The DASH Diet: Eating to Lower High Blood Pressure

Lower your blood pressure—and weight—with the DASH diet.

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What’s your greatest superpower in the fight against high blood pressure? It just might be nutrition. “Diet is essential in controlling high blood pressure. You really need to make dietary changes if you want to see changes in your blood pressure,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN. That’s where the DASH diet comes in.

The DASH diet—which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—is a diet full of heart-healthy produce, nuts, grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, with a special focus on blood pressure-lowering nutrients. “Certain types of foods are actually more beneficial in preventing heart disease than other types of foods,” says Satjit Bhusri, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Foods that have been shown to help maintain healthy blood pressure are high in such nutrients as:

  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • fish oils
  • calcium
  • fiber
  • protein
  • folate

The DASH eating plan is designed to be easy to follow, with no special recipes or foods. It simply encourages you to get a certain amount of servings from various food groups, avoid sodium, and lower your intake of sweets, alcohol, and heart-unhealthy fats, like those found in red meat and fried foods.

To start lowering your blood pressure levels, try these tips to help you slowly incorporate the DASH diet into your life:

  • Add a serving of fruit or veggies to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner each day, slowly working your way up to a serving (or two!) at each meal.
  • Switch up your dairy—like the milk in your coffee or the cheese in your scramble—to fat-free or low-fat varieties.
  • Avoid red meat, and watch lean meat (chicken or turkey) portion sizes, limiting your intake to 6 ounces a day, or 3 ounces per meal (about the size of a deck of cards).
  • Aim for two or more vegetarian-style meals each week.

“[Eating this way] really does make a difference. You can actually drop your systolic blood pressure between 8 to 14 points over the course of months,” says Largeman-Roth.