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Take Charge with the DASH Diet

Develop a plan to a healthier heart

About 1 in 3 Veterans are believed to have high blood pressure. Are you one of them?

One common reason for high blood pressure, or hypertension, is diet. Eating foods high in salt or fat can lead to big health problems. High blood pressure can cause heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. But simple changes to what you eat can help.

What is the DASH eating plan?

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This eating plan can help lower blood pressure. Following the DASH eating plan doesn’t require special foods. Instead, DASH focuses on daily and weekly nutrition goals. Here are some key recommendations:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains

  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils

  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils

  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

Benefits of the DASH eating plan

When following the DASH eating plan, positive health changes are sometimes seen in a few weeks. The DASH eating plan helps control high blood pressure with heart-healthy food choices. It also reduces your risk for other problems including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

DASH meals with flavor

Part of the DASH eating plan is reducing the amount of salt and fat in your diet. When you prepare meals, check food labels for the sodium amount. Most dietary sodium comes from eating packaged foods, not from the salt that you add at the dinner table. Look at the label. You should be consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Foods labeled as “low sodium” have less than 140 mg sodium per serving. Try these tips to add more flavor:

  • Read the nutrition fact label

  • Buy fresh seafood and poultry rather than processed

  • Enjoy fresh or frozen vegetables and try ones you haven't used before

  • Un-salt your snacks by choosing no-salt-added nuts and seeds

  • Marinate your poultry, fish, and other meats before cooking

These ideas can help you make healthy eating choices. You should talk to a doctor before making big changes to what you eat. Your doctor can help you find out your blood pressure goal. If you check your blood pressure at home, record your numbers in your My HealtheVet profile’s Vitals section to show your progress.

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Read More

Food and Hypertension

Healthy Eating Habits to Start Now

DASH Eating Plan (Nutrition and Food Services) (PDF)

Eating Well with High Blood Pressure (Veterans Health Library) (Video)

Updated August 31, 2022