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DASH Diet & Seafood to Lower Blood Pressure

DASH Diet & Seafood to Lower Blood Pressure

When it comes to treating hypertension, you might think you can only eat salad until your blood pressure decreases. But while eating enough vegetables is certainly essential to optimal health, we have some good news: eating seafood can actually help lower your blood pressure, too. This is because healthy seafood is part of what's called the "DASH Diet" -- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. 

By eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients and low in sodium, the DASH Diet has the potential to lower your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks and up to 14 points over time. At, we want to help you DASH away your elevated blood pressure. Read on to learn more about the science behind the DASH Diet, including expert opinions on its efficacy, followed by seafood (and other food) options that align with the DASH philosophy.

The DASH Diet Philosophy 

The DASH Diet philosophy centers on the impact of (too much) sodium in the body. The mechanism is simple: eating salt increases the amount of sodium in your bloodstream. When too much sodium accumulates, it prevents your kidneys from effectively removing excess water from the body. The accumulation of water in the blood vessels places pressure on the blood vessels’ walls, which is what we refer to as “high blood pressure” or hypertension. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart (a risk for heart attack) and brain (a risk factor for stroke). So, when someone has hypertension, one of the first treatment tactics is to decrease the amount of dietary sodium while adding nutrients that combat high blood pressure. Unlike the average American's diet, which contains a whopping 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily, the standard DASH Diet allows up to 2,300 mg daily, while a lower-sodium DASH Diet permits up to 1,500 mg daily, the latter being the American Heart Association's recommended upper limit for adults' daily sodium intake.

Is the DASH Diet Effective?

In a word, YES. In fact, the US News and World Report ranked the DASH Diet:

  • #2 in Best Diets Overall, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, and Best Diabetes Diets (the latter being a tie)
  • #3 in Best Heart-Healthy Diets
  • #12 in Best Weight-Loss Diets (a tie)
  • #26 in Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets (a tie)

Moreover, the DASH Diet effectiveness has not escaped the attention of nutritionists, including Registered Dietician Densie Webb, PhD, RD, who is quoted in Today's Dietician as saying: 

The DASH Diet "has been shown time and again to be effective in lowering elevated blood pressure…. The DASH Diet is rich in several nutrients known to play important roles in regulating blood pressure, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and is lower in sodium and saturated fat than the typical American diet.... While sodium reduction alone often is a physician's go-to recommendation for lowering blood pressure, the DASH Diet shows that reducing blood pressure through diet is the result of combining a team of nutrients—and sodium isn't the standout. It's the symbiosis of the DASH nutrients working together that makes the difference. The DASH dietary pattern consistently has proven to be effective for lowering blood pressure in diverse populations, including men, women, white individuals, and in those of various races and ethnicities who have either prehypertension or hypertension." 

The DASH Diet - What to Eat (Including Healthy Seafood)

The DASH Diet centers on eating plenty of the usual winners (veggies, fruit, and low-fat dairy products, as well as moderate amounts of seafood, poultry, whole grains, and nuts) while minimizing sodium, (saturated) fat, and sweets. To follow the DASH Diet, eat the following foods; the guidelines below assume a 2000 calorie-a-day diet:

Whole grains: 6-8 servings daily

Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients than processed grains and are naturally low in fat. For example, try:
  • Whole-wheat bread (one serving = one slice)
  • Dry whole-grain cereal (one serving = one ounce)
  • Cooked whole-grain cereal, rice, or pasta (one serving =½ cup cooked)

Vegetables: 4-5 servings daily

Vegetables are packed with nutrients and low in fat and calories. Think of veggies as your main dish, not your side dish. Fresh or frozen veggies are fine. For example, try:
  • Raw leafy greens (one serving = one cup)
  • Cooked veggies like carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, or tomatoes (one serving = ½ cup)

Fruits: 4-5 servings daily

Fruits are packed with nutrients and low in fat and calories, while also packing a sweet punch. Check with your doctor about eating citrus, since it can interact with certain medications. For example, try:
  • Whole fruit like apples (one serving = one piece of fruit)
  • Chopped fresh, frozen, or canned fruit (one serving = ½ cup)
  • Fresh fruit juice (one serving = four ounces)

Low- or no-fat dairy: 2-3 servings daily

Low- or no-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. For example, try:

  • Skim or 1% milk (one serving = one cup)
  • Low- or no-fat yogurt (one serving = one cup)
  • Part-skim cheese (one serving = 1.5 ounces)

Fish, poultry, and lean meat: 6 ounces or fewer daily combined

In moderation, poultry and lean meat can be a rich source of protein, B vitamins, and iron. We’ve outlined the best healthy seafood to eat on the DASH Diet in the subsequent section. If you want to eat poultry or red meat, try:

  • Poultry, skinned and defatted (no more than 6 ounces combined meats per day)
  • Red meat, using a low-fat cooking method (no more than 6 ounces combined meats per day)
  • Healthy seafood: see below

Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4-5 servings daily

Almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils, and other types of nuts, seeds, and legumes are excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and protein, plus plant compounds that protect against some forms of cardiovascular disease. For example, try:

  • Nuts (one serving = ⅓ cup)
  • Seeds (one serving = 2 Tablespoons)
  • Cooked beans or peas (one serving = ½ cup)

Fats and oils: 2-3 servings daily

The right amount of fat in your diet is essential for absorbing nutrients and protecting the immune system. Just don't go overboard; only 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. For example, try:

  • Margarine (one serving = 1 teaspoon)
  • Mayonnaise (one serving = 1 Tablespoon)
  • Oil-based salad dressing (one serving = 2 Tablespoons)

Sweets: 5 or fewer servings weekly

You can enjoy sweets on the DASH diet, just in moderation. For example, try:

  • Sorbet (one serving = ½ cup)
  • Lemonade (one serving = 1 cup)
  • Sugar, jam, or jelly (one serving = 1 Tablespoon)

Healthy Seafood and the DASH Diet - Additional Details

Heart-healthy fish
 is an excellent and relatively low-calorie, low-cholesterol source of protein, many vitamins, and numerous minerals. Crucially, fish is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which work to lower your cholesterol. In particular, salmon, herring and tuna align well with the DASH Diet. carries a complete selection of all three, along with a plethora of additional seafood options, all of which are listed here along with each variety’s Omega-3 content:

Salmon: 4,504 mg

Anchovy: 3,600 mg

Trout: 1,743 mg

Sardines: 1,668 mg

Mussels: 1,330 mg

Oysters: 1,170 mg

Swordfish: 1,157 mg

Pollock (Atlantic): 843 mg

Halibut: 740 mg

Crab: 700 mg

Scallops: 620 mg

Shrimp: 534 mg

Clams: 482 mg

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