What is DASH?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. DASH is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life. Research has shown that the DASH diet is very effective in lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, thus reducing your risk for heart disease. The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. This plan recommends:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
Ways to control sodium levels
In order to benefit from the proven DASH eating plan, it is important to limit daily sodium levels to 2300 mg and to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if need. The key to lowering your sodium intake is to make healthier food choices when you’re shopping, cooking, and eating out.
Tips for lowering sodium when shopping, cooking, and eating out
- Read food labels and choose items that are lower in sodium and salt, particularly for convenience foods and condiments.
- Choose fresh poultry, fish, and lean meats instead of cured food such as bacon and ham.
- Choose fresh or frozen versus canned fruits and vegetables.
- When buying canned vegetables, look for low sodium versions and rinse off the vegetables after opening them
- Avoid food with added salt, such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut.
- Avoid instant or flavored rice and pasta.
- Don’t add salt when cooking rice, pasta, and hot cereals.
- Flavor your foods with salt-free seasoning blends, fresh or dried herbs and spices, or fresh lemon or lime juice.
- Rinse canned foods or foods soaked in brine before using to remove the sodium.
- Use less table salt to flavor food.
- Ask that foods be prepared without added salt
- Avoid choosing menu items that have salty ingredients such as bacon, pickles, olives, and cheese.
- Avoid choosing menu items that include foods that are pickled, cured, smoked, or made with soy sauce or broth.
- Choose fruit or vegetables as a side dish, instead of chips or fries.
Ways to Control Calories
To benefit from the DASH eating plan, it is important to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. General tips for reducing daily calories include:
- Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
- Reduce the amount of meat that you eat while increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or dry beans.
- Substitute low-calorie foods, such as when snacking (choose fruits or vegetables instead of sweets and desserts) or drinking (choose water instead of soda or juice), when possible.
Thanks to the NIH for this helpful information!