Make a DASH Toward Better Health

The DASH diet can help lower blood pressure 

By Alison Stanton

Doctors often prescribe a low-sodium diet to combat high blood pressure, but experts say there is an even better approach. 

It’s called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH plan.

 “The DASH plan is much more than just a low-sodium diet,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Susan Welter from the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing. It’s designed to reduce sodium while also correcting the electrolyte deficiencies of potassium, magnesium and calcium, which help regulate blood pressure. 

An easy (and tasty!) road to success 

DASH plan basics include consuming more plant-based foods and beverages while reducing processed foods, sweets and red meat.

“Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, as well as fish, poultry and low-fat dairy into your meal plans,” Susan says. She also recommends easing into DASH with gradual changes in one’s eating habits. This can include adding an extra serving of vegetables at dinner, substituting a piece of fruit and nuts for cheese and crackers as a snack, cutting down on the portion of red meat at a meal or having fruit for dessert.  

“Also, try salt-free seasonings such as herbs, lemon, vinegar, garlic and pepper when cooking,” she says. “If cost is a factor, use frozen fruits and vegetables or drain and rinse canned vegetables.”

Take this advice ‘without’ a grain of salt

Because restaurant foods are notoriously laden with sodium, Susan says DASH followers need to be extra careful when dining out.

“Try a vegetarian meal; ask for no salt to be added to foods when prepared, or start the meal with a side salad and vinegar and oil salad dressing,” she says.

Still have doubts about DASH? In 2018, “U.S. News & World Report” ranked it as the Best Diet Overall (tied with the Mediterranean diet) among 40 plans, based on ease of following, safety, effectiveness for weight loss and protection against heart disease and diabetes. This marked the eighth consecutive year that DASH earned the top spot.

Helpful Hints

DASH plan foods include:

  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oats
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes including kidney beans,
    lentils, sunflower seeds and almonds
  • Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes
  • Fruits such as avocado, bananas, dates and oranges
  • Low-fat milk and plain yogurt

Discover the benefits of the DASH plan at
“Are You Ready to DASH?,” 1:30 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21,
at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.

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