It’s diet advice that’s been proven to lower blood pressure: Eat more fruit, vegetables, legumes and low fat dairy – hallmark foods of the DASH diet – while curbing sweets and red meat. (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.)
Studies also suggest that the DASH diet helps guard against weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, heart failure and stroke.
In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked the DASH diet as “best overall diet” based on seven categories, including its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.
The DASH diet is easy to follow – just double your fruit and veggies, add legumes to your menu, use low fat dairy and cut your saturated fat and salt intake. Here’s how to do it.
Increase fruit and vegetables
At breakfast toss chopped banana, raisins, or chopped fresh fruit into a bowl of whole grain cereal. Puree frozen berries with low fat milk or unsweetened soy beverage to make a fruit smoothie. Carry fruit with you for a midday snack.
Add sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrot and spinach leaves to sandwiches. Snack on raw vegetables with hummus or a low fat creamy dip.
Add quick cooking greens like spinach, kale, rapini or Swiss chard to soups and pasta sauces. Roast or grill eggplant, peppers, asparagus, fennel, onion and mushrooms. Serve sweet potato instead of white potato.
Add whole grains
Ideally, choose breads and breakfast cereals made from 100 per cent whole grains. Your second best bet: Choose a product that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list.
Try pasta made from whole-wheat, whole spelt or whole kamut. Substitute cooked bulgur, quinoa, farro, freekeh, wild rice or brown rice for white rice.
Add oats to pancakes, ground flaxseed to muffins, bulgur and barley to soups and stews. Replace half the white flour with whole-wheat flour in baked good recipes.
Include low fat dairy
Aim for two to three servings per day. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup (250 ml) of skim or 1% milk or ¾ cup (175 ml) of low fat yogurt or kefir.
Eat beans, lentils and nuts
Aim to include four to five servings of these plant-based foods in your diet each week. One serving is equivalent to 1/2 cup of cooked beans or 1/3 cup of nuts.
A few tips: Add cooked black beans to omelettes and frittatas. Toss cooked lentils into a leafy green salad. Add chickpeas to Greek salad for a boost of protein and fibre.
Use a variety of beans when making chili. Try chickpeas, black beans and soy beans in addition to kidney beans. Add cooked black beans to tacos and burritos. Use half the amount of lean ground meat you normally would and make up the difference with beans.
Keep your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams. To do so, rely less on packaged foods and restaurant meals.
Read nutrition labels on food products and choose brands with lower amounts of sodium per serving. A daily value of 5% or less means one serving of the food is low in sodium.
Limit refined carbs
A steady intake of refined (white) starches and sugars can cause salt retention and elevate blood pressure. Limit sweets to no more than once or twice per week.
Serving up the DASH Diet
7-8 servings/day; 1 Serving = 1 slice 100% whole grain bread, ½ cup cooked brown rice/quinoa, ½ cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of whole grain ready-to-eat breakfast cereal
4-5 servings/day; 1 Serving = 1 cup raw leafy vegetable, ½ cup cooked or raw vegetables, ¾ cup vegetable juice
4-5 servings/day; 1 Serving = 1 medium fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, ½ cup fresh/frozen fruit
Low Fat Dairy
2-3 servings/day; 1 Serving = 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 cup 0-1% plain yogurt, 1.5 oz. low fat cheese
Meat, Poultry, Fish
2 servings or less/day; 1 Serving = 3 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry, fish
Nuts, Seeds, Beans
4-5 servings per week; 1 Serving = 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tbsp. seeds, ½ cup cooked dry beans (e.g. kidney beans, black beans, chick peas, lentils)
Fats & Oils
2-3 servings/day; 1 Serving = 1 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 tsp. margarine, 1 tbsp. salad dressing
Daily servings are based on 2000 calories per day.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.