Lowering Blood Pressure with the DASH Diet

Many people take medication to keep their blood pressure in check; however lowering blood pressure using the DASH diet will save you money and improve your health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when either your systolic (top number) reaches 140 mmHg or higher, or your diastolic (bottom number) reaches 90 mmHg or higher. The Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been shown by recent studies to help lower high blood pressure, especially when combined with reducing sodium intake. The Dash diet follows heart healthy guidelines.

Limit Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) conducted several studies showing that blood pressures were reduced with diets that were low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. Foods high in saturated fat include high-fat meats and dairy products such as red meat, bacon, cheese, and cream. In the DASH studies conducted that showed positive results, diets consisted of about 27 percent total fat and 6 percent saturated fat. Cholesterol was limited to 150 mg per day.

Eat High Amounts of Fruits and Vegetables

The DASH eating plan recommends four to five servings of fruits and four to five servings of vegetables per day (for a 2,000 calorie diet). A serving size consists of one cup of leafy vegetables, one half cup of cooked or raw vegetables, one half cup of vegetable juice, one medium piece of fruit, or one half cup of fresh fruit or fruit juice.

Increase Whole Grains

The DASH diet plan includes six to eight servings of grains (for a 2,000 calorie diet) consisting of mainly whole grains since they are a good source of fiber and nutrients. A serving of grains consists of one slice of whole grain bread, approximately one ounce of dry cereal (actual amounts will vary so check the portion size on the food label), or one half cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.

Consume Low-Fat Milk Products

Fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products are emphasized in the DASH eating plan; for a 2,000 calorie diet, two to three servings are recommended. A serving consists of one cup of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt, or one and one half ounces of reduced fat cheese. Some milk products are also good sources of potassium, a nutrient that is emphasized in the DASH diet.

Include Nuts, Seeds and Legumes

The DASH diet includes nuts, seeds, and legumes five servings per week (for a 2,000 calorie diet). Examples of servings include two tablespoons of peanut butter or seeds, one third cup of nuts, or one half cup of cooked legumes (dried peas and beans).

Limit Red Meats, Sweets and Added Sugars

Red meats, sweets, added sugars, and sugary beverages are limited in the DASH diet. Lean meats, such as poultry and fish, are emphasized. Six servings or less of lean meat per day are included in the DASH diet; sweets and added sugars are limited to and five servings or less per week (for a 2,000 calorie diet). A serving of meat is considered one ounce and a serving of sweets is two tablespoons of sugar, jelly or jam.


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