The abbreviation for DASH is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a nutritious eating plan that can help you manage or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension).
Foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium are included in the DASH diet. These nutrients aid in blood pressure control. Sodium-rich, saturated-fat-rich, and sugar-rich foods are restricted in the diet.
The DASH diet has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. A healthy diet can also help lower blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. Two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels.
Sodium and the DASH diet
The DASH diet contains less sodium than the typical American diet, which can contain up to 3,400 mg of sodium per day.
The DASH diet restricts sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. It complies with the Dietary Guidelines' recommendation that Americans consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. A teaspoon of table salt contains about that much sodium.
The sodium intake in a sodium-reduced version of DASH is capped at 1,500 mg per day. You have the option of choosing the diet that best suits your health needs. If you're not sure what sodium level is best for you, talk to your doctor.
What to Eat on the DASH Diet
The DASH diet is a versatile and well-balanced eating plan that encourages heart-healthy eating habits for life. It's easy to make with groceries from your neighborhood supermarket.
The DASH diet is high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all included, as are fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Saturated fat-rich foods, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products, are prohibited.
It's essential to follow the DASH diet by eating foods that contain:
- Potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
- low Saturated fat
- low sodium
Serving sizes for the DASH diet
The DASH diet specifies nutritional goals for each day and week. The number of servings you should consume depends on your daily calorie requirements.
For a 2,000-calorie-per-day DASH diet, here are the recommended servings from each food group:
- 6–8 servings of grains per day One slice of bread, 1-ounce dry cereal, 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta equals one serving.
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day 1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, 1/2 cup chopped raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup vegetable juice equals one serving.
- 4 to 5 servings of fruits per day One medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup fruit juice equals one serving.
- 2 to 3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces cheese, equals one serving.
- Six 1-ounce servings of lean meats, poultry, and fish per day are recommended. 1 ounce cooked meat, poultry, or fish, or 1 egg = 1 serving.
- 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked legumes make one serving (dried beans or peas).
- 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils per day 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons salad dressing equals one serving.
- 5 servings or less per week of sweets and added sugars 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade equals one serving.
Sodium is the target:
The foods that make up the DASH diet are naturally sodium-free. As a result, just sticking to the DASH diet will likely lower your sodium intake.
You can reduce sodium even more by doing the following:
- Use sodium-free spices instead of salt.
- Use no salt when cooking rice, pasta, or hot cereal.
- Reading food labels and choosing low-sodium or no-salt-added options when buying fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables that aren't seasoned
- Choosing skinless chicken, fish, and lean meat cuts from fresh or frozen sources
- Food labels should be read and low-sodium or no-salt-added options should be chosen.