The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a dietary pattern promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to prevent and treat hypertension (high blood pressure). The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and limiting sodium, saturated fat, and total fat. Salmon is a fatty fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But is it okay to eat salmon on the DASH diet? Let’s take a deeper look.
Overview of the DASH Diet
The DASH diet was created after research found that following a particular dietary pattern could substantially lower blood pressure. The key aspects of the DASH diet include:
- Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
- Reducing sodium intake
Following the DASH diet has been found to lower systolic blood pressure by 6-11 mmHg. It has also been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
The DASH diet recommends 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week. It also recommends 2 or fewer servings of lean meats, poultry, and fish per day. The serving sizes are quite small, at only 1 oz of nuts, 2 Tbsp of peanut butter, and 1.5-2 oz of meat or fish.
Nutritional Profile of Salmon
Salmon is one of the most nutritious protein sources available. A 3 oz cooked portion of salmon contains:
- Calories: 175
- Fat: 10 g
- Saturated fat: 1.5 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 2.7 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 4.6 g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 1.5-2 g
- Protein: 22 g
- Vitamin D: 31% DV
- Vitamin B12: 47% DV
- Selenium: 55% DV
- Niacin: 50% DV
- Phosphorus: 35% DV
- Sodium: 58 mg
The main nutritional highlights of salmon are its high-quality protein, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, and phosphorus.
However, salmon is a fattier fish compared to options like tilapia, cod, and flounder. A 3 oz serving of salmon contains 10 g of fat, although only 1.5 g is saturated fat. Salmon is also relatively low in sodium as long as it has not been salt-cured or smoked.
Is Salmon Allowed on the DASH Diet?
Yes, salmon is allowed on the DASH diet. Here is why:
- Salmon is a lean protein source that fits into the DASH diet guidelines for 2 or fewer servings of lean meats, poultry, and fish per day.
- Salmon provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower blood pressure.
- Salmon is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats, aligning with DASH diet guidelines.
- Salmon contains nutrients like vitamin D, selenium, and B vitamins that are emphasized in the DASH diet.
- Salmon can help increase diet variety, which is encouraged in the DASH diet to get a multitude of nutrients.
The key is paying attention to portion sizes when eating salmon. A 3-4 oz serving a couple times a week would fit into a DASH diet eating pattern.
Benefits of Salmon for the DASH Diet
Here are some of the key benefits that salmon provides specifically for people following the DASH diet:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Salmon is one of the best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Salmon contains approximately 1.5-2 grams of omega-3s per 3 oz serving.
Research shows higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids can help significantly lower blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension. Omega-3s are thought to help dilate blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and decrease blood clotting.
2. High-quality protein
Salmon contains 22 g of complete, high-quality protein per 3 oz serving. The DASH diet recommends including a few servings of lean protein foods like fish daily.
Protein provides amino acids that help maintain and repair body tissues. Salmon contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein source.
3. Vitamin D
Salmon is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D. A 3 oz serving of cooked salmon packs over 30% of the daily value.
Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in blood pressure regulation. Many people with hypertension have been found to have low or insufficient blood vitamin D levels.
Salmon provides 422 mg of potassium per 3 oz serving. That supplies about 9% of the recommended daily intake.
Potassium helps balance out sodium in the diet. Getting enough potassium is encouraged in the DASH diet to keep sodium levels in check, which helps lower blood pressure.
Salmon contains the antioxidant nutrients selenium and astaxanthin. These compounds help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body which may contribute to hypertension.
Limiting Less Healthy Options
When choosing salmon, be mindful of preparation methods and opt for healthier cooking techniques:
- Avoid battered and fried salmon options which add extra calories, fat, and sodium.
- Skip smoked, salt-cured, and canned salmon which can be overly high in sodium.
- Limit adding extra salt, sauces, or condiments when cooking salmon to keep sodium in check.
- Healthy preparations include baking, grilling, poaching, and air frying.
Also, vary your fish choices in addition to eating salmon. Include other fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, and herring which also provide anti-inflammatory omega-3s. And incorporate leaner fish like cod, tilapia, flounder, and sole.
Recommended Intake on DASH Diet
The DASH diet recommends 2 or fewer servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish per day. Here is a look at recommended salmon intake:
- Serving size: 3-4 oz cooked
- Servings per week: 2-3
Consuming salmon 2-3 times per week would provide around 4.5-9 grams of omega-3 fatty acids weekly from seafood alone. This aligns with the general recommendation for the general population of 250–500 mg (0.25–0.5 g) omega-3s daily.
Spreading out salmon intake throughout the week also helps ensure you are getting a steady dose of its beneficial nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, and vitamin D.
Sample DASH Diet Salmon Meals
Here are some DASH diet friendly meal ideas featuring salmon:
1. Lemon garlic salmon with roasted vegetables
- 4 oz baked salmon fillet
- 1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts
- 1/2 cup roasted sweet potato
- Lemon garlic seasoning on salmon
2. Salmon taco bowl
- 4 oz grilled salmon
- 1 cup mixed greens
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp avocado
- 1 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Lime juice and cilantro garnish
3. Salmon salad
- 4 oz canned wild salmon
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- 1/4 cup chickpeas
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 2 Tbsp slivered almonds
- Balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Salmon can be included as part of a healthy DASH diet eating pattern. Salmon provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, vitamin D, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins. These nutrients have all been shown to help reduce blood pressure.
Aim for 2-3 servings of 3-4 oz of salmon per week as part of the recommended intake of 2 or fewer servings of lean protein foods per day. Focus on healthy preparations like baking, grilling, or poaching rather than fried options. And balance out your seafood intake with other fatty and lean fish as well. Incorporating salmon into the DASH diet can provide health benefits while keeping meals interesting and delicious.