Nearly one of every two adults in the US has high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. In many cases, high blood pressure is preventable. If you develop high blood pressure, you must speak with a health care provider about ways to manage it.

Family medicine primary care physician Leela Patel, MD, and our team of health professionals can help you get on the right track if you’re dealing with high blood pressure. Diet and lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment. The Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet is proven to lower blood pressure and is an excellent place to start when it comes to making dietary changes for improved blood pressure. 

Here’s your guide to the DASH diet. 

Why does the DASH diet work?

The DASH diet goes beyond a traditional low-sodium diet commonly recommended to lower blood pressure. The DASH eating plan emphasizes eating nutrient-dense foods high in minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which are known to help regulate blood pressure. 

The DASH diet is also rich in fiber, which is shown to lower blood pressure. Additionally, the DASH plan is low in saturated fat and added sugar. The diet emphasizes eating whole fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy.

Dash diet is lower in sodium

The DASH diet is naturally lower in sodium than the typical American diet, which can contain an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. This makes it easy to slash your sodium intake.

The standard DASH diet complies with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ guideline and limits daily salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams.

A low-sodium version of DASH does limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams. 

What to eat on the DASH diet

The DASH plan doesn’t require any special foods or hard-to-follow recipes. Instead, the DASH diet calls for aiming to eat a certain number of servings of each food group depending on caloric needs. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, you’d aim for:

  • Vegetables: 4-5 servings
  • Fruits: 4-5 servings
  • Grains: 6-8 servings
  • Fats and oils: 2- -3 servings
  • Low-fat dairy: 2-3 servings
  • Legumes: 4-5 servings per week
  • Nuts and seeds: 4-5 servings per week
  • Sweets: Less than 5 servings per week

Opt for unprocessed or minimally processed foods most of the time. 

Making the DASH plan for life

The DASH eating plan isn’t just a short-term diet, it’s a long-term lifestyle change that involves adopting an overall healthy way of eating. Here are some tips to get started.

If following the DASH diet is challenging at first, don’t give up. It helps to start with gradual changes and practical goals.

  • Make more meals at home so that you can control the ingredients.
  • Instead of salt, flavor your cuisine using spices and herbs.
  • Take your time when eating
  • Cut back on packaged and frozen meals
  • Check labels carefully
  • Try tracking your meals in a journal
  • Choose foods labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium”
  • Bake, steam, and saute food instead of frying
  • Ship the sauces on your dishes

As you change your diet, add other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise. 

Our team can evaluate your blood pressure and guide you in following the DASH diet. To get started, call us to schedule a visit with one of our providers at our South Charleston, West Virginia, office.

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