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Nutrition Articles  ›  Special Concerns

High Blood Pressure? Have a DASH of Spark

There's More to it than Your Sodium Intake

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
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The DASH plan:
  • Emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products
  • Encourages fish, poultry and legumes
  • Allows red meats, sweets and fats, but in limited amounts
  • Is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
  • Is high in fiber and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and calcium.
  • Encourages a reduction in sodium intake
Doing the DASH 
The DASH strategies outline how many servings are needed each day from various food groups, based on calorie levels. The standard DASH plan is based on 2,000 calories a day. If you are trying to lose weight and want to eat fewer calories, the 1600-calorie version might be a better place to start (adjust as you can to account for your specific SparkDiet calorie goals). The following chart lists the food groups and daily servings recommended by the DASH diet, as well as portion sizes and tips to incorporate them into your meals: 

Food Group
Daily Servings, 1600 Calories
Daily Servings, 2000 Calories
Serving Sizes
Tips
Grains 6 7-8 1 slice bread; 1 oz dry cereal; ½ Cup cooked rice/ pasta/ cereal; ½ bun/bagel -Choose whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread/pasta, oats) rather than refined grains
Vegetables 3-4 4-5 ½ Cup cooked vegetable; ½ Cup cut-up raw vegetable; 1 Cup raw leafy vegetable; ¾ Cup vegetable juice -Choose fresh, frozen, or reduced sodium canned vegetables
-Add vegetables to stir-fry, soups, stews, and casseroles
-Snack on veggies and dip
Fruits 4 4-5 ½ Cup fresh/ canned/ frozen fruit; 1 Medium piece of fruit; ¼ Cup dried fruit; ¾ Cup fruit juice -Have a glass of juice for breakfast and a piece of fruit at lunch
-Add fruit to cereal, salads, yogurt, pudding, cake
-Snack on fresh fruit and dip
Low-fat and Fat-free Dairy 2-3 2-3 1 Cup low-fat/fat-free milk/yogurt; 1.5 oz low fat natural cheese; 1 oz low fat processed cheese -Top soups, casseroles, salads with grated cheese
-Enjoy a fruit yogurt smoothie
-Have a slice of cheese on a sandwich
Meats, Poultry, Fish 6 oz. or less 6 oz. or less 2-3 oz lean meat/ poultry/ fish; 1 egg = 1 oz. -Trim away skin and fat before cooking
-Use low-fat cooking methods (broil, grill, roast, poach)
Nuts, Seeds, Dried Beans 3/week 4-5/week 1.5 oz of nuts; ½ oz seeds; ½ Cup cooked beans -Peanuts, nuts, and seeds are high in fat, but it is a healthy type of fat; add small amounts to your stir-fry, salad, trail mix, and oatmeal
-Soybean products such as tofu and tempeh are great meat alternatives
Fats and Oils 1-2 2-3 1 tsp soft margarine; 1 Tbsp low-fat mayo; 2 Tbsp light salad dressing; 1 tsp vegetable oil Choose healthy fats like olive, canola, soybean, and peanut oil
-Limit fat from meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, and cream
Sweets 0-1 tsp/day, OR 2 Tbsp/week 1-2 tsp/day, OR 5 Tbsp/week 1 Tbsp = ½ oz jelly beans, 8 oz lemonade, 1 T jelly/jam Enjoy an occasional sweet treat in moderation
-Use artificial sweeteners to help satisfy your sweet tooth while sparing the sugar

Tips to Reduce Salt 
For best results, follow the DASH principles outlined above and lower your salt intake with these tips:
  • Use reduced sodium or "no salt added" products
  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned with "no salt added" vegetables
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked, or processed types
  • Limit cured and pickled foods, such as bacon, ham, pickles, olives, and sauerkraut
  • Limit high salt condiments, such as mustard, horseradish, catsup, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and barbecue sauce
  • Season foods with your favorite spices, herbs, lemon, lime, vinegar, and salt-free seasoning blends
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt
  • Choose lower sodium frozen dinners, mixed dishes, canned soups, and broths
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I would prefer to see vegetarian protein sources stand out more instead of including with nuts & seeds and dried beans detail. They should at least be given equal billing with meat based protein sources. - 12/14/2013 4:13:07 PM
  • Please come join our DASH SparkTeam!

    http://www.spar
    kpeople.com/m
    yspark/groups
    _individual.asp - 10/27/2013 1:04:05 AM
  • BLKLILY
    It would have been nice to see what a typical day's meal(breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack) could look like using the foods listed above; otherwise great article. - 8/27/2013 5:42:33 PM
  • Good article. I have been reading up on the Dash diet and was starting to plan and track using their guidelines, but this month have been exploring the Sparkpeople site and trackers. I think both plans have similar concepts, since they are based on well rounded nutrition and finding the right balance of nutrients (as opposed to focusing on carbs or fat or protein).

    I find planning and tracking meals can be quite time consuming. Does it get easier? Is it best to concentrate on the DASH diet, SparkPeople or to use both?

    I guess the easiest way would be to just follow a meal plan from one or the other, but I like to change things around from their menus. Many great sounding meals on these plans though!

    Mal - 8/11/2013 7:53:03 PM
  • I have read several books on the DASH diet...I have even followed it for a couple of days and found that even my blood sugars stabilized. My doctor was very happy about that. I would recommend this to all who suffer from high BP and diabetes. - 6/1/2013 7:34:06 PM
  • JGMARIE80
    Thanks for this article. How do I save this? I usually e- mail articles to my son's e- mail so I can print the article and read it over again but there's not even an option to do that. - 3/24/2013 10:55:33 PM
  • This is a great article! Thanks for all the pointers for lowering hypertension,
    I would never have known some of these things without this information.
    Thanks Becky for posting this! - 2/5/2013 4:54:05 PM
  • Wow! Such a great and informative article! Just what I was looking for. Sparkpeople you never disappoint! - 9/29/2012 7:07:06 PM
  • MINNIEKS6101
    Great article! Thank you for this information! Several people I can pass it along too! - 9/21/2012 9:10:55 PM
  • Great article and I too would have liked more info on the reason minerals affect high blood pressure.

    FFLYER Thank you thank you thank you. I've actually been hurt so much with the blood pressure cuff I'm made them take it off. I had no idea it was my Grandma Batwings causing the problem. - 9/21/2012 4:11:52 PM
  • My husband started with high blood pressure. I think is hereditary. His grandfather and an aunt died of high blood pressure. His mother have high blood pressure, too. I'm very sad because I have ALS and he help me a lot. We are veterans. - 9/21/2012 3:48:57 PM
  • so, basically eat the way you should eat? LOL - 9/21/2012 2:44:41 PM
  • I am 34 years and suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I don't eat vegetables no matter how much i try is there another approach i can tale to solve the problem, cause by reading this article it sounds interesting but there are lots of food i cant eat - 8/16/2012 10:21:26 AM
  • DEIDRE143
    I was taken to the er this past weekend with a major head ach and bloodshot swolen eyes and found out my blood pressure was 186 over 118... I am 36 years 5 ft and 182 lbs...did not even think my headachs could be comming from blood pressure...I was put on meds and told about the dash diet.... I had already started to diet and had lost 4 lbs in 2 weeks but this has made me take it more seriouse then the fact I dont want to be fat.. my weight actually IS affecting my health...my LIFE..Gotta Keep It Up!! :) - 7/27/2012 3:52:06 PM
  • My husband and I have been following the DASH for six months now. We've both lost nearly the desired amount of weight and hope to continue this way of eating as a lifestyle, not a diet. We're definitely never hungry and I believe, for us, it's been the combination of the specific number of servings of each food group that brings the weight loss along. I've been following a 1200 calorie/diet regime and my husband follows 2000 calories/day. We've learned alot and continue to learn everyday of different things we can add to our plan to stay within the limits of calories/sodium/e
    tc for the DASH. We are true believers! One tip I would add, is that you can make your own dry, low (or no) sodium mixes for just about anything you want to cook, i.e., taco mix, spaghetti mix, etc. It's exciting to find the recipes and implement them and to see the difference in sodium that the homemade recipe has compared to the mixes you buy. Definitely, one easy change you can make. - 6/13/2012 6:01:16 PM