DASH Diet for Heart Health


February is National American Heart Month

Stacey Milak, RD


One of US News and World Reports Best Diets of 2023 is The DASH Eating Plan. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is a meal plan based on scientific research that shows eating a variety of foods from certain food groups can reduce high blood pressure. The DASH diet is an all-around, heart-healthy meal plan approach that has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and have other health benefits. 


The Research:

The first multi-center trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, demonstrated the positive impact a healthy diet can have on blood pressure. The study evaluated the effect of the diet on hypertension in 459 adults and found that those who ate more fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and reduced their saturated and total fat consumption achieved significantly lower blood pressure compared to those who followed the average diet in the U.S. The fruits-and-vegetables diet reduced systolic blood pressure more than the average diet by 5.5 millimeters of mercury and diastolic pressure by 3.0 millimeters of mercury.


What is in it?

One of the great things about the DASH diet is that you do not need to purchase special foods or use special recipes. In general, the DASH meal plan is high in fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium. It contains low-fat dairy products, and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

DASH includes the following foods: 

  • 6-8 servings of whole grains every day. One serving is a slice of bread, a cup of unsweetened cereal or a half-cup of cooked brown rice or whole grain or high fiber pasta. 
  • 6 ounces or less of meat, poultry or fish per day. Vegans can use beans, seeds, legumes, and soy products).
  • 4-5 vegetables and 4-5 fruits each day. One serving is a cup of raw vegetables, half-cup of cooked vegetables, half-cup of fruit or 6 ounces of fruit or vegetable juice
  • 2-3 low-fat or fat-free dairy products every day. One serving is 8 ounces of milk, one cup of yogurt or one and a half ounces of cheese. Vegetarians or Vegans can use soy or rice milk/yogurt/cheeses – just make sure these substitutes have the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as the original foods.
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas each week. One serving is a one-third cup of nuts, one tablespoon of seeds or half-cup of cooked beans.
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils each day. One serving is one teaspoon of soft margarine, oil or low-fat mayonnaise or two tablespoons of light salad dressing. 
  • 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. To lower your blood sugar even further, reduce your intake to 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily.


*Servings depend on the calorie level of the individual.


Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Add an extra serving of vegetables to lunch AND dinner.
  • Add a serving of fruit to your meals or snacks.
  • Use half of the butter, margarine, condiments, and salad dressing than normal.
  • Drink low-fat, skim milk, or eat plain yogurt three times a day.
  • Limit meat to 6 oz. per day (3 oz. = the size of a deck of cards).
  • Eat more vegetarian meals.
  • For snacks, choose raw nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, unsalted/unbuttered popcorn, low-fat yogurt (without added sugar), etc.