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Home > Wellness > Health Library > High Blood Pressure: Using the DASH Diet
an eating plan that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary
Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is high blood
eating plan focuses on foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and
magnesium. These nutrients can lower blood pressure. The foods that are highest
in these nutrients are fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds,
and beans. Taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements instead of
eating these foods does not have the same effect.
Low-fat and fat-free milk and milk
2 to 3 servings a day
A serving is 8 ounces of milk, 1 cup of
yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
4 to 5 servings a day
A serving is 1 medium-sized piece of fruit,
1/2 cup chopped or canned fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of
fruit juice. Choose fruit more often than fruit juice.
A serving is 1 cup of lettuce or raw leafy
vegetables, 1/2 cup of chopped or cooked vegetables, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of
vegetable juice. Choose vegetables more often than vegetable juice.
7 to 8 servings a day
A serving is 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of
dry cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal. Try to choose
whole-grain products as much as possible.
Meat, poultry, fish
No more than 2 servings a day
A serving is 3 ounces, about the size of a
deck of cards
Legumes, nuts, seeds
4 to 5 servings a week
A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons
of seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas.
Fats and oils
A serving is 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of salad
Sweets and added sugars
5 servings a week or less
A serving is 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam,
1/2 ounce of jelly beans (about 20), or 1 cup of lemonade.
The DASH eating plan is one of several lifestyle changes
your doctor may recommend. Your doctor may also want you to decrease the amount
of salt you eat. Lowering salt while following the DASH plan can lower blood
pressure even further than just the DASH plan alone.
For more information on nutrition for high blood pressure, see Nutrition for High Blood Pressure and Sample Menu for the DASH Diet.
Taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium
supplements will lower my blood pressure just as well as the DASH plan
Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are
nutrients that lower blood pressure. It's good to get these nutrients from a balanced diet. Taking supplements does not have the same
Fat-free milk is an important part of the DASH
A glass of fat-free milk
has only 80 calories and no fat and is packed with nutrients that
lower blood pressure.
Continue to Why?
Not eating enough potassium, calcium, and
magnesium may help cause high blood pressure. These nutrients come from
fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
believe that it is the combination of 8 to 10 servings a day of fruits and
vegetables and 3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy
products that causes the DASH eating plan to lower blood
pressure. Simply taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium
supplements does not lower blood pressure.
All fresh fruits and vegetables
Low-fat and nonfat dairy
Legumes (cooked dried beans and peas),
seeds, nuts, halibut, milk, yogurt, brown rice, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas,
watermelon, leafy green vegetables
A balanced, low-fat eating plan
that contains 8 to 10 servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables and 3
servings each day of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods will
help me lower my high blood pressure.
Many people don't get
enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Eating 8 to 10
servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables and 3 servings each day of
low-fat or nonfat dairy products can lower blood
Continue to How?
have more success in changing your eating habits if you make a plan. The plan
should include long-term and short-term goals as well as ideas for getting past
barriers—things that might get in the way of changing your eating
What is your long-term goal? A long-term goal is something you
want to reach in 6 to 12 months. When you have high blood pressure, the
long-term goal is to lower your blood pressure to a specific level. Talk to
your doctor about what your specific long-term goal should be.
What are the short-term goals that will help you reach your long-term goal?
Short-term goals keep you going day to day. They are usually goals you hope to
reach tomorrow or next week.
Look at the DASH eating plan. Come up with a short-term goal
that looks pretty easy. For example, you might decide that your first
short-term goal will be to eat 4 servings of vegetables every day. As soon as
you've made those extra vegetables a habit, you can add another short-term
some ideas for eating with the DASH plan:
Many people find that it helps to write down
everything they eat every day. That way they can easily see how much of each
food group they've eaten and where they need to add or cut back
A registered dietitian can work with you to
change your eating habits and help you plan menus that follow the DASH eating
style. Ask your doctor to recommend someone.
Take the time to think about what things could get in the way
of your success. These are called barriers. And by thinking about them now,
you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.
of a barrier might be eating in restaurants. If you do that a lot, you may want
to plan ahead for how you will stay on your DASH plan when you eat out.
Possible solutions could include:
It's perfectly normal to try something, stop it,
and then get mad at yourself. Lots of people have to try and try again before
they reach their goals.
Having a lot of support can make it easier to change your
eating habits. For example, if family members tell you that they love how
you're getting healthier, you may be motivated to keep up the good work. Here
are some other ways to get support:
It can be frustrating to start a new project like
healthy eating and then have to stop because something gets in the way—illness,
travel, or even just boredom. Your goal is to get back in the habit and make it
a routine part of your life.
you can't create a habit overnight. Keep at it, even if you slip up along the
way. It can take as long as 3 months of repetition to form a habit, so every
day is a step in the right direction.
you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a
learning experience. Figure out what happened. Why did you stop? Think of ways
to get yourself going again. Learn from your slip-ups so that you can keep on
toward your goal of healthy eating.
The best way to
deal with barriers is to wait until they happen and then worry about how to get
By thinking about barriers ahead of
time, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen. And then
you'll be more likely to have success in getting around them.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read these
tips on following the DASH eating plan, you are ready to
change your eating habits to lower your high blood pressure.
For more sample menus and recipes for the DASH eating
plan, contact the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
More information about high blood pressure can be found
in the topic:
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2006). Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH (NIH Publication No. 06-4082). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf.
April 5, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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