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The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop
Hypertension) diet can help you lower your blood pressure. It includes eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or
nonfat dairy foods. For more information on the DASH diet, see:
Follow these daily recommendations:
Low-fat and fat-free milk and milk
2 to 3 servings a day
A serving is 8 ounces of milk, 1 cup of
yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
4 to 5 servings a day
A serving is 1 medium-sized piece of fruit,
1/2 cup chopped or canned fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of
fruit juice. Choose fruit more often than fruit juice.
A serving is 1 cup of lettuce or raw leafy
vegetables, 1/2 cup of chopped or cooked vegetables, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of
vegetable juice. Choose vegetables more often than vegetable juice.
6 to 8 servings a day
A serving is 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of
dry cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal. Try to choose
whole-grain products as much as possible.
Meat, poultry, fish
No more than 2 servings a day
A serving is 3 ounces, about the size of a
deck of cards
Legumes, nuts, seeds
4 to 5 servings a week
A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons
of seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas.
Fats and oils
A serving is 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of salad
Sweets and added sugars
5 servings a week or less
A serving is 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam,
1/2 cup of sorbet, or 1 cup of lemonade.
Eating a diet low in both saturated fat and total fat will help lower
your blood pressure.
Although you need some fat in your diet, limit how much saturated fat you eat. These fats are mostly in animal foods,
such as meat and dairy foods. Coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter are also
saturated fats. Palm and coconut oils are
often found in processed foods, including crackers and snack foods.
Follow the recommendations below to include healthy fats in your diet. DASH recommends that a little less than a third of your total calories come from fats. And most of these calories should come from healthy fats such as vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. Very few calories should come from saturated fat, which is found in animal meat, dairy products, and processed foods.
There is a link between eating sodium and having high blood
pressure. Reducing sodium in the diet can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease and can help control high blood pressure. Limiting sodium is part of a heart-healthy eating plan that can help prevent heart disease and stroke.
Try to eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, if you are African-American, or if you are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.1
Cutting back on the
amount of processed or refined foods you eat can help. These foods,
such as canned and instant soups, packaged mixes, and snack items,
don't have enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium—the very
nutrients you need to help lower your blood pressure. And
these foods can be high in sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats.
You also may try a vegetarian diet. In
general, vegetarian diets reduce blood pressure, although experts
don't know exactly why. The DASH diet could easily be a vegetarian
diet if legumes (for example, beans, lentils, peas, and
peanuts) were substituted for meat. Vegetarian diets tend to be
higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as does the DASH diet. Vegetarian
diets also are higher in fiber and unsaturated fats than other diets.
Not eating enough foods containing
magnesium may contribute to
high blood pressure.
To get enough of these nutrients, eat a balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits,
vegetables, dairy foods, and whole grains. Most people do not need to take dietary supplements to get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
All fresh fruits and
vegetables and meats are good sources of potassium. Examples include the
The safest way to ensure good
nutrition is through a balanced, varied diet instead of through nutritional
Very large amounts of any of these minerals taken in the form of a
supplement can cause problems, including possible death. See your doctor before
taking large quantities of any supplement.
Fish or fish oil supplements do not lower blood pressure. But eating fish can help lower your risk for heart disease.
You can eat fish as part of the DASH diet. Fish is part of heart-healthy eating. The American Heart Association suggests eating at least two servings of fish a week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Although eating garlic and onions has been recommended to
reduce blood pressure, evidence shows that only very small decreases in blood
pressure may result.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office. Also available online:
Other Works Consulted
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2006).
Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH
(NIH Publication No. 06-4082). Available online:
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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