A diet that has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, and that, along with the Mediterranean diet, was recently selected as the best diet overall by U.S. News & World Report. This eating plan is the product of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, which showed that the plan results in significantly lower blood pressure than the traditional American diet. Some research has also suggested that the diet can help prevent gout, a painful type of inflammatory arthritis caused by crystals of uric acid (UA) that accumulate in the joints.

The DASH diet is designed to be low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat, and rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber. It includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meat and poultry, fish, and nuts. It includes less red meat and far less sugar than the typical American diet.

Broken out by food group, a 2,000-calorie DASH meal plan would contain the following:

• 7–8 daily servings of grains (serving: 1 slice bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked grain, pasta, or cereal

• 4–5 daily servings of vegetables (serving: 1/2 cup cut or cooked vegetables, 3/4 cup vegetable juice, or 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables)

• 4–5 daily servings of fruit (serving: 1 medium piece of fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 3/4 cup fruit juice, or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned cut fruit)

• 2–3 daily servings of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products (serving: 1 cup milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces cheese)

• 2 or fewer daily servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish (serving: 3 ounces, cooked)< • 4–5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, and legumes (serving: 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1/3 cup nuts, or 2 tablespoons peanut butter) • 2–3 daily servings of fats and oils (serving: 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons light salad dressing) • 5 servings or fewer per week of sweets and added sugars (serving: 1 cup lemonade, 1/2 cup sorbet or gelatin, or 1 tablespoon sugar, jam, or jelly) For more information on the DASH diet, consult your dietitian or download “In Brief: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH ” from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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