BlogNutritionDASH Diet Food List: What You Should Eat to Control Hypertension

DASH Diet Food List: What You Should Eat to Control Hypertension

Mariia Roza
Written by Mariia Roza on June 16, 2021

Table of contents

The DASH diet or Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension was developed in the 1990s(1) to deal with high blood pressure. During the surveys, researchers have figured out that this approach is also helpful in preventing strokes and other heart diseases. As cardiovascular and heart conditions are one of the main reasons(2) for mortality in the USA, today, the DASH diet is approved and recommended by the National Institutes of Health(3) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What’s more, the DASH diet is considered one of the best eating approaches to prevent diabetes(4).

Even though the DASH diet is not the quickest way to lose body fat, it is considered the second-best diet by the U.S. News(5), right after the Mediterranean diet. It was scored 3/5 for the short-term weight loss and 3.4/5 for the long-term weight loss, so if you’re ready to wait and move towards your goal weight slowly, the DASH diet might be the excellent choice for you! 

DASH diet daily food consumption

To compose your diet to stop hypertension, you don't have to do anything supernatural: you just need to introduce the necessary foods and remove the prohibited ones gradually. If your goal is to lose weight, reduce recommended servings by 1-2 points.

DASH diet food pyramid
DASH diet food pyramid
  • Grains — no less than seven servings a day (one serving equals a slice of bread, half a cup of ready pasta, or half a cup of porridge).
  • Fruits — no more than five servings a day (one serving equals one medium fruit, a quarter of a cup of dry fruits, or half a glass of fruit juice).
  • Vegetables — five servings a day (one serving equals half a cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables).
  • Fat-free dairy products — 2–3 servings a day (one serving = 30 grams of cheese or one cup of cottage cheese).
  • Seeds, nuts, and legumes — five servings a week or one serving a day (one serving equals 40 grams of beans or a quarter a cup of nuts).
  • Oils — three servings a day (one serving equals one teaspoon of olive or nut oil).
  • Sweets — no more than five servings a week (one serving is a teaspoon of jam or honey).
  • Water and other liquids — 2 liters a day (water, tea, juice with no added sugar).
  • Protein sources — 200 grams or 5-6 ounces of lean meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.

DASH diet phase 1 food list

As a rule, the DASH diet is divided into two phases. The first phase is more strict, and its primary goal is to stimulate your metabolism and prepare you to the diet. The first stage is usually described as a low-carb diet as it eliminates not only processed sugars, flour, and starchy vegetables, but also grains and fruits rich in carbohydrates. 

The first stage of the DASH diet is plant-based. It contains a lot of leafy vegetables and plants with a low glycemic index.

  • You can include 2-3 servings of fat-free dairy a day. Both regular and fat-free types of cheese should be excluded during the first stage, as they usually contain a lot of sodium. 
  • You can have up to 6 ounces of lean meat, fish, seafood, and poultry a day, as they are the primary protein sources. Red meat is restricted.
  • Nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes are also appreciated, while fats and oils will fill your body with all the necessary nutrients.

How to measure your servings if you don’t have kitchen scales?

The main difficulty with the DASH diet is a “servings” method of tracking food. The easiest way to stop stressing out about servings is using a “hand rule.” 

  • For example, the hand rule tells you that the volume of your salmon fillet or chicken breast serving should approximately equal the size of your palm (without fingers).
  • One serving of butter is almost equal to the size of your fingertip.
  • If you want some cheese, consider that one serving will be the size of your thumb. 

Find out more about the ways to track your portions without kitchen scales in our previous article.

What should you eat during the first stage of the DASH diet?

  • Dairy: skim milk, yogurts with no additives, low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Vegetables: cruciferous, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, cabbage, eggplant, daikon, turnip, brussel sprouts, asparagus, celery, mushroom, radish, etc.
  • Leafy greens and herbs: spinach, lettuce, kale, cilantro, dill, coriander, rosemary, marjoram, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, arugula, bok choi, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: cashew, almond, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachio, hazelnut, pine nut, walnut, peanut, pecan, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
  • Legumes: chickpeas, black-eyed peas, mung, lima, fava, edamame, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, etc.
  • Fats and oils: olive oil, canola oil, nut oils.
  • Protein sources: eggs, chicken, turkey, white fish, tuna, salmon, mackerel, shrimp, lean beef, etc.

Along with this, don’t forget to drink your water and add taste to your meals with some bright seasoning. The recommended amount of salt per day on a DASH diet is one teaspoon which is about 5 grams. This means that you will have to discover new herbs and spices to make your dishes more joyful but less salty. 

Add black pepper, chili pepper, paprika, coriander, garlic, and vinegar to your meat and vegetable meals. Make your beans more vibrant with some parsley, thyme, sage, or rosemary. Add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg to your milk, tea, or coffee. Healthy eating shouldn’t be boring! Play with seasonings to discover new tastes! 

Tips to start a DASH diet

The DASH diet is easy to start as you can implement small changes into your eating one by one. By doing so, you have more chances to stick to the new eating plan forever.

To get more out of the DASH diet for weight loss, try to opt for whole products instead of their canned, frozen, or processed versions. Remember that along with preservatives, manufacturers frequently use sugar and salt to enhance the shelflife of their products and make them tastier.

The DASH diet is first and foremost designed to control your hypertension, so pay more attention to the amount of sodium you consume. You can decrease the amount of salt by limiting its amount while you cook. With this being said, remember that salt is necessary for your health, and you cannot do absolutely without it.

Blood pressure DASH diet food list 

Shopping might be a bit more complicated when you’re on a diet. First of all, you have to make a list before you go to the store, then you shouldn’t go to the groceries when you’re hungry, and of course, you have to read labels. 

The latter is an essential part when you’re on a DASH diet for weight loss. In this case, you should pay attention to both the calories in processed foods you buy and the sodium content. What will help you with sticking to your meal plan is buying your fresh fruits and vegetables first. 

Another tip is buying whole, unprocessed grains like buckwheat, oat, bulgur, or brown rice and making porridge by yourself. In this case, you can be absolutely sure about what exactly has been put into your meal and can make your cereal, granola, or porridge up to your taste, for example, by adding more or less water or switching water with low-fat milk.

Choose turkey, chicken, fish, and seafood to get all the required nutrients and B12, and make sure you consume enough protein. Lean animal protein is advisable though not necessary. You can follow a well-balanced DASH diet even if you’re vegetarian. 

What is especially good about the DASH diet is its sustainability. There is no specific food you should look for, no matter what, like goji berries, acai, or exotic fruits. Let nuts, seeds, and legumes become your superfoods! Enjoy your legumes and whole fresh meals to stay healthy, minimize hypertension, and decrease heart disease risks.

The Mediterranean diet vs DASH diet food list 

The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are very alike. They’re both plant-based and focus on plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. They decrease the number of saturated fats and processed foods and add more fiber to your diet. However, there are some differences as well.

Mediterranean diet vs DASH diet
Mediterranean diet vs DASH diet
  • The Mediterranean diet allows red wine in moderation. The DASH diet recommends minimizing the amount of alcohol (ever dry wine) as it can increase your blood pressure.
  • The DASH diet offers to consume fat-free dairy products, and the Mediterranean diet doesn’t focus on dairy. If you want to include some milk, yogurt, cheese, or cream, the Mediterranean diet recommends opting for their full-fat alternatives.
  • The Mediterranean diet brings more fish and seafood to your meals, and it offers to consume these products at least twice a week. There is no significant difference between lean meat, poultry, and fish for the DASH diet.
  • The Mediterranean diet doesn’t focus on sodium consumption, while for the DASH diet, limiting your salt intake to 5 grams a day is a must.

All in all, you can combine the DASH and Mediterranean diets. However, you should consider their differences, especially when it comes to salt consumption.

The verdict

The popularity of the DASH diet is explained by its efficiency in coping with various health conditions, including hypertension and heart diseases. 

Its main advantage is that it is highly sustainable. It doesn’t prescribe to you to refrain from some particular food groups, limiting your eating time, or even counting your calories. 

One of the most efficient ways to deal with hypertension is by losing weight and normalizing it to your height, age, and gender. This will lower your blood pressure, and the DASH diet can help you with your excess weight as well. However, to lose weight, you will have to track your portions. On the other hand, the portions and servings are not the easiest way to track your food, which might be the most complicated part of the DASH diet.

Another downfall of the DASH diet is that it requires determination from its followers: You will have to cook more and keep away from the cafeterias and the fast-food restaurants. The thing is, cooks have to make food tasty and not beneficial for your blood pressure. For this reason, they often put too much salt or sugar into their dishes.

If you need a personalized meal plan to start a diet, take a quiz, and Unimeal experts will compose a customized menu you can receive via our app or as a PDF file to your email.

Sources

  • Challa H. J., Ameer M. A., Uppaluri K. R. (2021, May 19). DASH Diet to Stop Hypertension. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482514/ 
  • Benjamin E. J., Muntner P., Alonso A., et al. (2019, March 5). Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
  • (2006, April). Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH. DASH Eating Plan. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/new_dash.pdf
  • Campbell A. P. (2017, May). DASH Eating Plan: An Eating Pattern for Diabetes Management. Diabetes Spectrum. DOI: 10.2337/ds16-0084
  • DASH Diet. U.S. News and World Report. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet