According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure. That’s almost half of all adults in the United States.
Blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause other health problems if it stays high for too long. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. To help people lower their blood pressure, the DASH diet was developed.
What Is the DASH Diet?
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a dietary pattern used to lower high blood pressure, which, if left uncontrolled, can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.
The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and lean meats such as fish and poultry. It is high in fiber, is low to moderate in fat, and contains foods that are lower in sodium. The regular DASH diet program recommends no more than 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) of sodium per day, whereas the lower-salt version recommends no more than 3/4 teaspoon (1,500 mg) of sodium per day. DASH is also rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium—nutrients associated with lowering blood pressure.
Who Should Follow the DASH Diet?
The DASH diet was initially developed to help people lower their blood pressure. However, it is a flexible way of eating healthily, and anyone can adapt this diet to their current eating habits.
The DASH diet has been shown to provide heart health benefits, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower the risk of some cancers.
What to Eat On It
The DASH diet does not list specific foods to eat, but it does recommend specific servings of different food groups:
Whole grains: 6-8 servings per day
Vegetables: 4-5 servings per day
Fruits: 4-5 servings per day
Dairy products: 2-3 servings per day
Lean chicken, meat, and fish: 6 or fewer servings per day
Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4-5 servings per week
Fats and oils: 2–3 servings per day
Added sugars: 5 or fewer servings per week
Easy Ways to Implement the DASH Diet
It’s fairly simple to adjust your current way of eating to the DASH guidelines by doing the following:
Eat more vegetables and fruits.
Swap refined grains for whole grains.
Choose low-fat dairy products.
Choose lean protein sources like fish, poultry, and beans.
Limit your intake of foods high in added sugars.
Limit your intake of foods high in saturated fats like fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and oils like coconut and palm oil.
Finally, to boost your blood-pressure-lowering efforts even more, it’s recommended to increase your physical activity to about 30 minutes per day. Combining both the DASH diet and physical activity makes it more likely that you’ll reduce your blood pressure.