The DASH diet is a science-backed dietary approach to reduce high blood pressure (1). About 1.13 billion people worldwide have hypertension, which puts them at a higher risk of heart disease and organ damage (2), (3). Making a conscious effort to change the lifestyle and consuming low-sodium foods can help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of comorbidities. In this article, you will learn about the DASH diet, its benefits, a sample diet chart, foods to eat and avoid, and other associated concerns. Read on!
In This Article
What Is The DASH Diet According To The Experts?
The DASH diet (meaning Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) originated in the 1990s to reduce high blood pressure through dietary intervention (1). Ashley Larsen, RDN, says, “This is a balanced diet approach that is low in sodium and fat, and high in important nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, which has been proven to lower blood pressure.”
Kristen Kuminski, RD, CDN, a New York-based registered dietitian, says, “It’s similar to a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.” She adds, “The DASH diet is lower in sodium because it avoids processed foods like deli meats, canned soups, etc. It also emphasizes lean proteins and foods with heart-healthy unsaturated fats like salmon over red meat, which is higher in saturated fats.”
The claims about the efficacy of the DASH diet are scientifically backed. It is proven to be beneficial for reducing high blood pressure and preventing hypertension-related diseases and conditions. Scroll down to the next section to know about its benefits.
Science-Backed DASH Diet Benefits
1. Reduces Blood Pressure
The DASH diet recommends reducing your sodium intake. Low sodium or salt helps reduce excess water in the blood vessels (4). This decreases blood volume and the pressure on the blood vessel walls to reduce hypertension.
A study conducted on 459 adults with hypertension who followed the DASH diet for 11 weeks showed that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat, and low saturated fat helped reduce hypertension (5).
2. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are closely associated with hypertension. Approximately 54% of strokes and 47% of coronary heart diseases in the world are caused due to high BP (6). A DASH diet intervention on 1917 participants for 2-24 weeks showed a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, proving it an effective nutritional strategy to reduce CVD risk (7).
3. Manages Type 2 Diabetes
About 50% of people with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure (8). They are also at a higher risk of CVD. Therefore, it is important to reduce blood pressure and manage type 2 diabetes. The foods allowed in the DASH diet are nutritious and low in sodium. Moreover, it restricts the intake of refined carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association recommends the DASH diet as a part of the diabetes management plan to reduce insulin resistance (9).
4. Manages Chronic Kidney Disease
Kristen Kuminski, RD, CDN, says, “The DASH Diet is beneficial for healthy kidney function.” The National Kidney Foundation recommends the DASH diet to reduce the risk of kidney stones (10). A commentary published in the journal Kidney International reports that the DASH diet may have an important role in preventing end-stage kidney disease in select individuals with chronic kidney disease (11).
5. Weight Management
The DASH diet is also a great way to reduce weight and managing obesity. It is more effective than other low-calorie diets and helps reduce BMI (12). A study involving people with non-alcoholic fatty liver showed that an 8-week DASH diet intervention helped reduce their weight, BMI, and inflammation and improved blood lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity (13).
Clearly, the DASH diet has been studied well. It has many health benefits that help improve life span and the quality of life. In the next section, you will find a list of recommended foods for the DASH diet. Take a screenshot or pin it to refer to the list when you shop your groceries. Scroll down.
Recommended Foods On DASH Diet
The DASH diet emphasizes consuming more fruits, veggies, grains, and nuts, limiting sodium consumption to 1500-2300 mg per day, and avoiding all processed foods. Dr. Kristina Hendija says, “The diet restricts sodium, sugar, and saturated fats, which are all bad for hypertension.” Here’s a list of foods recommended in the DASH diet within 2000 calories.
- Vegetables (4-5 servings a day): Broccoli, carrot, spinach, kale, arugula, cabbage, purple cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, scallion, chive, okra, chard, beetroot, squash, bottle gourd, and Brussel sprouts.
- Fruits (3-4 servings a day): Apple, pear, peach, banana, berries, avocado, and oranges.
- Lean Meats, Poultry, And Fish (6-8 oz per day): Skinless chicken breast, lean cuts of beef, ground turkey, egg white, tuna, salmon, sea bass, haddock, mackerel, and carp.
- Grains (6-8 servings a day): Whole wheat bread, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, and quinoa.
- Healthy Fats: Olive oil, avocado oil, rice bran oil, peanut butter, sunflower butter, and almond butter.
- Fat-free Or Low-Fat Dairy Products (2-3 servings a day): Skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and 1½ ounces of low-fat cheese.
- Nuts, Seeds, And Legumes (4-5 servings a week): Lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamia, pecans, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pepita, and flax seeds.
- Sweets And Added Sugars (5 servings or fewer a week): Low-sugar jam and jelly, sorbet, and lemonade.
For beginners, this list can seem a little intimidating. Don’t worry. Here’s a sample diet menu plan for you to understand what and how much of DASH diet-compliant foods to consume.
|Meals||What To Eat|
|Breakfast||Egg and avocado toast topped with seeds + tea/coffee/fruit juice|
Tofu scramble with bell peppers and spinach + tea/coffee/fruit juice
|Lunch||5 oz baked fish/tofu +1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, ½ cup of raw or cooked vegetables + 1 cup of low-fat yogurt|
|Snack||½ cup of sorbet or 1 cup of lemonade|
1/3 cup of mixed unsalted nuts
½ cup of fruit juice
|Dinner||½ cup of cooked legumes + 1 cup of raw leafy green vegetable, ½ cup of raw or cooked vegetables + 1 cup low-fat milk before bed|
The foods list and DASH diet menu plan can help you lower your sodium intake to a great extent. However, you must also know which foods to avoid for effective results. The following section lists out foods that you must avoid if you have high blood pressure. Take a look.
Foods To Avoid On DASH Diet
As a rule of thumb, avoid consuming foods with high sodium, high-saturated fat, or of zero nutritional value. Diana Gariglio-Clelland, Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist, says, “Avoid processed foods like deli meats, canned soups, etc.” She also recommends avoiding high-fat red meat. The below list is a reminder of what to NOT eat on the DASH diet:
- High-Sodium Foods: Frozen foods, fries, pizza, salted nuts, cured meats, canned pasta, packaged sauces, canned foods, pickles, and kimchi.
- Processed Foods: Ready-to-eat meals, sausages and salamis, ham, bacon, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and chips.
- Saturated Fats: Red meat, lard, butter, mayonnaise, margarine, palm oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, fatty cuts of meat, and pancetta.
- Refined Carbs: White sugar, white flour, white rice, white bread, bagel, wafers, cakes, pastries, pies, and pate.
- Full-Fat Dairy And Dairy Products: Whole milk, milk cream, full-fat yogurt, flavored yogurt, and cheese.
Note: People with nut allergies can avoid nuts and consume avocado or other healthy sources of fats like fatty fish, seeds, and olive oil.
Are there any side effects of the DASH diet? Find out in the following section.
Are There Any Side Effects?
The DASH diet does not have any side effects as such. However, your body may take time to adjust to a low-sodium diet with lots of whole foods. And while it adjusts, you may experience the following:
- Mood swings
- Salt and sugar cravings
- Feeling hungry all the time
Once your body overcomes these “side effects,” you will be happy to consume foods that are good for your body and mind. But is the DASH diet for everyone or is it only for people with high blood pressure levels? Let’s find out.
Is The DASH Diet For Everyone?
The DASH diet was designed for people with hypertension and other obesity and hypertension-related diseases. However, it is not restricted to them. Anyone can benefit from the DASH diet. Dr. Keith Ayoob, Associate Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, says, “It works for the whole family, so there’s little need for specialized foods.”
If one of your family members needs to be on the DASH diet, everyone can switch to the DASH diet to support the family member and improve their food habits. Isn’t that great?
The DASH diet is a scientifically proven nutritional approach to reduce blood pressure (14). It has a myriad of other health benefits and is suitable for anyone who wants to improve their food habits and lifestyle(15). Talk to a registered dietitian or your doctor if you have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or obesity to get a customized DASH diet plan.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can drinking alcohol increase blood pressure?
Yes. Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure. It is best to limit your alcohol intake to 1 glass of wine per day and then cut it down to 1 glass per week.
Do I need to exercise on the DASH diet?
Yes, you can exercise on the DASH diet if your doctor allows you to. Exercising is good for your physical and mental health.
What is the recommended daily allowance of sodium?
The recommended daily allowance of sodium is 1500-2300 mg per day.
What is the normal blood pressure range?
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg.
What is the hypertension blood pressure range?
The hypertension blood pressure range is 140/90 mmHg or more.
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- DASH Diet To Stop Hypertension
- Sodium Intake and Hypertension
- The Long-Term Effects of Lifestyle Change on Blood Pressure: One-Year Follow-Up of the ENCORE Study
- High Blood Pressure and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortalities in Community-Dwelling Older Adults
- Effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension: An update
- DASH Eating Plan: An Eating Pattern for Diabetes Management
- The DASH Diet
- The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet in chronic kidney disease: should we embrace it?
- The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials
- The effects of DASH diet on weight loss and metabolic status in adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized clinical trial
- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Blood Pressure Reduction in Adults with and without Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
- The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Pattern in Special Populations