7 Foods to Include in the DASH Diet

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  • Assortment of healthy foods including lean meat, fish, fruit, nuts, vegetables and grains

    The DASH diet (or DASH eating plan) offers a delicious way to help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing other types of cardiovascular disease. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” although some people follow the DASH diet for weight loss (which also can help lower your blood pressure). When it comes to shopping for this eating plan, it’s helpful to create a DASH diet food list to save you time at the store. Learn which DASH-friendly foods to put into your cart to start enjoying better heart health.

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    Fresh Fruits of All Colors
    Overhead view of plate with blueberries, strawberries and orange segments

    The dash diet is a very colorful eating plan! Choose fresh fruits of all colors to consume a range of nutrients that aid heart health; such as Vitamin C from oranges, potassium from bananas, and fiber from apples. Plus, a colorful bowl of fruit appeals to the eye as well as the taste buds, helping you learn to choose fresh, wholesome snacks over processed ones. You also can include frozen fruits and no-sugar-added canned fruits in the DASH diet meal plan.

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    Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables
    group of broccoli

    Keeping with the colorful theme of the DASH eating plan, fill your grocery bags with an array of fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables. Avoid frozen vegetables in sauce, and choose low-sodium canned varieties for optimum heart health. When cooking vegetables, opt for minimal processing—such as steaming or roasting with a drizzle of olive oil—to preserve their vitamin and fiber content. From sweet potatoes to broccoli to corn, you’re sure to find an array of DASH-friendly vegetables that please even the pickiest palate.

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    Whole Grains
    bowl of whole wheat pasta

    If you love bread and pasta, the DASH diet is for you. On this eating plan, you can enjoy whole-grain varieties of breads, pastas, tortillas, cereals, bagels, and more. You also can fill up on whole grains like rolled oats, barley, and brown rice. Whole grains provide essential dietary fiber that lowers cholesterol levels and helps your body control blood sugar levels. To keep your whole grain choices DASH-friendly, choose low sodium varieties.

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    Low-Fat Dairy Products
    Yogurt With Toppings

    Dairy products provide calcium – an essential nutrient for bone health that helps you stay active as you age, which is crucial for good heart health. Some dairy products, like yogurt, also contain active cultures that keep the gut microbiome healthy, possibly benefiting the cardiovascular system by lowering inflammation levels throughout the body. You can feel free to consume plenty of dairy products on the DASH meal plan, but be sure to choose low- or non-fat varieties. Skim milk, low-fat cheeses, non-fat cottage cheese, and non-fat Greek yogurt all make excellent choices on the DASH diet.

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    Nuts and Seeds
    hands holding large scoop of walnuts

    Many varieties of nuts and seeds contain healthy fats that contribute to heart health. The key to making your nut and seed choices DASH-friendly is to buy lightly salted or unsalted varieties. Fresh nuts like walnuts and pecans can be stored for long periods in the freezer to keep them fresh, while jars or cans of unsalted peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds offer easy snacking; but remember to snack in moderation. Limit your nut and seed consumption to one serving per day, at most

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    Olive Oil and Other Healthy Fats
    Close-up of unseen woman drizzling olive oil over vegetables

    The DASH diet advocates for eating healthy, monounsaturated fats in moderation because these types of fats help your body absorb key nutrients like Vitamin E. You can choose extra virgin olive oil and canola oil for cooking, and add fresh avocados to salads. Adding fats to any meal increases satiety—the feeling of being full and satisfied—so feel free to enjoy some monounsaturated fats every day. Aim to consume two to three servings (based on the food label) per day.

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    Lean Proteins
    grilled-chicken-skewers

    Meat contributes iron and other essential cardiovascular nutrients to your body, so you can help yourself to a serving of meat once a day on the DASH diet. When shopping, look for very lean meats, such as skinless chicken or turkey breast, fresh or frozen whole fish pieces (not breaded or in sauce), frozen shellfish, pork tenderloin, or 96% lean ground beef. The DASH eating plan recommends eating no more than six ounces of lean, meat-based protein per day. To keep your protein very DASH-friendly, don’t salt it too much when you cook it.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 16
  1. DASH Eating Plan. U.S. Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/dasheatingplan.html
  2. Understanding the DASH Diet. U.S. Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000784.htm
  3. DASH Diet: Healthy Eating to Lower Your Blood Pressure. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456
  4. These Tips Make It Easy to Shop for and Prepare DASH-Friendly Dishes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20045913?p=1
  5. The DASH diet: A great way to eat foods that are healthy AND delicious. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-dash-diet-a-great-way-to-eat-foods-that-are-healthy-and-delicious-2019072517326
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