DASH Healthy Eating Plan – Lower Your Blood Pressure

July 29, 2011

Diet Tips, Dieting

The DASH eating plan used along with other lifestyle changes can help you prevent and control blood pressure. If your blood pressure is not too high, you may be able to control it entirely by changing your eating habits, losing weight if you are overweight, getting regular physical activity, and cutting down on alcohol. The DASH eating plan also has other benefits, such as lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which, along with lowering blood pressure, can reduce your risk for getting heart disease.

Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing. The table below gives examples of sodium in some foods.

DASH Healthy Eating Plan

DASH Healthy Eating Plan - sodium in foods

If you need to lose weight, even a small weight loss will help to lower your risks of developing high blood pressure and other serious health conditions. At the very least, you should not gain weight. A recent study showed that people can lose weight while following the DASH eating plan and lowering their sodium intake. In a study of 810 participants, one-third were taught how to lower their sodium intake and follow the DASH eating plan on their own. Most of them needed to lose weight as well. They followed the DASH eating plan at lower calorie levels and they increased their physical activity. Over the course of 18 months, participants lost weight and improved their blood pressure control.
You should be aware that the DASH eating plan has more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods than you may be used to eating. Because the plan is high in fiber, it can cause bloating and diarrhea in some persons. To avoid these problems, gradually increase your intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods.

How to Lower Calories on the DASH Eating Plan

The DASH eating plan can be adopted to promote weight loss. It is rich in lower-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables. You can make it lower in calories by replacing higher calorie foods such as sweets with more fruits and vegetables and that also will make it easier for you to reach your DASH goals. Here are some examples:

To increase fruits

  • Eat a medium apple instead of four shortbread cookies. You’ll save 80 calories.
  • Eat 1/4 cup of dried apricots instead of a 2-ounce bag of pork rinds. You’ll save 230 calories.

To increase vegetables

  • Have a hamburger that’s 3 ounces of meat instead of 6 ounces. Add a 1/2-cup serving of carrots and a 1/2-cup serving of spinach. You’ll save more than 200 calories.
  • Instead of 5 ounces of chicken, have a stir fry with 2 ounces of chicken and 11/2 cups of raw vegetables. Use a small amount of vegetable oil. You’ll save 50 calories.

To increase fat-free or low-fat milk products

  • Have a 1/2-cup serving of low-fat frozen yogurt instead of a 1/2-cup serving of full-fat ice cream. You’ll save about 70 calories.

And don’t forget these calorie-saving tips:

  • Use fat-free or low-fat condiments.
  • Use half as much vegetable oil, soft or liquid margarine, mayonnaise, or salad dressing, or choose available low-fat or fat-free versions.
  • Eat smaller portions cut back gradually.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Check the food labels to compare fat content in packaged foods  items marked fat-free or low-fat are not always lower in calories than their regular versions.
  • Limit foods with lots of added sugar, such as pies, flavored yogurts, candy bars, ice cream, sherbet, regular soft drinks, and fruit drinks.
  • Eat fruits canned in their own juice or in water.
  • Add fruit to plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Snack on fruit, vegetable sticks, unbuttered and unsalted popcorn, or rice cakes.
  • Drink water or club soda zest it up with a wedge of lemon or lime.

Healthy Tips To Reduce Salt and Sodium

  • Choose low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments when available.
  • Choose fresh, frozen, or canned (low-sodium or no-salt-added) vegetables.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked, or processed types.
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.
  • Limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham); foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut); and condiments (such as mustard, horseradish, ketchup, and barbecue sauce). Limit even lower sodium versions of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Treat these condiments sparingly as you do table salt.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
  • Choose “convenience” foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes such as pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings—these often have a lot of sodium.
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna and canned beans, to remove some of the sodium.
  • Use spices instead of salt. In cooking and at the table, flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends. Start by cutting salt in half.

Reducing Salt and Sodium When Eating Out

  • Ask how foods are prepared. Ask that they be prepared without added salt, MSG, or salt-containing ingredients. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate requests.
  • Know the terms that indicate high sodium content: pickled, cured, smoked, soy sauce, broth.
  • Move the salt shaker away.
  • Limit condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, pickles, and sauces with salt-containing ingredients.
  • Choose fruit or vegetables, instead of salty snack foods.

Compare Nutrition Facts Labels on Foods

  • Read the Nutrition Facts labels on foods to compare the amount of sodium in products. Look for the sodium content in milligrams and the Percent Daily Value. Aim for foods that are less than 5 percent of the Daily Value of sodium. Foods with 20 percent or more Daily Value of sodium are considered high. You can also check out the amounts of the other DASH goal nutrients.
  • Compare the food labels of these two versions of canned tomatoes. The regular canned tomatoes have 15 times as much sodium as the low-sodium canned tomatoes.
  • Low-Sodium Canned Diced Tomatoes contains 10 milligrams of Sodium, 1% of Daily Value.
  • Canned Diced Tomatoes contains 150 milligrams of Sodium, 6% of Daily Value.
More about DASH Eating Plan can be found here:

The DASH eating plan was not designed to promote weight loss.

The DASH eating plan is rich in lower-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables. You can make it lower in calories by replacing higher-calorie foods with more fruits and vegetables — and that also will make it easier for you to reach your DASH goals.


This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!
DASH, Eating Plan


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