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High Blood Pressure? Have a DASH of Spark

For years, battling high blood pressure meant throwing out the salt shaker and throwing on the sweatpants. We now know that there’s more to the picture.

Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight have always been powerful tools for managing high blood pressure. But recent studies are showing that a number of food choices – not just salt – play a large role in your blood pressure levels. In fact, following a particular eating plan called the "DASH" diet, along with decreasing your sodium intake, can lower your blood pressure.

So if you’re specifically targeting high blood pressure, you can easily follow DASH diet principles and use them right along with your SparkDiet plan. You can even use the same tracking and planning tools. Simply keep these principles and strategies in mind when planning your meals and groceries.

What is the DASH diet?
Whether you are trying to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure or want to bring an existing condition under control, the DASH principles and SparkDiet plan can work together to help. Designed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) plan can help protect against osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease. The healthy rewards are great with the SparkDiet and DASH combination.

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
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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Member Comments

Good outline Report
Great article, made a copy for myself and my good friend with heart and diabetes health issues..... Report
good article Report
Great Article Report
Was just on WebMD reading DASH article, they specifically sited:
Leafy Greens (3-6 C daily raw (spinach, broc, kale, collards))
Berries (2-3 C daily (straw, blue, black))
YOGURT or Milk cuz dairy is incredible source of calcium that's needed to lower BP: 2-3C
and highlighted Oats, Beets, cup of Beans & 2 cloves garlic daily Report
Thanks Report
Good need-to-know information, thanks! Report
I thought olives were a heart healthy food, and fermented foods like sauerkraut were recommended. What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander? Report
Thanks. While I have always had low bp, DH has high. I have never cooked with salt because my dad also had high bp. Yesterday, we found out DH's numbers were a bit high even tho he is on bp meds. Time for him to make changes. Report
Thank you for the great article. Report
Thanks Report
great article-Thank yu Report


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.