• By Deanna Segrave-Daly
  • In 2018
  • May 29, 2018

Your Diet Does Make a Difference: Take the DASH Diet Challenge

by Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

May is High Blood Pressure Month. If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), I encourage you to adopt the DASH Diet lifestyleDASH Diet has been shown to lower blood pressure, and is also linked to better brain health, good diabetes control, less depression, and weight control.

While you may need medication to treat your hypertension, you may be able to take less medication if you adopt the DASH diet lifestyle. Even those who are only at risk for high blood pressure should be following DASH Diet as a preventive measure.

How do you know if you are at increased risk for high blood pressure?

  • You have a family history of heart disease (your parents or siblings had a heart attack, stroke, or coronary artery disease)
  • You have a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes
  • You are overweight or obese
  • You are sedentary
  • You eat a poor diet (high salt, high fat, high sugar, low fiber)
  • You are African American
  • You have high cholesterol
  • You have a high stress lifestyle
  • You are a heavy drinker
  • You are a smoker

Stay or Get Active

In addition to following the basic guidelines of the DASH Diet, you also want to add regular exercise and stress reduction to your lifestyle. Making the effort to schedule in some movement every day is important. Look for support to keep you on track – use an exercise tracker bracelet/watch, enroll in a set of classes and pay ahead, or enlist a friend to exercise with. While all forms of exercise count, you can consider including a yoga practice with a weekly yoga class to help you combat stress. Having a variety of different activities scheduled into your week will help you enjoy exercise more, and not get bored with any one activity.

Don’t Wait! Change Up Your Daily Diet

The foods you eat play a powerful role in monitoring your blood pressure. DASH Diet is not just about low salt or less sodium. If you’re still not convinced you should adopt the DASH Diet, consider this challenge: Try the simple changes below for two weeks, and check your blood pressure during that 2-week period using a home monitor.

DASH Diet Challenge:

  • Add 2 more servings of fruit, 2 more vegetables, and one more 8-ounce glasses of milk to your day. Choose whatever fruit you enjoy, and add two more servings of it daily.
  • Ideas: Make a smoothie with a cup of strawberries and 8 ounces of 1% milk, plus 3 ice cubes
  • Slice a banana into oatmeal or top your cereal with berries for breakfast
  • Add an apple or orange as a snack in the afternoon.
  • Drink a glass of milk as a snack to hold you over to the next meal, or have an 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk after exercise.
  • Add 2 more vegetables daily. Think of vegetables that can easily be added to dinner meal: A baked potato, a sweet potato, a cup of green beans, sautéed spinach, a cup of cooked broccoli. Put raw carrots or bell pepper strips into your lunch box to enjoy with lunch or as a snack. Add shredded cabbage and slivers of mango or apple to your wrap sandwich
  • Create lunches that are vegetable-focused. Potatoes are a fantastic source of potassium and vitamin C! Get away from sandwiches, and instead top potatoes or salads with things you’d add to a sandwich. Bake 2-3 potatoes early in the week to heat all week long. Make a baked potatoes into a delicious meal by topping it with added nutrition – chopped chicken, sliced leftover beef, beans, salsa, low fat plain yogurt or light sour cream, or a little shredded cheese and broccoli.

Look for our DASH Diet For Dummies® book at local bookstores for more ideas!

 Rosanne is owner of Rust Nutrition Services. She began freelance writing in 1994, created her virtual nutrition practice in 2000, now bringing 30 years of experience to what she does. As a nutrition communications consultant, Rosanne translates nutrition data into well-reasoned dietary advice so people can enjoy eating for good health. Visit her blog for more information about her books, including DASH Diet For Dummies®.