How is the DASH Diet Beneficial for Hypertension?

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

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To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art”. What you eat plays a major role in keeping you healthy, especially when it comes to the management of chronic health conditions like hypertension. Ever heard of the DASH diet for hypertension? Did you know that it is ideal for managing your blood pressure levels? Read on to find out more.

Contents:
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What is the DASH Diet?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    How is the DASH Diet Beneficial for Hypertension?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    DASH Diet: Food List and Serving Size
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    DASH Diet Chart for Hypertension
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Know What Foods to Avoid While on the DASH Diet
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Don’t Have Time To Read?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    FAQs
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What is the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet stands for the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” diet. It is a healthy and balanced diet plan endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA) to help you manage your blood pressure. 

Following the DASH diet helps prevent or manage hypertension and reduce the risk of complications such as heart diseases. It focuses on foods that are rich in nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which help lower your blood pressure levels.

The DASH diet focuses more on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. It emphasises more on a plant-based diet for blood pressure and relies on cutting down on foods that may negatively affect your heart health, such as excess sodium, added sugars, and saturated or trans fats. 

The DASH diet also specifies the number of servings of a particular food to improve your blood pressure levels and heart health. Let’s understand how the DASH diet helps tackle high blood pressure.

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How is the DASH Diet Beneficial for Hypertension?

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition where your blood pressure (the force that is exerted on your blood vessels as blood flows through them) is constantly high. Individuals with a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg (Normal Blood Pressure: ≤ 120/80 mm Hg) are considered to have high blood pressure. 

Following a DASH diet can effectively lower your blood pressure. Lowering your sodium intake is key to keeping your blood pressure under control. This is because sodium causes water retention in the body, increases your blood volume, and plays a major role in increasing your blood pressure. The DASH diet limits your sodium intake to 2300 mg a day (around 1 teaspoon of table salt). 

Foods included in the DASH diet are rich in nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and calcium and improve the electrolyte balance in the body, thus lowering your blood pressure. The foods of the DASH diet can also lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood. This lowers the risk of high blood pressure and other related complications such as heart diseases and stroke

DASH Diet: Food List and Serving Size

Here is the food list and serving size for the DASH diet:

Food Group

Servings

Grains

6 to 8 daily (One serving is 1 slice of bread, 1-ounce dry cereal or ½ cup cooked cereal)

Meat, poultry, and fish

6 or fewer daily (One serving is 1 ounce cooked meat/poultry/fish or 1 egg)

Vegetables

4 to 5 daily (On serving is 1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, ½ cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetable, or ½ cup vegetable juice)

Fruits

4 to 5 daily (One serving is 1 medium fruit, ½ cup, fresh/frozen/canned fruit, or ½ cup fruit juice)

Low-fat or fat-free dairy products

2 to 3 daily (One serving is 1 cup milk or yoghurt, or 1 ½ ounce of cheese)

Fats and oils

2 to 3 daily (One serving is 1 tsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp mayonnaise, or 2 tbsps salad dressing) 

Sodium

1500 mg to 2300 mg daily (around 1 teaspoon of table salt)

Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas

4 to 5 weekly (One serving is ⅓ cup of nuts, 2 tbsp seeds, or ½ cup cooked legumes)

Sweets/Added Sugars

5 or fewer weekly (One serving is 1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam, ½ cup sorbet or 1 cup lemonade)

DASH Diet Chart for Hypertension

Here is an example of a full day DASH diet chart for hypertension.

Early Morning

  • Drinks such as unsweetened green tea or warm lemon water with honey.

Breakfast

  • Stuffed vegetable parathas (2 small) with curd (unsalted)/dosa (2 medium-sized) or idli (2) with sambar/ 2 egg white omelettes with chopped vegetables along with one slice of brown bread or 1 roti.

Mid-Morning Snacks

  • One medium-sized fruit such as apple, orange, guava or grapefruit with one glass of unsweetened green tea. 

Lunch

  • Vegetable brown rice pulao/vegetable oats upma with a bowl with grilled chicken or fish, raita, and mixed vegetable salad/2 chapatis or phulkas (without ghee) along with dal or sambar and a bowl of mixed vegetable salad.

Evening Snacks

  • Green tea/milk tea/coffee/fruit juice without sugar with 2 digestive biscuits/1 bowl of poha with dry fruits and vegetables/a bowl of fresh fruits.

Dinner

  • Whole wheat flour chapati or phulka (2 medium-sized) with a vegetable curry of your choice and a bowl of curd or dal/1 bowl of brown rice with grilled fish and vegetable curry.

Know What Foods to Avoid While on the DASH Diet

Now you know what foods to include in your daily meals while following a DASH diet. Here’s what you need to avoid in hypertension:

1. Overly Salty Foods

You can cut down on salty foods like chips, namkeen, condiments, etc., that have high amounts of sodium, which can raise your blood pressure levels.

2. High-Sugar Foods

The DASH diet recommends that added sugars be kept to a minimum, so avoid or limit your intake of high-sugar foods and beverages such as candy, cakes, pastries, and soda. Limit your intake of table sugar, unrefined sugars, and alternative sugar sources.

3. Caffeine

Try to avoid caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, sports drinks, sodas, etc., which can spike your blood pressure readings as caffeine constricts your blood vessels and elevates your blood pressure.

4. High-Fat Foods

Foods that have high saturated and trans fat content, such as fast food, deep-fried food, dairy products like cream, butter, etc., can block your arteries, making them narrow and increasing your blood pressure levels.

5. Alcohol

Long term consumption or binge drinking of alcohol can cause several ill effects on your health, high blood pressure being one of them. Alcohol increases the level of a hormone called renin, which makes the blood vessels constrict. Renin also decreases the volume of fluids your body can eliminate through urine. Thus, higher fluid levels in the body and constricted blood vessels increase blood pressure levels.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • The DASH or “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, is a healthy and balanced diet plan endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA), which helps manage and prevent hypertension.
  • The DASH diet focuses more on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat and is rich in foods containing heart-healthy nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and calcium. It advises cutting down foods that may negatively affect your heart health, such as excess sodium, added sugars, and saturated or trans fats.
  • Sodium plays a significant role in increasing your blood pressure as it causes water retention in the body and increases your blood volume. Following the DASH diet can effectively lower your blood pressure as it recommends a low sodium intake (1500 to 2300 mg per day). 
  • The DASH diet also lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood. This lowers the risk of high blood pressure and other related complications such as heart diseases and stroke.
  • While following the DASH diet, it is also necessary that you keep an eye on your serving size in order to keep your calorie intake in check and ensure the right amount of nutrition.
  • The foods that you need to avoid while on the DASH diet include salty food, high-sugar food, caffeine, foods high in saturated and trans fat, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.

Frequently Asked Questions

The DASH diet recommends eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, which include eggs. Therefore, eggs are approved while on the DASH diet, provided you limit yourself to 1 to 2 eggs in a day and adjust the servings of other lean proteins accordingly.

Studies have shown that those who follow the DASH diet along with regular exercise and prescribed medications can lower their blood pressure within a period of 2 weeks. However, this time period can vary from person to person depending on their overall health and blood pressure levels.

All vegetables are allowed on the DASH diet. Potatoes are recommended as they are low in sodium and fat, and high in potassium. Potassium helps in maintaining the electrolyte levels in your body. The more potassium you consume, the more sodium is excreted through urine. It also plays a role in relaxing your blood vessels, thereby lowering your blood pressure.

The DASH diet can effectively lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and associated risks such as heart diseases. The DASH diet lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood because it provides lots of fibre (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans), recommends fish and leaner cuts of meat, and limits sweets and refined carbohydrates.

The DASH diet can effectively lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and associated risks such as heart diseases. The DASH diet lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood because it provides lots of fibre (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans), recommends fish and leaner cuts of meat, and limits sweets and refined carbohydrates.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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