Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
The DASH Diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which is the name of the research study that looked at the effects of eating patterns on blood pressure. From this study came the DASH diet—a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. This diet was shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. The DASH diet combined with a low sodium intake can reduce blood pressure even further.
Researchers believe that it is the combination of nutrients from this eating pattern that helps to lower
blood pressure. Specifically, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber may act together to achieve this goal.
In addition to helping you manage your blood pressure, the DASH eating plan is a healthy one that will help you
manage your weight
and possibly reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. For example, research suggests that women who follow the
can reduce their risk of
A registered dietitian can help design a DASH meal plan that will work for you. Check out the one-day sample menu at the end of this page for an idea of what is in a DASH meal plan!
Depending on your calorie needs, these are the number of servings of each food group you should strive for each day under the DASH eating plan:
Grains are rich in carbohydrates, which provide quick energy for exercise. If you choose whole grains, you will also get a good dose of fiber and several vitamins and minerals. (Be aware though that many bread products are quite high in sodium. It may be better to make your own salt-free bread or buy baked goods with minimum added salt or baking powder.)
One serving equals:
Good choices include:
Vegetables are low in calories and have almost no fat. They are also excellent sources of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium.
Good choices include:
Not only are they low in fat and calories, but fruits are good sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
Dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium and protein.
Meats, poultry, and fish are packed with protein and magnesium. Be sure to buy lean cuts of meat and poultry.
One serving equals 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 ounces of cooked meats, poultry, or fish. One egg is also equivalent.
Here are some tips for eating the healthiest meats:
These foods are great sources of magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber.
Good choices include (in most cases you will want to choose unsalted varieties):
Fats and oils should be used sparingly. When choosing fats, select those lowest in saturated fat, such as oils.
Sweets rarely provide any nutrients. Select those that are low in fat and limit your overall intake of them.
It may take a little time for your taste buds to adjust to eating less sodium. Here are some tips to help you reduce your intake:
This sample menu for one day provides 1,944 calories and 31 grams of total fat (14% of total calories from fat).
makes 4 servings, serving size is 3 ounces
makes 5 servings; serving size is 1 cup
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canada's Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure.
Arch Intern Med.
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 26, 2011. Accessed June 13, 2012.
Dash diet serving sizes. The Dash Diet Eating Plan website. Available at: http://dashdiet.org/servingsizes.asp. Accessed June 22, 2012.
Following the DASH eating plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/followdash.html. Updated November 1, 2010. Accessed June 13, 2012.
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 June 13, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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