A DASH of healthy eating can help control blood pressure

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan that can help prevent or treat high blood pressure. It includes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy products and a lower level of salt. DASH may be as effective as medicine at keeping blood pressure levels in check. Read on to learn how you can follow the DASH eating plan.


About high blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. It is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder than usual and can lead to heart disease and stroke.

You can help control your blood pressure by following a healthy diet and being physically active. The most effective eating plan for lowering blood pressure levels is DASH.

The DASH eating plan

Similar to Canada’s Food Guide, DASH focuses on vegetables, fruit, grains and low-fat protein choices such as fish, poultry, milk and legumes. DASH is also low in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

This table shows the number of servings that would be recommended if you were following a 2,000 calorie diet.


Number of
daily servings

Example of serving size



1 slice whole grain bread

½ cup cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta

*choose whole grains like oats, millet, barley, bulgur and quinoa most often*



½ cup any raw or cooked vegetable

1 cup raw leafy vegetable

½ cup low sodium or reduced sodium vegetable and tomato juice



1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or juice

Low fat milk products


1 cup skim or 1% milk

1 cup low fat yogurt (2% milk fat or less)

1.5 oz low fat cheese (19% milk fat or less)

Lean meat, poultry and fish

6 or less

1 oz cooked lean meat, skinless poultry or fish 
1 egg

Nuts, seeds and legumes

4-5 times per week

1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts)

2 Tbsp peanut butter

2 Tbsp seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

½ cup cooked legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas)

Fats and oils


1 tsp non-hydrogenated, unsalted margarine

1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.)

1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing

Sweets and added sugars

5 or less per week

1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam

½ cup sorbet

If you would like a DASH eating plan for 1600 or 2600 calorie diets, call 1-877-510-510-2 to speak with an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian or send an email.

Important minerals

The DASH eating plan encourages you to eat foods that are high in potassium, calcium and magnesium. These are three important minerals that work together to help lower blood pressure levels.

Consume more potassium: Good sources of potassium include tomatoes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, nuts, lentils, beans, milk and fish.

Consume more magnesium: Good sources of magnesium include spinach, whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, soy and lentils.

Consume more calcium: High amounts are found in milk, yogurt, canned fish with bones, leafy green vegetables, beans and tofu. 

 *Note: It is not recommended that you take supplements to prevent hypertension. The benefits come from getting enough of these minerals from food sources.

There is one mineral that you need to consume less of – that’s sodium.  Eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Healthy adults need only 1500 mg sodium per day. Click here to learn more about reducing sodium in your diet.

What a combination!

Each single step of DASH – such as increasing fibre or reducing fat -- will help lower blood pressure levels. However, the combination of the steps gives the biggest benefit. So, start by eating less sodium, but don’t stop there! As your next step, increase your potassium by eating more fish and bananas. Then, increase your fibre and magnesium intake by choosing more whole grains. Each step will add up to help lower your blood pressure.

Eating the DASH way

Here are some healthy meal and snack ideas that are DASH approved:

  • Whole grain bread with peanut butter and banana, skim milk
  • Black bean burrito: black beans, whole wheat tortilla, onion, red pepper, lettuce, tomato, plain yogurt
  • Tofu stir-fry: tofu, mixed vegetables, brown rice
  • Lentil sambar or chana masala, spinach and brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta, sliced chicken breast, mixed vegetables
  • Salmon sandwich on whole grain bread, green salad, orange, skim milk. 


  • Fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Yogurt and banana smoothie
  • Unsalted nuts and dried fruit
  • Whole wheat pita and hummus

Bottom Line:

Whether you are trying to treat or prevent high blood pressure, make smart food choices by following the DASH eating plan. Increase your intake of foods that are high in magnesium, calcium, potassium and fibre. Reduce your intake of foods that are high in fat and sodium. Combine these efforts for the best effect.  

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.