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  • Writer's pictureTenille Sonnichsen, RD

A DASH of Heart Health

By Anita Chung, BSc Human Nutrition, and Tenille Sonnichsen, RD

Do you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of heart disease?

According to current research, the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) can help reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to long-term consequences including heart and kidney disease, stroke, or blindness. The DASH diet may also help with weight loss, which can also help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of heart attack for overweight adults. 

The DASH diet is similar to Canada’s Food Guide, but with some added guidelines. Canada’s Food Guide encourages a plate model that is divided into three portions: ½ of the plate is fruits & vegetables, ¼ of the plate is whole grains, and ¼ of the plate is protein foods (fish, skinless poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, lean meat, dried beans and lentils).

Both the DASH diet and Canada’s Food Guide encourage consuming a variety of foods, emphasizing: 

  • colourful fruits and vegetables

  • multiple whole grains, such as quinoa, brown or wild rice, barley, spelt, bulgur

  • fatty fish and lean protein, such as salmon, trout, tuna, skinless poultry, and occasional lean beef, pork and wild meats

  • including dried beans, peas and lentil

  • low-fat dairy products

  • nuts and/or seeds

The DASH diet also focuses on limiting certain foods, which includes: 

  • Highly processed foods: often high in sodium

  • Trans fat or saturated fat: red meat, butter, hydrogenated margarine, fried foods

  • Refined grains: white bread/pasta

  • Sugary drinks: soda, juice

  • Added or processed sugar or sweets: candy, ice cream, baked goods

Ultimately, the DASH diet helps to increase your intake of heart healthy nutrients, including fibre, potassium, magnesium, and more.

Get Started with DASH

If you are interested in incorporating some nutrition strategies to improve your heart health, try one or more of the following:

1. Prepare foods with less sodium; add herbs, lemon, salt-free seasoning.

2. Add a serving of fruits and/or vegetables to each meal and snack.

3. Choose lean meats, such as skinless chicken or turkey, and include plant-based proteins often.

4. Add fatty fish once or twice a week (or more!).

5. Gradually switch from white/refined grains to whole grains.

6. Cook with heart healthy oils, such as olive oil (lower temps) or avocado oil (higher temps), instead of butter or margarine 

7. Choose a variety of foods- different colours of fruit and vegetables, a selection of whole grains, and mix it up with different kinds of beans, peas and lentils.

Healthy eating is not an all-or-nothing approach, and gradual change is often the most sustainable change.

If you want to learn more about how you can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart attack, book a free strategy call with Tenille today!

You may have heard of heart-healthy overnight oats. See below for a simple recipe that is perfect for breakfast and/or snack.

Overnight Oatmeal 

Cooking Time: 5-6 minutes 


½ cup rolled oats 

½ cup milk or milk alternative 

¾ tbsp chia seeds 

Toppings (Optional): 

Fruit: blueberries, sliced bananas, raspberries, etc.

Vanilla extract


Peanut butter or nut butter (e.g. almond butter, cashew butter)

Cacao nibs 

Seeds and/or nuts 

Shredded coconut 



Add milk/milk alternative into a mason jar or bowl.

Add oats and chia seeds and stir.

Cover it with a lid or seal it and put it into the refrigerator overnight (at least 6 hours). 

Add some toppings and enjoy! 


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