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The DASH diet: controlling blood pressure with healthy eating

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The DASH diet is of interest to people who want to control their hypertension or adopt a healthier lifestyle. The diet provides eating choices that help you reduce blood pressure levels and the negative impact of hypertension on your health.

La diète DASH : contrôler la tension artérielle par l’alimentation

What does the DASH diet do?

The DASH diet was developed in the United States. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Scientific studies have shown that this diet can contribute to a significant reduction in blood pressure.

The Canadian Hypertension Education Program recommends the DASH diet to people with high blood pressure. People with normal blood pressure but who are at risk of developing hypertension should also adopt the diet. Among the factors that predispose people to hypertension are family medical history, excess weight, and lack of physical exercise. The DASH diet can also be adopted by people who simply want to eat more healthy foods.

What does the DASH diet consist of?

The diet is designed to limit the quantity of saturated fats and cholesterol in the food we eat. It privileges foods such as fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole-grain cereal products, fish, and poultry.

The number of recommended portions varies in accordance with each person’s needs. The table below indicates the number of portions needed for a daily intake of about 2,000 calories. You may need to adapt the number of portions based on your own needs.

Food group

Number of portions per day

Whole-grain cereal products

7 to 8

Fruits

4 to 5

Vegetables

4 to 5

Low-fat dairy products

2 to 3

Meat, poultry, and fish

2 or fewer

Fats

2 to 3

Pulses, nuts, and grains

4 to 5 per week

Snacks and sweets

5 per week

Calculating portions

One portion of cereal products is equivalent to a slice of bread or half a cup (125 ml) of cereal, rice or cooked pasta.

One portion of fruits and vegetables is equivalent to one average-sized fruit, half a cup (125 ml) of fresh, frozen or canned fruit or vegetable or three-quarters of a cup (180 ml) of juice.

One cup (250 ml) of milk, three-quarters of a cup (180 ml) of yoghurt or 50 grams (an ounce and a half) of cheese represent one portion dairy products.

One portion of meat, poultry, and fish is equivalent to 90 grams (three ounces) of these products.

One portion of fat is equivalent to a teaspoon (5 ml) of ordinary margarine, oil or mayonnaise, or one tablespoon (15 ml) of low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing.

A third of a cup (80 ml) of nuts or a half-cup (125 ml) of pulses represents one portion in this food group.

One portion of sweets is equivalent to a half-cup (125 ml) of sherbet or frozen yoghurt, or one tablespoon (15 ml) of maple syrup or jam.

Food choices

For cereal products, it is important to favour whole-grain products, which are a key source of fibre. For example, choose brown rice or quinoa over white rice.

Regarding dairy products, it is better to choose skimmed products that contain less fat. For example, choose skimmed or 1% milk rather 2% or 3.25% milk. This food group is a key source of calcium and protein.

Favour lean meats, poultry, fish, and seafood over fatty meats.

The importance of a healthy lifestyle

Healthy eating habits represent a key part of a healthy lifestyle. However, regular physical exercise, moderate alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing salt intake are other important things to consider. Keep in mind that managing your lifestyle is the best way to promote your health!

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