Animation Movie AvailableThe DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which is the name of the research study that looked at the effects of eating patterns on blood pressure. From this study came the DASH diet—a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. This diet was shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. The DASH diet combined with a low sodium intake can reduce blood pressure even further.

Researchers believe that it is the combination of nutrients from this eating pattern that helps to lower blood pressure. Specifically, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber may act together to achieve this goal.

In addition to helping you manage your blood pressure, the DASH eating plan is a healthy one that will help you manage your weight and possibly reduce your risk of other chronic diseases. For example, research suggests that women who follow the DASH diet can reduce their risk of heart failure.

A registered dietitian can help design a DASH meal plan that will work for you. Check out the one-day sample menu below for an idea of what is in a DASH meal plan.

How Many Servings Do You Need?

Depending on your calorie needs, these are the number of servings of each food group you should strive for each day under the DASH eating plan:

Food GroupServings Per Day
1,600 calories2,000 calories3,100 calories
Grains and grain products66-812-13
Vegetables3-44-56
Fruits44-56
Low-fat or fat-free dairy2-32-33-4
Meats, poultry, and fish3-4 or less6 or less6-9
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans3 per week4-5 per week1
Fats and oils22-34
Sweets3 or less per week5 of less per week2 or less

Good choices include:

    
  • Whole wheat bread
  • English muffin
  • Pita bread
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Grits
  • Oatmeal
  • Low-fat, whole grain crackers and bread sticks
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Putting It All Together

    This sample menu for one day provides 1,944 calories and 31 grams of total fat (14% of total calories from fat).

    Dinner

        
  • 3 ounces of spicy baked fish (1 fish)—see recipe below
  • 1 cup of scallion rice (2 grains)—see recipe below
  • ½ cup of spinach, cooked from frozen (1 vegetable)
  • 1 cup of carrots, cooked from frozen (2 vegetables)
  • 1 small whole wheat roll (1 grain)
  • 1 teaspoon of soft margarine (1 fat)
  • 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)
  • Snack

        
  • 2 large rectangle graham crackers (1 grain)
  • 1 cup of fat-free (skim) milk (1 dairy)
  • ¼ cup of dried apricots (1 fruit)