This is why you should try the DASH diet


Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a diet plan to lower or control high blood pressure.  Your blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day. High blood pressure is when stays elevated over time. 

The more your blood pressure rises above normal – which for the average healthy person is below 120/80 mmHg – the greater your health risk. There are no warning signs or symptoms that indicate you have high blood pressure.

When you suffer from high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder. This can be dangerous. That combined with the high force of the blood flow, can harm arteries and organs such as the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes.

The DASH diet follows heart-healthy guidelines to limit saturated fat and cholesterol. It emphasizes food rich in protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and calcium, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and low fat dairy products. Research suggests it can also be effective in reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of developing kidney disease and decreasing levels of low-density lipoproteins (better known as bad cholesterol), along with several types of cancer.

The DASH diet hasn’t gained much popularity because it has not been advertised as a weight loss diet. It is a dietary lifestyle designed for disease prevention and improved health. However, most people would likely lose weight given the recommended diet changes, which include limited portions of red meats, sweets and sugary beverages. 

With the DASH diet you fill up on delicious fruits and vegetables, paired with protein-rich foods. The following are recommendations on how to implement this plan into your life:

  1. Eat more fruits. Eat an apple or pear instead of cookies or muffins. Try a few dried apricots instead of pork rinds or chips.
  2. Increase your veggie consumption. Add extra vegetables to stews, soups and casseroles. Make one or two weekdays per week vegetarian days and experiment with a new recipe, where vegetables are the highlight.
  3. Turn to fat-free or low-fat milk products. Substitute sugary yogurt with plain, low-fat yogurt and add your favorite fruit. You can also use yogurt instead of sour cream, cream and salad dressings in recipes.

Other calorie saving tips:

  • Eat smaller portions by cutting back gradually. Try to be mindful of not just what you eat, but the speed, level of hunger or fullness and how your emotions dictate your choices.
  • Snack on fruit, vegetables, boiled eggs, small pre-portioned cheese sticks and nuts. Don’t forget to hydrate with at least 64 ounces of water per day. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst.
  • Eat in, not out, and plan healthy meals.

Healthy eating takes effort and requires planning but the payback is a lifetime of health. The bottom line to lowering blood pressure is to follow a heart-healthy eating plan, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol and increase physical activity.


Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford are nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them, call 443-481-5555.