Improve your heart health with simple, sensible, proven nutrition.
Nearly 15 years ago, the National Institutes of Health funded a study to create an eating plan that would help lower blood pressure. The study was called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH — and the resulting DASH Diet Plan lowered study participants’ blood pressure as effectively as first-line blood-pressure medications.
Since then, many different dietitians have built on the DASH Diet as a foundation for healthy eating. However, the basic plan structure has remained the same, relying on a real-food-based diet that naturally lowers sodium, and, by association, blood pressure. Read on to learn more about the tenets of the DASH Diet.
THE DASH DIET IS RICH IN:
Fruits and Vegetables Snacking on whole fruits and vegetables alongside protein stabilizes blood sugar, helping prevent spikes or crashes throughout the day.
Low-Fat Dairy Dairy contains calcium, which can aid in reducing blood pressure. Choose low-fat products to ensure that you don’t consume excess saturated fat along with the calcium you need!
Nuts, Seeds and Legumes Snacking on a small portion of nuts, seeds, beans or peas four to five times per week will give you the DASH Diet’s recommended intake of minerals, like potassium and magnesium — two substances that fight high blood pressure on a molecular level. This group of foods is also high in fiber and protein.
THE DASH DIET IS LOW IN:
Total Fat and Saturated Fat Saturated fats raise “bad” blood cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This type of cholesterol contributes to plaque in the arteries, narrowing the pathways through which your blood travels and raising your blood pressure.
Sodium While prior studies had shown that reducing dietary sodium benefited people with high blood pressure, the original DASH study proved that sodium reduction worked across the board to lower blood pressure.
Sugar and Sugary Drinks Last spring, a nutrition study at New Zealand’s University of Otago revealed a connection between sugar and high blood pressure that didn’t involve obesity as a middleman. The study recommended reducing dietary intake of sugar and paying attention to added sugar, which can sneak into everything from beverages to processed foods.
Red Meat Because red meat — especially lower-quality cuts — can be high in saturated fat, it has long been limited in heart-healthy diets. While eating according to the DASH Diet, you’ll replace some of the protein from red meats with protein from low-fat dairy, nuts, beans and seeds.