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DASH Diet for High Blood Pressure

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

A healthy diet and eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower elevated blood pressure. The most common diet recommended for patients at risk of with high blood pressure include the DASH diet. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”.

This diet includes intake of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods as well as fibres and lowering sodium, saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. There are whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts along with a reduction in red meats, sweets, sugary beverages, high-sodium processed foods etc.

Sodium reduction in diet

Sodium reduction is one of the most important components of the DASH diet. To reduce sodium in diet some of the steps that could be taken include:-

  • Inclusion of fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, non-salted nuts, fresh poultry, fish and lean meat
  • Choosing herbs, lemon, lime, vinegar, salt-free seasoning blends and spices and avoiding addition of table salt
  • Avoiding canned soups, processed foods, frozen dinners, vegetables with sauces and entrees
  • Avoiding processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, pastrami, bologna, ham, turkey and salami
  • Avoiding smoked, cured and pickled foods
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals with low sodium content
  • Cooking rice, pasta and cereals without salt.
  • Rinsing canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some salts
  • Avoiding salty snacks

Increasing calcium in diet

To increase calcium in diet the DASH diet recommends:-

  • Low-fat or fat-free cheese and yogurts and non-fat or 1% milk products daily
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-reduced milk may be an option
  • Calcium supplements are needed for those who do not take dairy products.

DASH diet and healthy weight

The DASH diet aims at maintaining a healthy body weight. This is because obesity and overweight raise the risk of high blood pressure. Some of the measures to maintain a healthy body weight with the DASH diet include:-

  • Calorie intake is reduced by choosing low-fat foods and eating smaller portions.
  • At least 25 to 35 grams of fibres need to be taken daily. Whole grains should be chosen.
  • Foods that are unhealthy should be avoided
  • Foods rich in potassium and magnesium should be raised. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, oranges, bananas and potatoes at least three times a week provide adequate potassium. Diet should include nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas at least four times a week for potassium and magnesium along with fibre.
  • At least four to five servings a day of whole fresh fruit and four to five servings a day of vegetables are recommended. A serving of vegetable or fruit is approximately ½ cup cooked or one cup raw.
  • At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five times a week should be performed daily to lose weight

Other lifestyle and diet choices in DASH eating plan

  • Reduction of caffeine in diet
  • Adequate fluid intake that includes at least eight cups of water per day
  • Quitting smoking

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further reading

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2013

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