Eating well can certainly improve our physical health, but what if it could improve our mental well-being as well? The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan has been tested, successfully by researchers since the late 1990s as a way to lower blood pressure. A recent study suggests that people who follow DASH may also have a lower risk for depression. DASH emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and is low in meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and saturated fat making it an overall healthful way of eating for people with and without high blood pressure. Want to see if DASH is right for you? Get started with these key parts of the DASH eating plan.
Increase your fruits and vegetables
The DASH plan calls for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is substantially more than the average American currently gets. Increasing your intake provides key nutrients thought to play a role in DASH’s success – potassium, magnesium and fiber. When buying fruits and vegetables don’t discriminate if something isn’t “perfect”. Misshapen produce has the same nutrients as grade A produce, so don’t let it go to waste. DASH also presents a great opportunity to support local farms. Look for menu items featuring local produce or stop by a local farmers market.
Don’t skip the dairy
If you haven’t been getting your 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy since you drank milk with lunch in school, it may be time to reconnect with this food group. Calcium is another nutrient thought to help with DASH’s beneficial effect on blood pressure. If cow’s milk products are not for you, look for replacements that offer similar amounts of calcium, protein and vitamin D.
Bring on the nuts and seeds
In addition to protein, fiber, and magnesium, nuts provide an antioxidant that may work to lower high blood pressure. Aim for 4-5 servings per week to take advantage of this benefit.
Ready to take on the full DASH plan? Head to www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/ topics/dash/ for all the details.
1. Diet Shown to Reduce Stroke Risk May Also Reduce Risk of Depression. https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1624
2. DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2018/dash-ranked-best-diet-overall-eighth-year-row-us-news-and-world-report.
3. Lin PH, Allen JD, Li YJ, Yu M, Lien LF, Svetkey LP. Blood Pressure-Lowering Mechanisms of the DASH Dietary Pattern. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:472396.