Help lower your high blood pressure with the DASH eating plan

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can be part of an overall plan to manage your blood pressure.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition affecting half of Americans and putting them at risk for heart disease and stroke. There are several lifestyle changes that can help control high blood pressure, such as quitting smoking, getting adequate exercise and eating a diet low in sodium. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can be part of an overall plan to manage high blood pressure.

Three National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) studies found that the DASH eating plan lowered high blood pressure and reduced LDL cholesterol. The eating plan is simple to follow as it does not require special foods. The plan recommends daily and weekly servings of food groups and everything needed to eat can be found at your local grocery store.  

The DASH eating plan recommends:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

The DASH eating plan also recommends choosing foods that are:

  • Low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein.
  • Lower in sodium.

A detailed table showing examples of what to eat at multiple calorie levels can be found at the NHBLI website. There are many other resources available at the website including recipes. When following the DASH eating plan you may be eating more fiber-containing foods than you are used to. It is a good idea to implement changes in your diet slowly to avoid upsetting your digestive system. More information about dealing with chronic disease can be found at the Michigan State University Extension website.

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