You may not be able to feel it, but high blood pressure affects your health, increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Losing weight by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet can help improve your blood pressure, as well as your health. A 1,200-calorie DASH diet can help you lose those unwanted pounds by eating a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups. Before starting your diet, consult with your doctor to ensure that a 1,200-calorie diet is appropriate for your gender, age, current weight and activity level.
What Is DASH?
The DASH diet is a researched diet plan supported by the National, Heart, Blood and Lung Institute that has been shown to lower blood pressure. The diet is low in fat, including saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, but rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and protein. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and encourages you to eat more fish, poultry, nuts and whole grains. When limiting your calories to 1,200 a day while following DASH, you need to eat a specified number of servings from each of the food groups.
Load Up on Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and magnesium, which are nutrients that can help lower blood pressure, as well as fiber, which helps control hunger. On your 1,200-calorie DASH diet, you can have three to four servings of fruits and three to four servings of vegetables a day. One serving of fruit is equal to one medium piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of frozen or canned fruit, while one serving of vegetable is equal to 1 cup of raw or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables.
Go Whole Grain
The DASH diet recommends whole grains for most of your grain choices. Like fruits and veggies, whole grains are a good source of satiating fiber. On your low-calorie diet plan, you can have four to five servings of grains a day, with one serving equal to one slice of bread, 1 ounce of cold cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Keep Your Protein Lean
To keep a lid on saturated fat and cholesterol intake, most of your protein choices should be lean, such as fish, poultry and lean red meat. You also need to limit your intake to three servings a day, with one serving equal to 1 ounce of meat, fish or poultry or one egg. Nuts, seeds and legumes are also a source of protein, magnesium and fiber. When following a 1,200-calorie DASH diet, you can have three servings of nuts, seeds or legumes a week. One serving equals 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds or 1/2 cup of legumes such as kidney or garbanzo beans.
Don't Forget Dairy
As a source of calcium and protein, dairy foods are an important part of the DASH diet. Like other nutrients, calcium may also help improve blood pressure control. Include two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products a day on your 1,200-calorie diet. One serving of dairy equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
Fat and Sodium
To help keep daily calories under control, you are only allowed one serving of fat on your low-calorie DASH diet, with one serving equal to 1 teaspoon of butter, margarine or oil. Sodium intake is also restricted on the DASH diet. Lowering the amount of sodium in your diet helps lower blood pressure, and it is recommended that you limit your daily intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Read food labels to help you track your sodium intake. Eliminating added salt, eating mostly whole foods and limiting your intake of processed foods can also help you limit sodium intake.
- MedlinePlus: High Blood Pressure
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Healthy Eating Plan
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is the DASH Eating Plan?
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber