DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — an eating plan based on a series of four studies funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Researchers found that the DASH eating plan can lower blood pressure and reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which is responsible for clogging arteries.
Do the DASH
DASH promotes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils, while avoiding fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils. In addition, limiting the amount of sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats in your diet are important components of DASH.
A typical 2,000-calorie culinary day in the life of a DASH-er would include:
- Four to five servings of vegetables
- Four to five servings of fruit
- Seven to eight servings of grains
- Two or fewer servings of meat, poultry or fish
- Two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Two to three servings of fats and oils
The DASH eating plan also recommends four to five weekly servings of nuts, seeds, dry beans or peas, and no more than five sweet treats every week.
How to DASH
DASH requires lowering your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day or less. People with high blood pressure should limit this amount to 1,500 milligrams daily. Two ways to lower sodium intake are dining out less frequently and avoiding cured, smoked and salted meats. Looking for reduced or sodium-free products when grocery shopping is another good habit to follow.
The DASH diet recommends eating red meat in moderation and allowing fish, chicken, nuts, seeds and legumes to serve as your main protein sources.
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, combining the DASH eating plan with regular physical activity can help you maintain overall fitness and a healthy weight, the NHLBI advises. Talk with your doctor before changing your diet.