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The DASH Diet: Naturally Lower Your Blood Pressure

The secret to lowering blood pressure lies in the execution of a healthy lifestyle. This includes plenty of physical activity as well as eating the right foods. There is no big secret or overnight miracle that can lower your blood pressure, and although medications can help they can also come with some pretty unfortunate side effects. If your doctor believes it’s safe to proceed without medication, attempt reductions in blood pressure simply with diet and exercise alone. Exercise is a necessary tool for naturally lowering blood pressure over time, however your blood pressure does rise during exercise so those who have high blood pressure should be careful, and cautiously increase their intensity gradually, so as to avoid overexertion.

 

The DASH Diet

As far as your diet is concerned experts agree that the DASH diet is one of the most helpful diets in not only lowering blood pressure but also aiding you to live a healthier, and more nutritiously rich life. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but the dietary recommendations also fall in line with preventing osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The key dietary points of the DASH diet include: lowering your daily sodium intake, eating the proper proportions from each food group, and lowering alcohol intake.

It is important to remember that any time you change your dietary habits it will take time until your new meal plans begin to feel like a habit, so do not let slip-ups set you back. Change is hard, and it might take you a while to adapt to this new way of eating so try gradually changing different parts of your diet, to make the transition easier. Don’t forget that even though fitness is 80% diet, there is still 20% that exercise accounts for so keep yourself moving throughout this process, to help lower your blood pressure. Knowing how to lower blood pressure is only part of the battle, the hard part comes when you have to apply what you know and remain on track. Get support from a friend or family member if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It may even help you to stay accountable.

Sodium

dash diet

The average American gets about 3,400 milligrams of sodium in their daily diet. There are two different levels of sodium associated with the DASH diet, depending on your personal dietary needs. The standard level includes up to 2,300 milligrams daily, the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The lower sodium level includes up to 1,500 milligrams per day, which is the recommendation of sodium intake provided by the American Heart Association.

DASH Diet Portion Sizes & Food Choices

Grains

dash diet

6 to 8 (1 ounce) servings per day

Don’t be fooled by wheat grains and multigrains when you’re planning out your grain intake for the day. Whether you’re committing to the DASH diet or not, stick to whole grains only, because they have more fiber and overall nutrients than other varieties. Although grains are naturally low in fat content, people often make the mistake of adding butter, cream, or cheese sauces or spreads to their bread and end up negating the natural benefits with unnecessary calories, fat, and even sodium.

Serving Size Examples

1 slice of whole grain bread

5 whole grain crackers

½ of a whole wheat english muffin

½ cup of cooked oatmeal (⅓ cup dry)

1 pancake (4 ½” diameter)

3 cups of air popped popcorn

½ cup of cooked rice

½ cup of cooked pasta

1 small flour tortilla or 1 corn tortilla (6” diameter)

Vegetables

dash diet

4 to 5 (½ cup) servings per day

Vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups depending on their nutrient content. These subgroups include: beans and peas, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, dark green vegetables, and other vegetables. As long as your vegetables remain unaltered by butter, other fats, or salt, you can enjoy them cooked, raw, fresh, whole, cut up, or mashed. And if you invest in 100% vegetable juice, you can also get your servings in through liquid, although doctors who recommend the DASH diet suggest that you opt for whole vegetables as they contain the most nutrients.

Serving Size Examples

1 cup broccoli

2 cups raw leafy greens (spinach, romaine, endive)

1 cup carrots

1 large red or green pepper (1 cup chopped)

1 large tomato (1 cup chopped)

1 large sweet potato (1 cup chopped)

1 cup dry beans (kidney, pinto, garbanzo, black)

1 ear of corn (1 cup)

1 cup cauliflower

1 cup mushrooms

Fruits

dash diet

4 to 5 servings per day

Much like vegetables, you can get your daily fruit servings through 100% fruit juice, but make sure that the juice that you choose is in fact 100% fresh fruit juice, and does not include added sugars, flavors, or preservatives. Whole fruits are recommended by doctors in support of the DASH diet as a healthier option than juices, since they contain more of the beneficial nutrients, and since they can be consumed fresh, dried, whole, cut up, or pureed, getting in your daily servings should be easy enough.

Serving Size Examples

1 small apple (1 cup chopped – or 1 cup unsweetened apple juice)

1 large banana (1 cup chopped)

32 seedless grapes (1 cup)

1 large orange (1 cup)

1 large peach (1 cup)

1 medium pear (1 cup)

1 cup pineapple

8 large strawberries (1 cup)

1 small watermelon (1 cup)

1 cup 100% fruit juice

Protein: ISOPasta, Lean Meat, Poultry, and Fish

isopasta

6 servings or fewer per day

For most diets, higher levels of protein is suggested, however when trying to naturally lower your blood pressure with the DASH diet, it is best to stick to the philosophy that less is more when it comes to protein. It’s also important to make sure that the protein that you’re getting is low in fat content, and high in nutrients so choosing ISOPasta, lean meats, lean poultry, and fish for your servings, is ideal. Here one serving of protein will equate to a single ounce, so don’t assume that you have to eat 6 servings of 3 ounce protein portions everyday.

Serving Size Examples

1 ounce cooked lean beef, pork, or ham

1 ounce cooked chicken or turkey (skinless)

1 slice of deli turkey

1 ounce cooked fish or shellfish

1 egg

¼ cup of tofu

1 ounce of ISOPasta

Dairy

dash diet

2 to 3 servings per day

When choosing dairy servings, make sure that you are picking fat free or low fat options, to maximize the nutrients, and minimize the unnecessary fats and sugars. Avoid flavored dairy products as well, as these items also add to your empty calories count. The DASH diet even has suggestions for if you are lactose intolerant. Try cutting servings in half and consuming half servings more frequently to maintain adequate levels, or purchase lactose-free dairy products.

Serving Size Examples

1 cup of milk (8 fluid ounces)

1 individual sized yogurt container (8 fluid ounces)

1 ½ ounces of hard cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, or parmesan)

⅓ cup of shredded cheese

2 ounces of processed american cheese

½ cup of ricotta cheese

2 cups of cottage cheese

1 cup of frozen yogurt

1 cup of calcium fortified soymilk

Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes

dash diet

4 to 5 servings per WEEK

Nuts, seeds, and legumes are often high enough in protein content to count towards a protein serving for the day, but in the DASH diet they qualify as a category all their own, because they have other nutritional benefits that the DASH diet focuses on. These foods contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart healthy and help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and promote HDL (good cholesterol). Many nuts, seed, and legumes also contain omega-3 fatty acids which also promote a healthy heart.

Serving Size Examples

1 ounce of peanuts

1 ounce of cashews

1 ounce of almonds

1 ounce of hazelnuts

1 ounce of sunflower seeds

¼ cup of cooked beans

1 cup of snow peas or sugar snap peas

½ cup of lentils

Fats and Oils

dash diet

2 to 3 servings per day

Fats and oils can add up quickly simply by using them to cook with, so you want to be careful that you’re paying attention to the amounts you are using in your recipes, and adding atop your salads or sandwiches throughout the day. Although oils do provide essential nutrients, it is not recommended that you ingest more than two to three servings per day. The DASH diet aims to reduce blood pressure, and in order to do that, fats and oils should be limited.

Serving Size Examples

1 tablespoon vegetable oils (canola, olive, soybean, sunflower)

1 tablespoon margarine

1 tablespoon mayonnaise (and mayonnaise-type salad dressings)

2 tablespoons italian and thousand island dressing)

½ medium avocado

4 large olives (black or green)

Sweets

dash diet

5 servings or fewer per WEEK

The DASH diet is a sustainable way of eating, rather than a fad or crash diet. It allows for the inclusion of the occasional sweet treat, in moderation. Since the serving size of each sweet treat is different than the rest, it’s important to keep a close eye on the nutritional labels to ensure that you aren’t overdoing it on the sugar. Remember that eating too much sugar can cause your glucose levels to spike quickly and fall drastically leaving you feeling hungry again shortly after your snack, and even making you crave these treats more often. Keep serving sizes appropriate and don’t indulge everyday and you’ll be just fine.

Serving Size Examples

3 oreos

1 chocolate chip cookie

1 little debbie oatmeal cream pie

1 sugar cookie

4 hostess donettes

16 pringles

11 doritos

1.5 ounce dark or milk chocolate

½ cup of ice cream

Sources:

All About the Fruit Group. (2016, March 28). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit

All about the Grains Group. (2016, March 28). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/grains

All about the Protein Foods Group. (2016, March 28). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods

All about the Vegetable Group. (2016, March 28). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables

DASH Quick View. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.dashdietoregon.org/why/DASH-Quick-View

Heart disease. (2014, February 19). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635

Nutrition and healthy eating. (2016, April 8). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456?pg=1

Nutrition and healthy eating. (2016, April 8). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456?pg=1

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