DASH/Low Sodium Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)

DASH/Low Sodium Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)

You went to your doctor and you were told that you have high blood pressure or hypertension. Good news, your diet can help to improve that! 

The DASH diet was created to help to reduce high blood pressure. It can also help to improve heart health and provide weight loss benefits. 

The main focus of the DASH diet is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and to limit intake of red meat, salt and added sugar. It is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as protein and fiber.

In this article, we will review what foods to eat and avoid on the DASH diet, benefits of the diet and possible obstacles with following the diet. 

What is the DASH diet? 

The DASH diet promotes eating a diverse diet rich in plant foods. It is not a vegetarian diet but emphasizes increasing fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. The combination of eating healthy foods along with limiting salt, also known as sodium, and avoiding processed foods is what provides the biggest benefits of this diet. 

Compared to the Standard American Diet, the DASH diet is lower in sodium and saturated fats, as well as added sugar, sweets and sugary beverages.

It is rich in fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium and calcium, all of which are expected to reduce high blood pressure. The nutrient dense diet helps to fuel your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. 

It is possible to manage your blood pressure completely with just diet, exercise, stress management and adequate sleep.

What Foods to Eat 

(based on the average 2000-calorie per day diet) 

  • Fruits: 4-5 servings/ day.  Important because of their low-caloric and high-nutrient density, provides a rich source of potassium and magnesium, and the satiating effects of fiber. 
    • One serving:
      • 1 medium piece of fruit
      • ½ cup fresh or canned fruit
      • ¼ cup dried fruit 
  • Vegetables: 4-5 servings/ day. Important because of the low-caloric and high-nutrient density, it provides a rich source of potassium and magnesium, and the satiating effects of fiber. 
    • One serving: 
      • 1 cup raw leafy greens
      • ½ cup cut up raw or cooked vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy: 2-3 servings / day such as yogurt, milk or cheese.  Important for providing protein and calcium. 
    • One serving: 
      • 1 cup milk or yogurt
      • 1.5 oz cheese
  • Nuts and seeds: 5 serving/ week. Important for beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats, fiber and protein.
    • One serving: 
      • ⅓ cup nuts
      • 2 T nut butter
      • 2 T seeds
  • Legumes: 1 serving/ day. Important for providing a rich source of protein and fiber. 
    • One serving: 
      • ½ cup cooked legumes
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs: up to 6 servings/day.Important source of protein. 
    • One serving: 
      • One egg
      • 1 oz cooked meats, poultry or fish 
  • Whole grains: 6-8 servings a day. Important source of energy and fiber. 
    • One serving: 
      • 1 slice bread
      • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
  • Fats and oil: 2-3 servings/ day. Important source of energy and promotes satiety.
    • One serving: 
      • 1 tsp oil
      • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
      • 2 T salad dressing 

What to avoid: 

  • Salt intake is limited to 2300 milligrams per day,
  • Added sugar intake to 5 or less servings per week,
  • Limit saturated fats such as in meats, full fat dairy and palm oil,
  • Trans fats found in some processed foods.


The  main aspect of the DASH diet is keeping salt intake in check. Sodium is the main ingredient found in table salt. Sodium is a necessary electrolyte for the body, but when consumed in excess, can negatively impact blood pressure in some. Most foods that are high in sodium are processed and packaged foods that have added salt. 

Studies have shown that limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day can help to lower blood pressure, and that further limiting sodium levels to 1,500 can help to reduce blood pressure even more. It is estimated that the average adult eats about 3,300 – 4,200 mg of sodium per day.  For reference, 1 tsp of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. 

Sodium is naturally found in foods, but most high intake comes from added salt. It is important to note that you still need some sodium in your diet and by limiting processed foods and eating a mostly whole foods based diet you can help to achieve a healthy level. 

LifeChef limits the amount of sodium in the DASH diet/low sodium meals to no more than 600 mg to ensure you do not exceed the recommended amounts. 

Potassium and Magnesium 

Potassium is a necessary electrolyte that helps to relax the blood vessels which can improve blood pressure. It is important to eat plenty of foods that will provide the body with potassium. High potassium foods include dark leafy greens, whole grains, potatoes, avocado, banana, beans and lentils. 

Another electrolyte that helps to relax the blood vessels is magnesium. Foods that are rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocado and dark chocolate. 

Saturated Fats

The DASH diet is low in saturated fats which are found in red meats, fried foods and full fat dairy products such as cream, full fat cheese, butter and ice cream. Processed foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils should be avoided as these are inflammatory ingredients. Processed or commercially prepared baked goods often contain higher amounts of saturated fats and trans fats as well. 

It is best to choose mono or polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, flaxseed and fish such as salmon, herring and sardines. 

LifeChef limits the saturated fats in the DASH diet/ low sodium meals to no more than 9 grams.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are essential to include in a healthy diet. These fats are found mostly in plant foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado as well as in fish. Unsaturated fats are beneficial for heart health, help to reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, and promote hormone health and brain health. 

The two types of these fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados, nuts such as almonds, cashews, macadamia and pecans and seeds such as sesame and pumpkin. Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, flax oil, sunflower oil and chia seeds. 

LifeChef uses a majority of fats coming from unsaturated, healthy sources. That fat included in the meals is designed to promote satiety after the meal, leaving you feeling full and satisfied. The healthy fats also promote overall health including heart health, cognition and inflammation.

Benefits of the DASH Diet 

The DASH diet can promote several health benefits such as: 

  • Lower blood pressure, 
  • Reduce LDL cholesterol,
  • Reduce blood sugar,
  • Decrease triglycerides,
  • Lower risk of metabolic disease,
  • Decrease risk of heart disease, 
  • Lower risk of congestive heart failure,
  • Improve weight.

DASH diet style of eating can be beneficial for any person looking to change to a healthier way of eating. It is customizable and can fit many different flavor preferences. 

Setting up your Plate

Start by filling up half your plate with vegetables. Try having two vegetable sides. Aim for a variety of plant foods and colors on your plate to get plenty of antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and nutrients that support blood vessels and heart health. Next, add your protein food such as fish, lentils, beans, tofu, eggs or poultry to fill up a quarter of your plate. Then, add a complex carbohydrate side such as brown rice, quinoa, farro or buckwheat to fill the last quarter of your plate. After, top with a healthy fat such as nuts on a salad, olives, olive oil or avocado. 

LifeChef DASH/low sodium diet has a maximum of 50 g net carbs per meal in order to promote a balanced diet. Each meal ideally containing a protein component, a vegetable component or two and a whole grain side. If you are looking to further improve your blood sugar or weight, you can opt for lower carb options such as non starchy vegetable sides within the DASH/low sodium food choices. 

Obstacles to following the DASH diet 

There are few drawbacks to the DASH diet. Keeping to the daily sodium recommendation can be a challenge because sodium is added to most processed foods. On the other hand, some people are not as sensitive to the effects of sodium and do not need to limit the amount used. It is important not to go too low in sodium because it is a necessary electrolyte for heart health and overall health. 

Some people may be troubled by the fact that it does not outline a specific way to lose weight. Others may find it hard to adjust to eating as much fiber as the DASH diet recommends. It is a good idea to gradually add high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to avoid bloating and discomfort. Increase your fluid intake as you increase your fiber intake. In addition, portion sizes also need to be carefully monitored on the DASH diet. 

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