By Sarah Rozell, MS, RD, LD, CNSC
As I write today, my stepfather is preparing for a second cardiac catheterization procedure to open blocked arteries leading to his heart. While I recently talked to him about his health, it was clear to me that he knew all the “do not’s” about heart disease and diet. Do not eat salt. Do not eat unhealthy fat. What was less clear was if he knew what he should be doing in place of all of the “do not’s.” I had to ask myself, “Didn’t anyone help him focus on active positive steps he could take to keep his heart healthy?” That is when the DASH eating plan came to mind and I knew it was something I wanted to share with you.
If you are looking for a positive eating plan that focuses on proven actions you can take to protect your heart, then the DASH diet may be right for you. The DASH diet was developed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (HNLBI). Several studies have shown that following the DASH diet can lower your risk of developing or worsening heart disease. The diet works by increasing your intake of calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, lean protein, and healthy fat while decreasing your intake of unhealthy fat and empty calories.
Your intake of healthy whole foods will probably increase following the DASH diet. You will likely eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low or non-fat dairy products. As well, healthy amounts of lean meat, fish, or poultry, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils or fats are encouraged.
The table posted below outlines a typical 2000-calorie DASH diet.
|Food group||Daily Servings||Serving size|
|Grain or grain products||7-8||1 slice of bread1 oz cereal½ cup pasta or rice|
|Vegetables||4-5||½ cup cooked¾ cup juice1 cup raw|
|Fruits||4-5||½ cup¾ cup juice1 medium piece|
|Low fat or non-fat dairy||2-3||1 cup milk or yogurt1 ½ oz cheese|
|Meats, poultry, fish||2 or less||3 ounces|
|Nuts, seeds or dry beans||4-5 weekly||Nuts: 1/3 cup or 1 ½ ozSeeds: 2 tablespoons or 1 ozCooked dry beans: ½ cup|
|Fats and oilsSelect healthy fats||2-3||1 Teaspoon soft margarine1 Tablespoon mayonnaise2 Tablespoons salad dressing1 Teaspoon vegetable oil|
|SweetsSelect low fat options||2-4 per week||1 Tablespoon sugar, jelly, jam½ oz jelly beans1 cup lemonade|
For more information on the DASH diet, visit the NHLBI web site at