What is the DASH Diet?

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What is the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a flexible eating plan that is heart healthy and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The DASH diet includes lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It also includes some fish, chicken, and beans as well as nuts and seeds.

You can eat red meat, sweets, and fats but it should be consumed in small amounts.

 Weight loss and the DASH diet

Weight loss is not emphasized with the DASH diet but you can lose weight by eating a healthier diet and concentrating on consuming fewer calories than what you are burning. This can be done by eating less and increasing your physical activity.

Why should you consider the DASH diet?

Studies have shown the health benefits of the Dash diet such as lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and elevated LDL cholesterol are two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The studies showed that “People can lose weight and lower their blood pressure by following the DASH eating plan and increasing their physical activity.”

One study showed that adding a low sodium diet was more beneficial than the DASH diet alone. The goal is to limit sodium intake to below 2300mg a day, 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium is ideal.

The studies also showed that participants who were counseled about weight loss for 6 months tended to lose more weight than those who were not.

The Mayo Clinic estimates that,

“Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop by eight to 14 points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks.”

In addition, the DASH diet will help with other medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Simple changes that you make with the DASH diet

Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.

Vegetables and fruits

Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner.

Try fresh or frozen, canned fruits and vegetables are high in sugar and or salt

Soups, canned vegetables, cereals and deli meats often have lots of sodium.

Carbohydrates

Avoid processed foods, stick with whole grains.

Fats

Use only half your typical serving of butter, margarine, or salad dressing, and use low-fat or fat-free condiments.

Drink low-fat or skim dairy products any time you would normally use full-fat or cream.

Limit trans fats.

Meats

Avoid cured foods and stay with lean meats

Sodium

Avoid sodium on the dash diet

Avoid salty foods such as pickles, olives, and sauerkraut.

Snacks 

Suggestions for snacks nuts, raisins, low-fat and fat-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted plain popcorn with no butter, and raw vegetables.

Drinks

Substitute water for flavored sugary drinks

What are typical servings sizes

  • 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1 cup raw vegetables or fruit or a 1/2 cup cooked veggies
  • 8 ounces of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 ounces of meat

Dash diet and bloating

Keep in mind that the DASH diet has more servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods than you may be used to eating. These foods are high in fiber and may cause some bloating and diarrhea. To avoid these problems, gradually increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods that you eat over several weeks.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which helped develop DASH, publishes free guides on the plan.

Salt substitutes

Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Before trying salt substitutes, you should check with your doctor.

Some people with medical diseases should refrain from salt substitutes

Renal failure

Diabetes mellitus

Certain medications that are used to treat high blood pressure and water pills (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, and potassium-sparing diuretics)

Reference Doorenbos CJ, Vermeij CG. Danger of salt substitutes that contain potassium in patients with renal failure. BMJ : British Medical Journal. 2003;326(7379):35-36.

What do you think of the DASH diet?

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 238 Articles
I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.

22 Comments

  1. Looks like a sensible plan. I banned the D-word from my vocabulary years ago and just started focusing on portion control. Haven’t had to worry about losing weight since, but I’m always looking for ways to eat sensibly so I really appreciate these tips.

  2. Hi,

    The Dash Diet looks like a healthy one. It seems to me that reducing sodium is a great thing to do for everyone. And eating a low carb diet will help shed those pounds. It is more than a “diet” but a good lifestyle to follow.
    Thanks!
    -Donna

  3. Hello! I love the dash diet and swear by it! Yeppers I eat all the time and yet don’t gain an ounce HEHE it is so easy to do in the summer months as fruits and veggies are more plentiful.. Awesome share! Chery :))

  4. Sounds right up my street! I am currently changing the way I eat having had an annual health check and finding my cholesterol has risen slightly, nothing to worry about yet but hoping it isn’t a trend.

    Enjoy the journey!

  5. Excellent overview! Magnesium supplementation also is proven to reduce hypertension – most diets are low in Mg++, so smooth muscles in veins aren’t as relaxed as they should be. Beans and nuts, Whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, and Green leafy vegetables seem emphasized in DASH, so it makes sense it would help from that standpoint as well.

  6. Hi Dr. Sharon,

    Darn it Sharon, I was going to do a post on the health benefits of a DASH diet! Oh well, yours is better than mine would have been, so thank you.

    I’ve eaten a personalized version of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension long before it was ‘named & claimed’. I figure the DASH diet is more of a lifestyle attitude than it is a regiment. Thanks, Edward

  7. Hi there..
    I remember the DASH Diet from Nursing school. U do not use any added salt on my food, and I read labels and always go for low sodium if I can find the products. Must read the food labels – they really help.

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