Your nutrition affects your blood pressure. Healthy nutrition with low sodium intake can contribute to the prevention and management of high blood pressure. The DASH diet is heart-healthy, rich in healthy and low-caloric foods, and low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugar.
The DASH eating plan is designed to lower high blood pressure. It emphasized high-fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains along with fat-free, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and healthy oils sources. Besides, the diet encourages you to limit foods high in unhealthy fats, high-sugar, high-sodium, and processed foods.
Diet, lifestyle changes, and physical activity are equally important to prevent, treat and manage high blood pressure in addition to medication if prescribed by your doctor. You can gradually bring the DASH diet into your daily nutrition to make it easy and sustainable.
The DASH eating plan is recommended by health authorities, including the American Heart Association. Besides lowering blood pressure, it may help with high cholesterol and Diabetes. Still, we recommend consulting your doctor before changing your nutrition, medication, and lifestyle.
More importantly, the DASH eating plan has been shown to reduce blood pressure. In this article, you'll learn what foods are included in the DASH eating plan and tips to ease your adaptation to the diet
DASH Diet: what is it?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan aims to manage blood pressure. It is a simple and heart-healthy diet recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
The DASH diet is low in:
- Saturated and total fat;
- Added sugar;
- Red meat.
The DASH diet is high in:
- Vegetables and fruits;
- Potassium, calcium, and magnesium — minerals help lower blood pressure;
- Low-fat dairy products;
- Whole grains;
- Seeds and nuts.
Recommended daily servings in DASH diet
Below mentioned servings are based on 2000 calories a day DASH eating plan. Your daily caloric needs can differ since many factors, including your age, body composition, and physical activity level metabolism, affect your caloric needs.
- Grains and grain products. 7- 8 daily servings per day;
- Vegetables. 4-5 daily servings per day;
- Fruits. 4-5 daily servings per day;
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products. 2-3 servings per day;
- Lean meats, poultry, and fish. 2 or fewer servings per day;
- Nuts, seeds, and dry beans. 4-5 servings per week;
- Fats and oils. 2-3 servings per day;
- Sweets. 5 servings per week.
Can the DASH Diet help with high blood pressure?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is one of the major causes of premature death worldwide. Fortunately, it's preventable and manageable with medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. A meta-analysis published in Advances in Nutrition analyzed the results of thirty randomized-controlled trials. The results showed that the DASH eating plan significantly reduced blood pressure.
The DASH diet has developed with the help of The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. It's a heart-healthy diet recommended by The American Heart Association, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the U.S. guidelines for treating high blood pressure.
Other DASH Diet benefits
The DASH diet may help to:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke;
- Prevent or manage type 2 diabetes;
- Improve blood cholesterol levels;
- Reduce the risk of kidney stones forming.
One of the most common questions about the DASH diet is, does it help with type 2 diabetes? The DASH diet may prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. The overall DASH diet consists of healthy eating patterns recommended for patients with glucose intolerance and Diabetes. It is rich in fiber and lean protein while low in calories and sugar.
However, if you have type 2 diabetes, healthy eating should be followed along with proper medications. Do not cut your medicines without your doctor's approval, and always consult your doctor before following a specific diet.
Possible health concerns on the DASH diet
The DASH diet is not restrictive. You can get all the nutrients you need by following the DASH diet. However, if you have a health problem or disease, we recommend talking to your doctor before starting any diet to lose weight.
The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, so you will consume a good amount of fiber. If you quickly increase your fiber intake, you may experience gastrointestinal discomfort. It is recommended to slowly increase fiber day by day to avoid gastrointestinal problems.
Tips to follow when on a DASH diet
If you want to follow the DASH eating plan, take your time to implement it for your daily nutrition. Here are a few tips:
- Increase your vegetable and fruit consumption gradually by adding them to your lunch, dinner, or eating as snacks.
- Increase fat-free or low-fat milk product consumption to three servings daily unless you have lactose intolerance.
- Control your meat portions. Limit your lean meat consumption to 3 ounces a meal and to 6 ounces in a day. When you eat larger portions in a row, try to cut meat by half following a couple of days.
- Make sure to eat two or more meatless, vegetarian-style meals each week.
- Increase whole grains, brown rice, and bean servings.
- When you'd like to have snacks or dessert, choose fruits and foods low in sugar, sodium, saturated, and trans fat. Examples of DASH-appropriate snacks are unsalted rice cakes, unsalted nuts and seeds, dry fruits, fat-free or low-fat yogurt, and raw vegetables.
What else can help to lower blood pressure?
Here are some of the steps you can take to manage high blood pressure:
Take prescribed medications
See your doctor for appropriate treatment if you suspect you have high blood pressure. If you've been given medication, take it as prescribed by your doctor. Remember, you'll still need to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to manage your blood pressure better.
Maintaining healthy weight
You can slowly reach your healthy weight if you follow a weight loss diet designed based on your caloric and nutrient requirements. The DASH eating plan may help you because it is rich in lower-calorie foods. It is best to consult your doctor and dietitian before following the diet.
Being physically active
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly for adults. If you're not physically active, you can start with short walks of around 15 minutes and gradually increase the time you're active. Some activities you can do are swimming, cycling and dancing.