February 2021

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Health Capsule

Eating Plan for a Healthy Heart

What you choose to eat can affect your heart health. Eating well can be confusing with all the diet information out there.

The DASH food plan—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension —is supported by NIH research. It’s a flexible and balanced eating plan designed to improve the health of your heart, especially if you have high blood pressure (hypertension).

Following the DASH food plan doesn’t require any special foods. It has easy-to-understand guidelines and nutritional goals. And it’s tailored to your calorie needs, based on your age and physical activity level. You can also find sample meal plans to help you make heart-healthy choices.

The DASH plan has several recommendations. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Include healthy foods like fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.

The plan limits foods high in saturated fats. It also encourages you to cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Limiting sodium is a key part of the plan. Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure.

The DASH eating plan is just one part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Experts recommend combining the plan with physical activity to control blood pressure. Staying a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake, and managing stress will also help your heart health.

Learn more about the science behind DASH or find recipes.