Easiest ways to adopt the DASH diet

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The very word diet might be distasteful to you.

You may associate diets with restricting calories and cutting out all the foods you love, trading savory for bland, sweet food full of fiber.

But let’s say you have high blood pressure, or high blood pressure runs in your family and you don’t want to develop it.

There’s a diet to help you avoid high blood pressure, and you won’t have to sacrifice flavor for your health: the DASH diet — “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.”

As you age, your blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, often goes up. Your arteries may be getting stiffer. Lowering your blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

You can reduce your blood pressure with regular exercise, but what you eat also matters.

One of the biggest things you’ll need to limit in the DASH diet is — no surprise — salt, which can increase your blood pressure. Salt can cause some people to retain fluids, and that can increase the pressure the blood exerts on the vessel walls.

How do I adopt the DASH diet?

The core practice of the DASH diet is to eat the following every day:

  • Eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Three servings of dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, yogurt or kefir
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish and plant-based sources of protein

The goal is to eat foods high in calcium, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients lower blood pressure.

What foods are restricted?

The DASH diet limits foods high in salt, added sugar and saturated fat, such as in fatty meats and dairy products with full fat. As tasty as they may be, fat, salt and sugar can raise your blood pressure.

What can I do to get started on the DASH diet?

  • Slowly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat. Prioritize eating vegetables that are roasted, grilled or streamed — not deep-fried or covered with butter or cheesy sauce.
  • Eat fruit that’s fresh, frozen or canned without sugar or syrup, and prepared without added sugar or fats.
  • Eat dairy products during meals or for snacks. The best sources are cheese, yogurt and kefir, rather than cream cheese, sour cream and ice cream.

Expert Guide to Heart Health: Answers to more of your heart health questions

What are some examples of foods that are OK to eat on the DASH diet?

Vegetables: salad, grilled or roasted vegetables, slaws, chutneys, salsas and smoothies. Add vegetables to pasta dishes, tomato sauce, omelets and soups.

Fruit: Replace sugar-filled jams and jellies with compotes, a chunky fruit sauce made from fresh or frozen fruit without added sugar. Choose fruit salads for dessert or snacks. Try freeze-dried or dried fruits.

Dairy: cheese on eggs, in salads, in sandwiches. Kefir or Greek yogurt for breakfast.

What is good to eat for breakfast on a DASH diet? Lunch? Snack? Dinner?

Breakfast: oats with nuts and fruit; peanut butter and bananas or apples; Greek yogurt parfait (fruit and granola); avocado toast with greens; tofu scramble with vegetables; breakfast sandwich with eggs or egg whites and roasted vegetables.

Lunch: tacos, hummus, soup, sandwiches on whole grain bread, large salads. Serve all these items with a variety of vegetables, slaws, micro-greens or herbs.

Snack: nine wheat crackers and ¼ cup hummus with veggies; ¼ cup of unsalted nuts with 2 tablespoons of dried fruit; fruit Kefir; roasted vegetables with creamy feta cheese.

Dinner: 2 to 3 ounces of baked or grilled fish, lean roast beef or pork; baked potato or sweet potato with sauteed greens or carrots. 1 cup berries or mixed melon.

How is the DASH diet different from the Mediterranean diet or the diabetes-friendly diet?

The DASH diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet and a diabetes-friendly diet because of its focus on fruit, vegetables, grains and lean meat. However, the DASH diet is considered better at lowering blood pressure than the Mediterranean diet because the DASH diet includes eliminating added salt.

Besides lowering your blood pressure, the DASH diet can help you prevent or stop chronic inflammation.

It’s easy to get in the habit of adding salt to everything even before you taste it. You can gradually reduce how much salting you do and discover, in the process, that you’re actually not giving up flavors. Instead, you’re uncovering flavors that have been there all along.

If you enjoy spicing things up, try adding herbs and spices to foods. That will not only add flavor but also beneficial antioxidants.

Healthy eating is within your reach!

Make an appointment with our dietitians or nutritionists.

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