Heart-Healthy DASH Diet

February is American Heart Month, a time to think about paper hearts, chocolate hearts, and even your own. Newsflash! Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States and is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths.

A major risk factor for developing heart disease is high blood pressure. If you’re worried about your already high blood pressure or want to learn how to stave it off, read on.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating pattern that in research trials lowered blood pressure and reduced cardiovascular disease risk when compared to the typical American diet.

While DASH is mainly a dietary plan to lower blood pressure, following the DASH eating plan has also been linked to weight loss and may reduce risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney stones.

So what does this plan look like? With a focus on whole foods, this heart-healthy plan is high in fiber and low in saturated fats and sugars. DASH is high in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts and is low in sugar, sugar sweetened beverages, and red meats. It is also lower in sodium than the typical American diet.

How can you get your eating habits to look more like DASH? Load up your plates with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, try to reduce how often you eat processed foods, red meat, and sugar sweetened beverages.

Need some ideas for meals? Try some of our favorite DASH approved meals from ClickNCook.org:

Want even more info on DASH? Check out the National Institute of Health’s website on the DASH eating plan to learn the details – like how many servings of each food group to eat per day, what a serving looks like, and what level of sodium intake you should try to stay under.

Written by Rachel Caty, MPH, RDN, LDN