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DASH Diet: A Diet to Manage Hypertension

dash diet for hypertension management

Hypertension is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. A lot of public health efforts to reduce the prevalence of hypertension are underplayed and some of them focus on non- pharmacological approaches (lifestyle modification) that lower blood pressure. One such approach to manage hypertension is following a DASH Diet.

What does the DASH Diet mean?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Developed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the diet is recommended by dieticians/ nutritionists to those who are suffering from hypertension. The diet helps in lowering blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure i.e ≥ 140/90 mmHg and promotes heart health.

In a nutshell, DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products with a reduced amount of saturated and total fat.

Researchers have found that by following DASH Diet there is a decrease in systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 6-11mmHg. Also, by combining the DASH diet with a low sodium diet, greater effects on lowering the blood pressure can be accomplished.  

Benefits of following the DASH Diet

Studies conducted all over the world suggests that DASH Diet can help shed weight, along with managing blood glucose levels, improving HDL levels and reducing LDL levels. In doing so, the DASH diet reduces the risk for several other chronic conditions, such as heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and stroke.

What does the DASH Diet incorporate?

Straightforwardly, DASH includes consumption of vegetables and fruits, lean meat and dairy products and the incorporation of micronutrients in the diet. It also recommends the reduction of sodium in the diet to about 1500 mg/day. DASH emphasizes avoiding processed and packaged food products. The DASH diet is targeted to manage some of the leading killers of modern society.

In DASH Diet specific servings of different food groups are recommended. The number of servings that one includes in the diet depends on how many calories the person consumes.

Various studies have found that the blood-pressure-lowering effects are even greater when the DASH Diet is combined with a low sodium diet. Sodium restriction is effective in controlling mild to moderate hypertension. Therefore, some measures of sodium control are recommended for hypertensive patients.

It has been recommended to reduce dietary sodium intake to no more than 100mmol per day i.e 2.4 g sodium or 6 g of sodium chloride(table salt).

Below is an example of food portions based on a 2,000-calorie diet : –

Food Group Daily
Serving Size
Grains and products 6-8 1 slice of bread, 3 Tbsp dry cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice,
pasta or grain ( preferably whole grain )
Vegetables 4-5 1 cup (250 ml) raw leafy greens, 1/2 cup ( (125ml) chopped
raw or cooked vegetables,  1/2 cup ( (125ml) vegetable juice
Fruits 4-5 1 medium fruit, 1/4 cup (60 g ) dried fruit, 1/2 cup (125 ml)
100% fruit juice
Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products 2-3 1 cup ( 250 ml) milk or 1 cup (250 g) yogurt
Lean meat, poultry, and fish 2 or less 40g (2-3 pieces) cooked lean meat, skinless poultry, or fish, Egg – 1 medium size (50 g) / 3 Tbsp of pulses
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 4 – 5 per week 7 – 8 count of dry fruits, 3 Tbsp of legumes
Fat and oils 2-3 1 teaspoon (5 ml)vegetable oil
Sugars 5 or less per week 1 teaspoon (5 g) sugar
Table salt 1¼ teaspoon ( 6 g ) salt

Foods allowed in the DASH Diet

  • Whole grains such as whole wheat, oatmeal, millets, pulses and legumes ( a major source of energy and fiber)
  • Fruits and vegetables such as tomato, peas, beans, carrot, broccoli orange, banana, dates, mangoes (an important source of potassium, magnesium, and fiber)
  • Low- fat or fat-free dairy products like skimmed milk, low-fat buttermilk, etc (a major source of calcium and protein)
  • Lean meat or fish
  • Vegetable oils such as olive oil, corn oil, canola, and safflower

Foods to be avoided or restricted in the DASH Diet

  • Packaged and canned foods such as chips, biscuits, crackers, muffins, etc.
  • Saturated and trans fats like butter, lard,  ghee, margarine, and hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • High sodium content foods like salted nuts, chips, bacon, sausages, etc
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

Strategies to reduce excessive salt usage

  • By avoiding excessive intake of salt in cooking
  • Increasing intake of foods low in salt (e.g., fruits and vegetables)
  • Avoiding foods high in salt (pre-prepared/processed foods)
  • Refraining from adding salt at the table
  • By increasing awareness of the salt content of food choices in restaurants
  • By promoting the use of traditional food rather than Western or fast food and junk foods which are high not only in salt but also in calories, sugar, and fat content.

Dishes you can try to manage Hypertension

Diet plays a major role in managing hypertension and therefore, one should look deeply into what one is eating. People suffering from hypertension need to know certain basic dietary tips and they are good to go to. Eating healthy foods goes hand in hand in managing hypertension. It is important to

  1. include foods rich in potassium and magnesium while managing hypertension.
  2. Also, vital include whole grains in the diet than the refined products along with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  3. Calcium and magnesium are also essential in regulating blood pressure levels.

Here are some everyday easy dishes if you are on DASH!

1. Vegetable Oats Upma

Upma is a dish which can be eaten either as a breakfast or a snack. It is not only delicious but also a nutritious and healthy food option. Made traditionally with lighted roasted semolina, but you can replace it with oats to make it fiber-rich.  One can add carrots, tomato, onion, beans, and peas to make the dish rich in potassium, which can help manage high blood pressure. Temper the dish with mustard seeds and curry leaves to enhance the flavor.

2. Beans and Sprouts Salad

A salad is a perfect low-calorie alternative that can help manage hypertension. You can add salad as a food option either for the mid-morning or you can have it with your lunch/dinner. To make sure that the salad provides adequate amounts of potassium, one can add vegetables and fruits like carrots, capsicum, onion, tomato, banana, apple, and berries. Beans such as rajma along with sprouts will also provide the necessary potassium and protein.

Instead of using salad dressing and table salt, one can replace them with lemon, pepper powder, tamarind, and amchur powder to enhance the taste and therefore, reduce the salt intake. Garnish it with coriander or celery and serve.

3. Veggies Omlette

Having eggs either as breakfast or as an evening snacks is a healthy and nutritious option. One can add veggies such as spinach, mushrooms, carrot, tomato, onion, capsicum and olives to make the dish rich in potassium and magnesium.

Having the omelette with two slices of avocado toasts will enhance the nutritive value to the dish and also help in managing the blood pressure.

4. Veggies and Hummus Dip

Veggies along with hummus dip are a good choice for healthy snacking. Hummus is creamy dip made with chickpeas, topped with some olive oil. It tastes delicious when eaten with veggies. Both chickpeas and vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Also, chickpeas are a great source of proteins. So, all these properties are essential for managing high blood pressure.  You can have veggies such as cucumber, carrot, bell peppers, beetroot, and broccoli.

You can also team up the hummus either with whole wheat crackers or baked nachos instead of the tortilla chips/nachos for a low sodium content snack.

5. Oats – Apple Phirni

Oats –Apple Phirni is a perfectly healthy dish to have after your dinner. Made with coarsely crushed oats, apple, and low- fat milk will make sure that the calorie content does not spurge. Oats and Apple will provide required amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals which will help to control the high blood pressure levels.

Top it with dates and banana for natural sweetness, instead of using regular sugar.

Note that you can find plenty of diet plans that can make DASH diet work. However, you don’t necessarily have to go out of your way to eat certain/ the mentioned dishes, instead begin with switching ingredients of your current diet.

The DASH diet is an easy and effective measure to reduce the risk of hypertension. Nonetheless, if you have high blood pressure or think you may be sensitive to salt, following a DASH diet plan may be a sound choice.

What do you think?


Written by Mahima Kaur

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