DASH is an eating plan meant to lower high blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and provide a template for life-long heart-healthy food choices.
DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—an eating plan based on a series of four studies funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Researchers found that the DASH eating plan can lower blood pressure and reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which is responsible for clogging arteries.
With sound science backing it up and no fasting or severe dietary restrictions required, DASH is an appealing way to eat healthier, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Do the DASH
DASH promotes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils, while avoiding fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils. In addition, limiting the amount of sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats in your diet are important components of DASH.
A typical 2,000-calorie culinary day in the life of a DASH-er would include:
• Four to five servings of vegetables
• Four to five servings of fruit
• Seven to eight servings of grains
• Two or fewer servings of meat, poultry or fish
• Two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
• Two to three servings of fats and oils
The DASH eating plan also recommends four to five weekly servings of nuts, seeds, dry beans or peas, and no more than five sweet treats every week.
How to DASH
An important component DASH requires is lowering your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day or less. People with high blood pressure should limit this amount to 1,500 milligrams daily.
Two ways to lower sodium intake is to eat out less frequently and avoid cured, smoked and salted meats. Red meat should be eaten in moderation, with fish, chicken, nuts, seeds and legumes serving as your main protein sources. Looking for reduced or sodium-free products when grocery shopping is another good way to cut back on sodium.
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, combining the DASH eating plan with regular physical activity can help you maintain overall fitness and a healthy weight.