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DASH diet

What is the DASH diet? How does it work? Who is it for? Does the DASH diet help you lose weight? DASH diet sample menu.

What is the DASH diet?

The abbreviation DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension. The diet was first presented at the American Heart Association meeting in 1996 and then published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997.

It is a healthy eating plan designed to treat and prevent high blood pressure.

The DASH diet is a combined (varied) eating plan that limits sodium (salt), sugars, and saturated fat intake.

The idea behind the diet is simple:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • Eat more whole grain products, fish, poultry and nuts.
  • Reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fatty acids.
  • Limit sodium intake and the consumption of sweets, sugary drinks and red meat.
 

The DASH diet is based on two studies – DASH and DASH-Sodium – that looked at ways to lower blood pressure through dietary changes.

In the DASH study, participants were offered one of three meal plans:

  1. A control diet, where the nutrient composition was typical of most people living in North America.
  2. A fruit and vegetable diet with more fruit and vegetables (micronutrients, vitamins and fibre) and fewer snacks and sweets than the control diet.
  3. A combined diet high in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, but low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol.
 

The second and third meal plans contained more nutrients associated with lower blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, fibre and protein. Sodium was similar in all three meal plans – around 3 g/day.

And.

Although there was no change in weight, the combined diet lowered blood pressure more than the other two diets, and the reduction in blood pressure was comparable to that seen in people taking medication for stage 1 hypertension.

 

In the DASH-Sodium study, participants were offered one of three diet plans:

  1. The DASH diet with 3300 mg of sodium per day (a normal amount for many people living in North America).
  2. The DASH diet with 2300 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).
  3. The DASH diet with 1500 mg of sodium per day (about 2/3 teaspoon salt).
 

Blood pressure decreased in all participants on the DASH diet.

And.

The less salt intake, the more blood pressure dropped.

People who already had high blood pressure had the biggest drop.

 

Attention!

Salt intake should not be reduced by over 2/3 teaspoons per day, as sodium (salt) is vital for our bodies. The problem is not salt per se, but the fact that we consume too much salt every day through industrially produced food and that too salt much is too bad.

 

How does the DASH diet work?

DASH is not just a traditional low-salt diet – it is designed to help lower blood pressure and promote overall heart health.

DASH diet plans focus on foods high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and fibre, that together help lower blood pressure:

  1. Emphasis on fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. These nutrients help maintain heart health and general well-being.
  2. Includes whole grain products (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, wholemeal bread, etc.) – complex carbohydrates and fibre that promote satiety and help regulate blood sugar levels.
  3. Prefers lean proteins (poultry, fish, beans, nuts and seeds) which are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol (helping to reduce the risk of heart disease) than red meat and, in particular, processed meat products.
  4. Too much sodium (salt) is associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), so the DASH diet recommends limiting sodium intake to 2300 milligrams per day and 1500 milligrams per day for optimal blood pressure control.
  5. Includes low-fat dairy products (milk, cottage cheese, yoghurt, cheese, etc.) that provide our bodies with calcium, potassium and protein while controlling/reducing saturated fat intake.
  6. Although the DASH diet recommends limiting saturated fats and trans-fats, it promotes healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds) which are beneficial for heart health (when consumed in moderation).
  7. In addition to the main food groups, the DASH diet recommends nutritious foods such as legumes, seeds, nuts and healthy oils (unrefined vegetable, nut and seed oils). These foods provide us with essential nutrients that contribute to both overall health and well-being.
  8. Regular physical activity is not an explicit part of the diet but is an important part of the DASH lifestyle and helps to maintain a healthy weight and promote cardiovascular health.
 

Here are some foods recommended by the DASH diet and what they give us:

Product group

Product examples

Benefits

Whole grain products

Pasta, rice, bread, cereals…

Energy, dietary fibre.

Vegetables

Broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens, carrots, tomatoes…

Dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals.

Fruits

Apricots, bananas, dates, oranges, grapes, melons…

Dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, vitamins.

Low-fat dairy products

Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt…

Calcium, vitamin D, protein.

Meat, poultry and fish

Skinless poultry, lean meat, seafood…

Proteins, B group vitamins, zinc.

Nuts, seeds and legumes

Sunflower seeds, beans, peas, lentils, almonds, peanuts, pistachios…

Protein, potassium, magnesium, dietary fibre, phytochemical compounds.

Healthy fats and oils

Olive oil, low-fat mayonnaise, light salad dressing…

Help absorb vitamins and other nutrients

Sweets

Candies, cookies (and chips), syrups, sorbets…

 

DASH diet food plan

The DASH diet provides daily and weekly nutritional intake. The number of servings is individual – depending on your daily calorie intake.

Here are the recommended portions by food group based on an energy intake of 2000 calories per day:

  • Cereals – 6 to 8 servings per day. One serving can be 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta, 1 slice of bread or 28g (1 oz) cereal (dry).
  • Vegetables – 4 to 5 servings per day. One serving is 1 cup of raw green leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of sliced raw or cooked vegetables or 1/2 glass of vegetable juice.
  • Fruit – 4 to 5 servings per day. One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or 1/2 glass fruit juice.
  • Low-fat dairy products – 2 to 3 servings per day. One serving is 1 glass of milk or yoghurt or 43 g (1,5 oz) of cheese.
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish – 6 or fewer servings per day. One serving is 28 g (1 oz) cooked meat, poultry or fish, or 1 egg.
  • Nuts, seeds, beans and peas (dry) – 4 to 5 servings per week. One serving is 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds or 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.
  • Fats and oils – 2 to 3 servings per day. One serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons light salad dressing.
  • Sweets and sugar – 5 or fewer servings per week. One serving is 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam, 1/2 cup of sorbet or 1 glass of lemonade.
 

The DASH diet does not provide specific guidance on alcohol consumption.

However.

Alcohol can raise blood pressure, so several sources recommend limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one or less for women.

The DASH diet also does not provide guidance on caffeine and although caffeine may cause a short-term increase in blood pressure, it is not clear how caffeine affects blood pressure in the long term.

 

DASH diet sample menu

To help you start your DASH eating plan, I provide a 3-day DASH sample menu (for ~2000 Kcal) that can serve as a basis for your meal planning.

Day 1

Breakfast

1 cup of salt-free oatmeal.

1/4 cup of raisins.

1 medium banana.

1 cup of milk (0,5% fat).

Coffee or tea (unsweetened) or water.

Lunch

Hummus plate:

  • 1/2 cup of hummus.
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized red pepper.
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized cucumber.
  • 10 small (baby) carrots.
  • 3 bean-pea scones (about 5 cm in diameter).
  • 1 whole-wheat pita.

Dinner

~120 g (4 oz) fried salmon with balsamic sauce with:

  • 1 cup of whole wheat and wild rice mix.
  • 3/4 cup of green bean and red pepper mix.
  • 1/2 cup of canned pear slices in their juice.

 

Tea (unsweetened).

A snack

1 cup of low-fat yoghurt.

1 medium peach.

Day 2

Breakfast

1 cup of mixed fruit, such as melon and grapes.

1/2 of wholemeal bun.

1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter.

1 glass of skimmed milk.

Lunch

Spinach salad:

  • 3 cups of fresh spinach leaves;
  • 1 sliced pear.
  • 1/2 cup of canned mandarin oranges.
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • 28 g (1 oz) of goat’s cheese.
  • 85 g (3 oz) of cooked chicken.

Dinner

Vegetarian pasta:

  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
  • 1 cup of chopped courgettes.
  • 1/2 cup of chopped spinach.
  • 1,5 cups of wholemeal pasta.

 

1 cup of chopped melon.

1 glass of skimmed milk.

A snack

1/4 cup of unsalted granola (or muesli), dried fruit and nuts mix.

Day 3

Breakfast

Avocado toast:

  • 1 slice of wholemeal toasted bread.
  • 1 medium avocado.
  • 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes.
  • 1 boiled egg.

 

1 medium orange.

Coffee or tea (unsweetened) or water.

Lunch

Tuna salad:

  • 85 g (3 oz) canned tuna (in its low-sodium juice).
  • 1/4 cup of sliced onion.
  • 1/4 cup of sliced peppers.
  • 1/4 cup of sliced celery.
  • 1 tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise.
  • 8 wholegrain crispbreads.

 

1 apple.

1/2 glass of skimmed milk.

Dinner

Hot vegetable salad:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.
  • 1/2 cup of sliced onion.
  • 1/2 cup of sliced red peppers.
  • 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms.
  • 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli.
  • 1/2 cup of sliced carrots.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ginger.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh garlic.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of rice wine.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of low-sodium soy sauce.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chopped cashew nuts.

 

1 cup of brown rice.

1 glass of low-fat and low-sugar yoghurt.

Water.

A snack

1 peach.

1/4 cup of almonds.

 

DASH diet vs Mediterranean diet

The DASH and Mediterranean diet are very similar – both are complete, balanced diets that recommend similar foods and have similar health effects.

But there are also some differences, for example:

  • The Mediterranean diet is more of a guide to healthy eating and lifestyle and is based on foods that are part of the daily diet of many people in the Mediterranean region.

While.

  • The DASH diet is more restrictive, for example – it recommends only low-fat dairy products, whereas the Mediterranean diet recommends moderate amounts of dairy products, without specifying the fat content. The same applies to other foods and drinks, including red meat, sweets and alcohol – the Mediterranean diet suggests that these can be enjoyed in moderation, whereas the DASH diet advises against them.
 

The DASH diet is slightly better at lowering blood pressure, while the Mediterranean diet is better for heart and cognitive health.

The DASH diet is not recommended for people with chronic kidney disease, as kidney patients are generally advised to limit their intake of potassium and phosphorus (many plant-based foods and dairy products are higher in potassium and phosphorus).

 

DASH diet for weight loss

By following the DASH diet (eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds… and reducing your salt intake), you are more likely to lose weight.

If only eating more vegetables will reduce your appetite and cravings for snacks while eating less salt will reduce the amount of water retained in your body (1 g of excess salt holds ~100 g of water in our bodies).

However.

Weight loss depends mainly on calorie intake.

In other words, you can still gain weight by eating healthily if you take in more calories from food than your body needs.

Therefore.

Combine the DASH diet with calorie reduction if you want to lose weight. Find out how many calories you should take in based on your age, weight and level of physical activity. Track your calorie intake and gradually reduce it.

But.

Don’t go to extremes – if you try to cut calories drastically, you may end up with the opposite effect – you will feel hungry and as a result, you will either torture yourself and damage your health, or you will regularly “binge” (overeat) and your weight will not go down.

If you need help with a weight loss plan, consult a dietician, or nutritionist or sign up for my weight loss challenges, where you will learn the basics of healthy eating and how to lose weight without starving and stress.

 

Key takeaways

Many studies have shown that the DASH diet lowers blood pressure in both – hypertensive and prehypertensive people and results are achieved in about two weeks.

Over the last 20 years, studies have shown that the DASH diet is also a beneficial dietary pattern for lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and reducing the risk of developing certain cancers.

All balanced diet plans have the same benefits, especially when combined with exercise.

In my experience, most people are unaware of the impact that nutrition has on their health and well-being.

Until they try what it’s like to eat healthy and balanced😊.

 

A few words about sugar and salt.

Carbohydrates (sugars) and sodium (salt) are vital for our bodies.

The problem is that industrially processed foods usually contain very high levels of added sugar and salt (both for taste and as preservatives).

And.

When we eat industrially processed products, we eat spoonfuls of salt (sausages, processed meats, salty snacks…) and sugar (fizzy sweetened drinks, juices, energy drinks…) without realising it.

In other words, if we try to follow the recommendations on sugar and salt intake, we need to take into account not only the amount of sugar and salt that we add to our food ourselves (a pinch of salt ~300 mg of sodium) but also what is already in the food.

Read more about how to keep your sodium intake within reasonable limits HERE.

 

Eat tasty, eat balanced, move and – be healthy!

Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH

The DASH Diet, 20 Years Later

Effects of Protein, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate Intake on Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids

Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet

Influence of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on blood pressure

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, Western diet, and risk of gout in men

Effects of Diet on 10-Year Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk (from the DASH Trial)

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and Risk of Subsequent Kidney Disease

Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Incident Coronary Heart Disease, and Biomarkers of Risk in Men

Influence of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on blood pressure

Effects of Sodium Reduction and the DASH Diet in Relation to Baseline Blood Pressure

Time Course of Change in Blood Pressure From the DASH Diet and Sodium Reduction

Effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors

The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on weight and body composition in adults

An Update on the Mediterranean, Vegetarian, and DASH Eating Patterns in People With Type 2 Diabetes

The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) on serum inflammatory markers

Adherence to Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-Style Diet and the Risk of Cancer

Dietary Patterns and Type 2 Diabetes

DASH-style diet associates with reduced risk for kidney stones

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