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Healthy Eating for a Healthy Blood Pressure and a Healthy Heart

Let the DASH diet be your guide to make wise food choices that support good cardiovascular health without sacrificing the flavors you love!

DASH diet

Following a healthy eating approach, known as the DASH diet, can help.

The DASH diet is recommended by many health institutions around the world. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The DASH diet is a heart healthy eating pattern that was shown to lower blood pressure.1 While it was originally designed to help lower blood pressure, research supports its use as a healthy eating pattern for overall cardiovascular health. Moreover, there is evidence suggesting its potential in reducing elevated blood cholesterol,2 which is recognized as a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

According to Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the DASH diet is a healthy eating pattern that can help reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke.3,4

How does the DASH diet help manage blood pressure?

The DASH diet is an overall healthy and balanced eating pattern which emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, fruit and dairy products. This dietary pattern also emphasizes whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It includes moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and fish and it limits alcohol, sweets and salty foods.  Finally, it recommends consuming added fats in moderation and opting more frequently for those that are higher in unsaturated fat.

The focus on vegetables, fruit and milk products in the DASH diet is particularly key because these wholesome foods provide a generous intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium — a combination of nutrients that helps promote healthy blood pressure.5 Beyond these, various other nutrients coming from the diverse range of nutritious foods featured in the DASH diet may also play a role in protecting heart health.

Low-fat or full-fat dairy foods?

The first DASH diet studies included mostly lower-fat milk products and about 30 g of regular-fat cheese daily. Studies in the last 15-20 years repeatedly show however that both lower-fat and full‑fat dairy foods can fit into a heart healthy diet.2,6,7 Health authorities have yet to integrate this new scientific evidence into their dietary guidelines. 

Milk products: source of up to 15 essential nutrients

You can feel good about enjoying 2-3 daily servings of dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt, as part of a healthy diet. Milk, cheese and yogurt provide your body with up to 15 essential nutrients, many of which are often under consumed in Canada. These include calcium, protein, potassium and vitamin B12, just to name a few.

How to eat well with DASH

This DASH eating plan shows you examples of nutritious foods to enjoy each day.2,8

Food GroupNumber of servingsExample of a serving
Vegetables  4-5 servings250 mL (1 cup) raw leafy vegetables
125 mL (½ cup) cooked vegetables
Fruit4-5 servings125 mL (½ cup) fresh, frozen or canned fruit
1 medium-sized piece of fruit
Milk, Cheese and Yogurt2-3 servings250 mL (1 cup) milk 50 g
(1.5 oz) cheese
175 g (3/4 cup) yogurt
Grains (mainly whole grains)7-8 servings1 slice of bread
30 g cold cereal
125 mL (½ cup) cooked rice, pasta or cereal
Lean meats, poultry and fish2 servings or less75 g (2.5 oz) of lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish
Nuts, seeds and legumes4-5 servings per week60 mL (1/4 cup) nuts, seeds, legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, black beans)  

Tips for getting more vegetables, fruit and milk products into your meals

• Make your oatmeal with milk instead of water and add fruits.

• Mix milk and yogurt with frozen berries to make fruit smoothies.

• Use yogurt to make dressings and dips to enjoy with salads and veggies.

• Enjoy milk in your tea or café latte.

• Top soups, salads, wraps and grilled vegetables with grated cheese.

• Savour a piece of cheese or yogurt with fruit or veggies for a healthy snack.

For a nutritious start, try this recipe: Couscous salad with garden vegetables and Feta

Aim for a Healthy balance!

Other healthy habits, including quitting smoking, getting enough sleep and being more physically active, are also important for a healthy heart. To make physical activity a priority in your daily routine, the key is to find activities you like so you will get moving more. Work your way up to at least 30 minutes of active time most days.


1. Appel LJ et al. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1117-1124.

2. Chiu S et al. Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2016;103:341-347.

3. Health Canada. Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers. Available at https://food-guide. Accessed Feb. 19, 2024.

4. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The DASH diet to lower high blood pressure. Available at Accessed Feb. 19, 2024..

5. Ralston RA et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of elevated blood pressure and consumption of dairy foods. J Hum Hypertens 2012;26:3-13.

6.Dehghan M et al. Association of dairy intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 21 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet 2018;392:2288-2297.

7. Alexander DD et al. Dairy consumption and CVD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr 2016;115:737-750. 7. Ralston RA et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of elevated blood pressure and consumption of dairy foods. J Hum Hypertens 2012;26:3-13.

8. Karanja NM et al. Descriptive characteristics of the dietary patterns used in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension trial. J Am Diet Assoc 1999;99(Suppl):S19-S27.