The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is supported by the American Heart Association as a way to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. The diet aims to teach you how to change your eating habits to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension for a lifetime. That means eating foods that are low in sodium and high in nutrients that lower blood pressure such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, according to MayoClinic.com.
A bowl of most breakfast cereals, such as bran flakes or shredded wheat, is a low-sodium way to start your day. Adding fruit that's rich in potassium and magnesium is another way to work toward lowering your blood pressure. Top your cereal with a sliced banana or a handful of fresh raspberries. Skim milk is a nutritious source of potassium, too, and it's also low in sodium. Whole-wheat toast with low-fat butter or no-salt-added peanut butter and a glass of orange juice is another sample breakfast that's low in sodium and high in potassium. Oatmeal is also a DASH diet-friendly option. Stir in fresh berries or a banana to increase the nutrient content of the breakfast.
A spinach salad is a nutrient-dense lunch that's approved on the DASH diet, according to MayoClinic.com. Top your spinach leaves with mandarin oranges, pear slices and no-salt-added almond slivers as one way to enjoy a low-sodium midday meal. Shredded chicken rolled into a whole-wheat tortilla and topped with fresh vegetables is another DASH-approved lunch. Your lunch should always include at least one serving of fresh fruit, such as berries, melon or grapes, and a serving of vegetables such as carrots, snap peas or cucumbers. Fruits and vegetables are naturally sodium-free, and they supply a good dose of heart-healthy nutrients, too.
Fish, though it contains natural sodium from living in the salty ocean, is low enough in sodium to be included in the DASH diet. It's also good for your heart. Season fresh fish with herbs and spices rather than salt. The same goes for grilled chicken breast or white meat turkey. These meats supply heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, and when you leave out the salt, they have a place in your daily DASH menu. Whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce is another option, but opt for reduced-sodium pasta sauce to keep it healthy. Serve your dinner with at least one serving of fruit or vegetables or a tossed green salad.
Trail mix with unsweetened dried fruit and no-salt-added nuts is a protein-rich snack that's also low in sodium and supplies plenty of potassium and magnesium. Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit is a low-sodium snack that supplies plenty of heart-healthy calcium. The National Institutes of Health suggests low-fat graham crackers with no-salt-added peanut butter as another DASH-approved snack. Fresh fruits and vegetables also make healthy snacks that are approved on the DASH plan.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.