The low-salt Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is proven to help lower blood pressure. Its effects on blood pressure are sometimes seen within a few weeks.
This diet is rich in important nutrients and fiber. It also includes foods that are higher in potassium, calcium, and magnesium and lower in sodium (salt) than the typical American diet.
The goals of the DASH diet are:
Limit sodium to no more than 2,300 mg a day (eating only 1,500 mg a day is an even better goal).
Reduce saturated fat to no more than 6% of daily calories and total fat to 27% of daily calories. Low-fat dairy products appear to be especially beneficial for lowering systolic blood pressure.
When choosing fats, select monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola oil.
Choose whole grains over white flour or pasta products.
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Many of these foods are rich in potassium, fiber, or both.
Eat nuts, seeds, or legumes (beans or peas) daily.
Choose modest amounts of protein (no more than 18% of total daily calories). Fish, skinless poultry, and soy products are the best protein sources.
Other daily nutrient goals in the DASH diet include limiting carbohydrates to 55% of daily calories and dietary cholesterol to 150 mg. Try to get at least 30 grams (g) of daily fiber.
Check with your provider before you increase the potassium in your diet or use salt substitutes (which often contain potassium). People who have kidney problems or who take certain medicines must be careful about how much potassium they consume.