One of the steps your doctor may recommend to lower your high blood pressure is to start using the DASH diet.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (high blood pressure). The diet is simple:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
- Cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats
- Eat more whole-grain foods, fish, poultry, and nuts
- Limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats
In research studies, people who were on the DASH diet lowered their blood pressure within 2 weeks.
Another diet -- DASH-Sodium -- calls for cutting back sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day (about 2/3 teaspoon). Studies of people on the DASH-Sodium plan lowered their blood pressure as well.
Starting the DASH Diet
The DASH diet calls for a certain number of servings daily from various food groups. The number of servings you require may vary, depending on how many calories you need per day.
You can make gradual changes. For instance, start by limiting yourself to 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon). Then, once your body has adjusted to the diet, cut back to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (about 2/3 teaspoon). These amounts include all sodium eaten, including sodium in food products as well as in what you cook with or add at the table.
Dash Diet Tips
- Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and at dinner.
- Add a serving of fruit to your meals or as a snack. Canned and dried fruits are easy to use, but check that they don't have added sugar.
- Use only half your typical serving of butter, margarine, or salad dressing, and use low-fat or fat-free condiments.
- Drink low-fat or skim dairy products any time you would normally use full-fat or cream.
- Limit meat to 6 ounces a day. Make some meals vegetarian.
- Add more vegetables and dry beans to your diet.
- Instead of snacking on chips or sweets, eat unsalted pretzels or nuts, raisins, low-fat and fat-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted plain popcorn with no butter, and raw vegetables.
- Read food labels to choose products that are lower in sodium.
Staying on the DASH Diet
The DASH diet suggests getting:
Grains: 7-8 daily servings
Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
Meat, poultry, and fish: 2 or less daily servings
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4-5 servings per week
Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings
Sweets: try to limit to less than 5 servings per week
How Much Is a Serving?
When you're trying to follow a healthy eating plan, it helps to know how much of a certain kind of food is considered a "serving." One serving is:
- 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
- 1 slice bread
- 1 cup raw vegetables or fruit
- 1/2 cup cooked veggies or fruit
- 8 ounces of milk
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or any other oil)
- 3 ounces cooked meat
- 3 ounces tofu