Lower Your Blood Pressure With The DASH Diet

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 10:47am

By Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD

For years, if your blood pressure was a bit on the high side, your doctor would most likely tell you to "Cut out the salt." While keeping your sodium intake in check is still a good idea, there's more you can do to lower your blood pressure and your chances of having a stroke.

What is the DASH diet?

A few years ago researchers developed the DASH diet. It stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is just a fancy word for high blood pressure. Instead of looking only at salt or sodium intake, the DASH diet looks at all the food groups, focusing especially on low-fat dairy foods, and fruits and vegetables. These groups were found to be extremely beneficial at helping to prevent and control high blood pressure.

Foods to lower high blood pressure

  • Dairy. The recommendation for this group is 2-3 servings per day. One serving equals 8 ounces of low-fat milk, 1 cup of low fat yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of low-fat cheese. Starting the day with some yogurt and fruit, snacking on cheese and crackers, and trading your dinnertime soda in for a glass of milk are some simple ways to meet your dairy needs.
  • Fruits. To reap the blood pressure benefits from fruits your goal is 4-5 servings each day. Fortunately, there are lots of options available. A serving could be one medium-sized piece of fruit, a 1/4 cup of dried fruit, a 1/2 cup of frozen or canned fruit, or 6 ounces of 100% juice. A handful of blueberries on your breakfast cereal, a homemade smoothie including a banana and some strawberries, and a bedtime snack of apple slices dipped in peanut butter are just a few of the ways to get your fill of fruit.
  • Vegetables. Veggie needs to keep your pressure in line are 4-5 servings a day. A 1/2 cup of raw or cooked veggies counts as one serving. So does 1 cup of raw leafy veggies, like spinach or kale. Six ounces of vegetable juice counts as 1 serving as well but it tends to be high in sodium so you might want to limit it to only once in a while. Red peppers stirred into a morning omelet, a big salad at lunch and some steamed cauliflower with dinner will get your on your way to your veggie goal.

Recommended intake for other foods to lower high blood pressure

  • Grains and pastas. The recommendation for grains such as whole wheat breads and cereals, rice, and pasta is about the same as the USDA's general guidelines. It's about 7-8 servings per day. Each serving being 1 ounce, which is the equivalent of 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or a half cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
  • Protein. About 5-6 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry per day should give you the protein and iron you need. And a little bonus is 4-5 servings per week, not per day for this one, of nuts, seeds and dried beans. A serving is one-third a cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, and a 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans.

Just think of the delicious meals and snacks you can create with such an assortment of foods. And, all while keeping your blood pressure under control!