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 DASH diet can reduce their risk of heart failure. A registered dietitian can help design a DASH meal plan that will work for you. Check out the one-day sample menu below for an idea of what is in a DASH meal plan.
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 ounce of dry cereal—½ to 1-¼ cup; check the Nutrition Facts label on the cereal box
- ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal
- 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
- ½ cup of cooked vegetables
- ½ cup of vegetable juice
- Greens, like collards, kale, and spinach
- Beans, including green beans and lima beans
- Sweet potatoes
- ½ cup of fruit juice
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- ¼ cup of dried fruit
- ½ cup of fresh (cut up), frozen, or canned fruit
- Citrus, such as oranges and orange juice, and grapefruit and grapefruit juice
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 1-½ ounces of cheese
- Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk
- Fat-free or low-fat buttermilk
- Fat-free or low-fat regular or frozen yogurt
- Fat-free or low-fat cheese (Remember, though that most cheeses—including cottage cheese—can be quite high in salt.)
- Select lean meats
- Trim away visible fat
- Use lowfat cooking methods, such as broiling, roasting, or boiling
- Remove skin from poultry before eating
- Try not to eat more than 4 egg yolks per week since they are high in cholesterol
- 1/3 cup or 1-½ ounces of nuts
- 2 tablespoons or ½ ounce of seeds
- ½ cup of cooked dry beans
- Nuts: almonds, filberts, mixed nuts, peanuts, and walnuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Dry beans: kidney beans, black beans, lentils, peas
- 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
- 1 tablespoon of lowfat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons of salad dressing
- 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
- Soft margarine (The softer the margarine, the less trans fatty acids it has; trans fats are as dangerous to your heart as saturated fats found in butter.)
- Low-fat mayonnaise
- Light salad dressing
- Vegetable oils: olive, corn, canola, safflower
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam
- ½ cup of sorbet, gelatin dessert
- 8 ounces of lemonade
- Maple syrup
- Jellies and jams
- Fruit-flavored gelatin
- Candy: jelly beans and hard candy
- Fruit punch
- Choose low- or reduced-sodium versions of foods and condiments when available.
- Buy fruits and vegetables fresh, frozen plain, or canned in water, with no salt added.
- Use fresh meats, poultry, and fish rather than canned, smoked, or processed versions.
- Check the Nutrition Facts label on breakfast cereals and snacks. Choose those lowest in sodium.
- Limit cured foods, such as bacon and ham.
- Limit foods packed in brine, such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut.
- Limit condiments, such as MSG, mustard, horseradish, ketchup, and barbecue sauce.
- Add half the amount of salt than you normally would to your foods; gradually decrease this amount.
- Instead of seasoning with salt, use other sources of flavor—herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends.
- Do not add salt when you are cooking rice, pasta, and hot cereal. Cut back on instant mixes of these foods; they are usually high in salt.
- Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some sodium
- Cut back on convenience foods, such as frozen dinners, packaged mixes, and canned soups or broths.
Putting It All TogetherThis sample menu for one day provides 1,944 calories and 31 grams of total fat (14% of total calories from fat).
- 1 lowfat granola bar (½ grain)
- 1 medium banana (1 fruit)
- 1 cup of fruit yogurt, fat-free, no sugar added (1 dairy)
- 1 cup of orange juice (1-½ fruit)
- 1 cup of fat-free milk (1 dairy)
- Turkey breast sandwich: 3 ounces of turkey breast (1 meat), 2 slices of whole wheat bread (2 grains), 2 slices (1-½ ounces) of natural cheddar cheese, reduced fat (1 dairy), 1 large leaf of romaine lettuce (¼ vegetable), 2 slices of tomato (½ vegetable), 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise, lowfat (2/3 fat), 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
- 1 cup of broccoli, steamed from frozen (2 vegetables)
- 1 medium orange (1 fruit)
- 3 ounces of spicy baked fish (1 fish)—see recipe below
- 1 cup of scallion rice (2 grains)—see recipe below
- ½ cup of spinach, cooked from frozen (1 vegetable)
- 1 cup of carrots, cooked from frozen (2 vegetables)
- 1 small whole wheat roll (1 grain)
- 1 teaspoon of soft margarine (1 fat)
- 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)
- 2 large rectangle graham crackers (1 grain)
- 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)
- ¼ cup of dried apricots (1 fruit)
- 1 pound of cod (or other fish) fillet
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of spicy seasoning, salt-free
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking oil spray.
- Wash and pat dry fish. Place in dish. Mix oil and seasoning in separate bowl and drizzle over fish.
- Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
- Cut into 4 pieces and serve with rice.
- 4-½ cups of cooked rice (in unsalted water)
- 1-½ teaspoons of bouillon granules, unsalted
- ¼ cup of scallions (green onions) chopped
- Cook rice according to directions on the package.
- Combine the cooked rice, scallions, and bouillon granules, and mix well.
- Measure 1 cup portions and serve.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Dietitians of Canada
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 3, 2013. Accessed March 27, 2014.
Dash diet serving sizes. The Dash Diet Eating Plan website. Available at: http://dashdiet.org/servingsizes.asp. Updated March 6, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2014.
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 July 2, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2014.
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%5Fmake%5Fdash.html. Accessed March 27, 2014.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:851-857.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 03/27/2014