help you lose weight because it’s a healthier way of eating. You won’t feel deprived. You’ll have lots of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products while cutting back on fats, cholesterol, and sweets.

Swipe to advance
spilled salt on table
2 / 12

Cut the Salt

Too much salt causes fluids to build up in your body. This puts extra pressure on your heart. On DASH, you’ll lower your sodium to either 2,300 or 1,500 milligrams a day, depending on your health, age, race, and any medical conditions. Here are some ways to cut back:

  • Choose low- or no-sodium foods and condiments.
  • Watch foods that are cured, smoked, or pickled.
  • Limit processed foods. They're often high in sodium.

 

Swipe to advance
assortment of grains and cereals
3 / 12

Get Your Grains

Eating whole grains like whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and popcorn is a good way to get fiber. Some fiber helps lower your cholesterol and also keeps you feeling full longer. For a diet of 2,000 calories per day: Eat six to eight servings a day. One serving is a slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta, rice, or oatmeal (about the size of half a baseball). 

Swipe to advance
fresh green beans
4 / 12

Load Your Plate With Vegetables

Vegetables give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They don't have a lot of calories or fat -- a good recipe for controlling blood pressure. Have four to five servings of vegetables a day. That’s 1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice for each serving. Iffy about veggies? Start by adding a salad at lunch and dinner.

Swipe to advance
man holding bowl of fresh fruit
5 / 12

Don't Forget Fruit

Fruits offer lots of fiber and vitamins that are good for your heart. Many also have potassium and magnesium, which lower blood pressure. Have four to five servings of fruit every day. One serving is a medium apple or orange, or 1/2 cup of frozen, fresh, or canned fruit. One-half cup of fruit juice or 1/4 cup of dried fruit also counts as a serving. Try adding bananas or berries to your breakfast cereal or have fruit for dessert.

Swipe to advance
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
6 / 12

Have Some Yogurt

Low- and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk, buttermilk, and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese -- about the size of three dice.

Swipe to advance
tuna steak and vegetables
7 / 12

Go for Lean Meats and Fish

You can still eat meat. Just make sure it’s lean. Meats are good sources of protein and magnesium. Skinless chicken and fish are also on the menu. Limit your servings to six or fewer a day. A serving is 1 ounce of cooked meat, fish, or poultry, or one egg. A good rule is to have no more than 3 ounces of meat at a meal -- the size of an iPhone. Limit egg yolks to no more than four in a week.

Swipe to advance
healthy bean salad
8 / 12

Add Nuts and Legumes

Nuts, legumes, and seeds are rich in magnesium, protein, and fiber. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. Enjoy as many as five servings of these foods each week. That’s 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or a 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans or peas in each serving. Grab a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack. Or add beans to your salads or soups.

Swipe to advance
woman pouring oil on salad
9 / 12

Cut Back on Fats and Oils

Eating too many fats can cause high cholesterol and heart disease. With DASH, you’ll limit fats and oils to two to three servings a day. A serving is 1 teaspoon of margarine or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing. When cooking, use vegetable oils like olive or canola instead of butter.

Swipe to advance
berry sorbet with fruit
10 / 12

Watch the Sweets

You don't have to skip all sweets. But you should try to have five or fewer servings a week. That’s 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam, 1 cup of lemonade, or 1/2 cup of sorbet at a time. Choose sweets that are low in fat, such as gelatin, hard candy, or maple syrup. Instead of high-fat desserts, try having fresh fruit over low-fat ice cream.

Swipe to advance
peeled banana
11 / 12

Get Enough Potassium

Potassium is another important part of the DASH diet. Getting enough of this mineral may help lower your blood pressure. It's best to get potassium from food instead of supplements. Aim for 4,700 milligrams (mg) a day. Try these potassium-rich foods:

  • Potato: 926 mg
  • Sweet potato: 540 mg
  • Banana: 420 mg
  • Avocado (1/2): 345 mg
  • Cooked spinach (1/2 cup): 290 mg
Swipe to advance
food diary in kitchen
12 / 12

Getting Started on DASH

DASH isn’t hard to follow, but you’ll have to make some changes. Start by keeping a food diary for a few days and see how your diet stacks up. Then start making changes. You’ll aim for around 2,000 calories a day. It may vary some depending on your body and how active you are. Ask your doctor for advice.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/10/2016 Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on February 10, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1)         Ariel Skelley/The Image Bank

2)         Pink Pixel Photography/Flickr

3)         Maximilian Stock Ltd./Photolibrary

4)         Stockbyte

5)         Huntstock/Photodisc

6)         Henrik Weis/Digital Vision

7)         Joff Lee/Photolibrary

8)         Visage

9)         Burke/Triolo Productions/FoodPix

10)        Jessica Dixon/StockFood Creative

11)        Photodisc

12)        Annabelle Breakey/Photodisc

 

SOURCES:

 

American Heart Association: "Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans than Red Meat," "Fruits and Vegetables," "Know Your Fats," "Shaking the Salt Habit," "What is a Serving?" "Whole Grains and Fiber."

 

Azadbakht, L. Diabetes Care, January 2011.

 

Chen, S. Circulation, September 2010.

 

FamilyDoctor: "Diet Choices to Prevent Cancer."

 

Miller, E. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, November 2006.

 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH," "What Is the DASH Eating Plan?" "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH."

 

USDA National Nutrient Database.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on February 10, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.