The DASH Diet was developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). It stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.”
DASH Diet guidelines were created based on two research studies conducted by the NIH.
Participants in the studies reduced their blood pressure numbers by eating foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat and that emphasized fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk dairy products. More on these studies below.
Sounds pretty good so far, right? So let’s dig a little deeper.
DASH Diet Research
As mentioned, DASH guidelines are based on the results of two studies. The first DASH study compared over 400 people on 3 eating plans.
The first one consisted of foods that most Americans eat. Second one consisted of foods that most Americans eat with the addition of more fruits and vegetables. And the third one was the DASH Diet plan.
Participants who followed the DASH eating guidelines experienced the best results, and lowered their blood pressure the fastest—within 2 weeks, to be exact.
The second DASH study involved 412 people. It looked at the effect on blood pressure of reducing sodium intake with the DASH eating plan or a plan typical of what many Americans consume.
Results showed that blood pressure reductions were higher on the DASH eating plan than on the other plan.
DASH Diet Guidelines
Besides plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, DASH Diet guidelines advise whole grains over the refined carbs.
And, they emphasize limited consumption of red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages. That’s another plus.
Here are the DASH Diet guidelines for daily servings from each food group for an average day:
|Food Group||1600 Calorie/Day||2600 Calorie/Day||3100 Calorie/Day|
|Low Fat Dairy||2-3||3||3-4|
Dash Diet Meal Plan
The focus of the DASH diet is on a higher intake of certain foods. It emphasizes the need to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Next, you need to choose lean meat, low-fat dairy products and nuts.
Try to keep the intake of trans fats, extra amounts of salt and sugar, as well as processed foods to a minimum.
When it comes to meal size, it must be based on each person’s personal calorie needs. This is a DASH diet plan for 1600 calories:
- 3 servings of vegetables
- 4 servings of fruit
- 6 servings of cereal
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products
- about 100 grams of lean poultry or fish
- up to 2300 milligrams of sodium
- legumes, nuts and seeds should be taken 3-4 times a week.
- You should include extra sugar and sweets a maximum of three times a week.
The success of the DASH diet is due to increased intake of foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium.
Regulation of blood pressure largely depends on reduced sodium intake, but also sufficient potassium intake.
Food processing reduces the level of potassium in it. This means that whenever you choose between fresh and processed foods, you choose the first option.
In addition, it reduces the intake of added sugars, saturated fats and total calories, and all this leads to success in the weight loss process.
Weight Loss With DASH Diet
It can be argued that proper use of DASH diet leads to lowering blood pressure. It will happen regardless of whether you will lose weight or not.
It goes without saying that if you already have high blood pressure, you are advised to lose weight.
Obesity can be a crucial risk factor for high blood pressure. Weight loss has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Some studies have confirmed weight loss with the DASH diet, but in those studies, people strictly controlled their calorie intake. Fewer calories were ingested than consumed.
The DASH diet excludes the use of some high-calorie foods, such as fats and sweets. This should already lead to a much lower calorie intake on a daily basis.
If that is not enough to notice weight loss, then it is necessary to additionally control the amount of calories consumed.
So, if you are following the DASH diet for weight loss only, then you will have to strictly control your daily calorie intake.
But, if you design a DASH diet to limit calorie intake, you will also reduce the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which also often acts as a precursor to diabetes and heart problems.
DASH Diet For Diabetes
Numerous scientific studies have shown favorable results and the DASH diet is considered excellent for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Although the DASH diet is not designed as a weight loss method, most people who follow it lose extra pounds, which significantly reduces the risk of diabetes.
DASH Diet Sample Menu
This is just one example of what a weekly menu might look like if you are on a DASH diet.
DASH Diet Pros
DASH diet has a great flexibility in the use of foods. Almost no banned ones. The emphasis in this diet is on improving general health, and it also gives positive results in weight loss.
The Dash diet is endorsed by several credible medical institutions, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart Association; Dietary Guidelines for Americans; AHA Treatment Guidelines for Women; and The Mayo Clinic.
Physicians recommend the DASH Diet for people with hypertension or pre-hypertension and for folks who need to lower their blood pressure.
The U.S. News and World Report released the 2022 edition of its annual rankings of Best Diets, in which an independent panel of experts, including nutritionists, dietitians, cardiologists, and diabetologists reviewed popular diet profiles.
The DASH Diet was ranked the Number 2 best diet overall . It also ranked well for “best diets for healthy eating” and “best diabetes diets.”
DASH Diet Cons
DASH is not a weight loss plan for those looking for a “quick fix” solution. As with other diets, it must be adopted as a long-term lifestyle change in order to work.
DASH is more time consuming than other diets. Truth to be told: making various foods with fruits and vegetables needs a bit more time and culinary skills.
Lastly, following a diet like DASH can bit a bit pricey. Whole grain products and fresh fruits and vegetables cost more than heavily processed foods that most Americans eat. Especially if we are talking about organic variants.
The DASH Diet has some really great qualities. It’s based on credible research and is particularly helpful for people with hypertension (which 49.6% of adults have, according to the CDC).
By all parameters, DASH is one of the best diets for most overweight and obese men and women.
One caveat though. DASH Diet guidelines are not meant as a short-term solution.
DASH diet will only work if you take these principles and make them a permanent part of your lifestyle.