The DASH diet is an eating plan designed to lower blood pressure — it’s an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is endorsed by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as well as the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Mayo Clinic to reduce hypertension and lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and other conditions.
This long-term diet focuses on limiting sodium intake, portion control, and eating a variety of plant-based foods to get the proper nutrition. People who follow the DASH diet also find that they lose weight, lower their cholesterol levels, and reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
The average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day or more. That’s a lot of sodium— no wonder over a third of American adults have hypertension. The standard DASH diet recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day— or one teaspoon of salt. The lower sodium DASH diet and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day for all adults.
If you cut out processed foods and snacks, you’re already ahead of the game. Those foods contain exorbitant amounts of sodium that you can do without. Don’t add salt when cooking soups, rice, pasta, or hot cereals. When you sit down to eat, limit adding salt to your food to one or two shakes.
The DASH diet is flexible. It does not require any special foods, and you can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. Foods that are allowed:
Foods to avoid:
Foods should be:
The following table shows the recommended eating plan for a 2,000-calorie diet.
|Type of food|
Servings on a 2,000-calorie diet
|Grains and grain products (at least three whole grain foods per day)|
|Low-fat or non-fat dairy foods|
|Lean meats, fish, poultry|
2 or less
|Nuts, seeds, and legumes|
4-5 per week
|Fats and sweets|
Potassium plays a unique role in regulating blood pressure. It helps to reduce blood pressure by balancing out the effects of salt. Salt causes fluid retention, whereas potassium helps to control the amount of fluid stored in the body. The more fluids in the body, the higher the blood pressure.
The DASH diet recommends eating 4,700 mg of potassium daily to further lower blood pressure.
Some examples of foods that are rich in potassium include:
There are many ways to lower sodium when shopping, cooking and eating out.
The DASH diet is a long-term diet. Think of it more as a lifestyle. To get the long-term benefits from the menu, you need to make sure that you stick to it. The following tips will help to ease you into this healthy lifestyle choice and keep you there.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.