a journal, a blood pressure monitor, and a diet journal

DASH Diet for Blood Pressure

Elaine Ambrose
This content originally appeared on 

DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, can help control blood pressure. People who adopt DASH can see their blood pressure drop a few points in two weeks, and over time, up to 8 to 14 points.

DASH helps you reduce sodium and enjoy nutrient-dense foods that naturally lower blood pressure because they provide potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

The standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, about one teaspoon. A lower-sodium DASH, recommended if you already have hypertension, aims for 1,500 mg a day--about two-thirds of a teaspoon. Replace table salt with your favorite herbs and spices, or lemon or lime juice for great flavor.

Food Servings for a DASH Diet
Food Group Servings Notes
Grains 6 to 8 a day
  • A serving is 1 slice of bread or 12 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
  • Whole grains, brown rice, oats, and whole-wheat pasta for fiber and nutrients.
Vegetables 4 to 5 a day
  • A serving is 1 cup of raw leafy greens or 12 cup of cut raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Potassium and magnesium in vegetables (fresh or frozen) help lower blood pressure.
  • For canned, choose low-salt, or rinse veggies to reduce sodium.
Fruits 4 to 5 a day
  • A serving is 1 medium-sized fruit or 12 cup fresh, frozen, or canned.
  • Low in fat, high in fiber, full of nutrients.
  • For canned, rinse to remove sweetened syrup to cut calories.
Low-Fat Dairy 2 to 3 a day
  • A serving is 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt, or 1 12 ounces reduced-fat cheese.
Fish, poultry, or lean meat 6 or less a day
  • A serving is 1 ounce.
  • Remove skin, trim fat, and broil, poach, or roast.
  • Choose heart-healthy salmon or tuna to lower cholesterol.
Nuts, seeds, or legumes 4 to 5 a week
  • A serving is 13 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or 12 cup cooked beans.
  • High in calories, serving sizes are small.
  • Almonds, sunflower seeds, lentils, beans, and others in this group offer protein, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Avoid salted nuts and seeds.
Fats and oils 2 to 3 a day
  • A serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine or 1 tablespoon low-fat mayo.
  • Avoid trans fat in processed baked goods and fried foods.
  • Choose margarine and salad dressing lowest in saturated fat.
Sweets 5 or less a week
  • Choose low-fat options, such as sorbets or graham crackers.
  • If you add artificial sweeteners, use them sparingly.

Click to See Our Sources

"DASH Diet: Healthy Eating to Lower Your Blood Pressure" by Mayo Clinic Staff, www.mayoclinic.com, 5/15/10 

"High Blood Pressure and the DASH diet," www.webmd.com, 10/18/11