The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible heart-healthy eating pattern, specifically designed to lower blood pressure. DASH is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fish and minimal poultry. This plan recommends limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, tropical oils such as coconut, palm and palm oils as well as sugar sweetened beverages and sweets.
While following the DASH eating plan it is important to choose foods that are low in saturated, trans fats and sodium while rich in potassium, fiber, protein calcium. Studies show that those on the DASH diet had lower blood pressure than those who follow a typical American diet alone. Studies demonstrate that in addition to improving blood pressure, the DASH diet also lowers LDL cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and high blood levels of LDL cholesterol are two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. One DASH-sodium study found that reducing sodium intake and following the DASH diet is more beneficial for lowering blood pressure than following the DASH diet alone or reducing sodium alone.
Examples of DASH diet approved breakfast recipes may include rolled oats with walnuts and berries or sliced banana. This low sodium breakfast is rich in whole grains, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Oatmeal and walnuts are also known to be heart-healthy. A second DASH approved option is a southwest tofu scramble with vegetables. This delicious plant-based take on “scrambled eggs” is low in fat and sodium and high in protein and fiber. It can be jazzed up with turmeric and other herbs and spices as well.
The combination of the DASH eating plan and a reduced sodium intake gives the biggest benefit and may help prevent the development of high blood pressure.