- The “DASH” in DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
- This diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension.
- The DASH diet focuses on nutrients and foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils.
- The DASH diet recommends limiting added sugars as well as foods that are high in saturated fat, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy and tropical oils like coconut oil.
- Research on the DASH diet has found that this eating pattern may improve various health markers, including blood pressure and total cholesterol.
The basics of the DASH diet
The “DASH” in DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This eating pattern was developed in the 1990s after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started funding several research projects to see if specific dietary interventions could improve certain health markers. The DASH diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension.
The DASH diet focuses on nutrients and foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils. In particular, this eating pattern emphasizes foods containing important nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein. The DASH diet recommends limiting added sugars (including sugar-sweetened beverages) as well as foods that are high in saturated fat such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy and tropical oils like coconut oil.
Recommendations for daily servings of food groups are given based on calorie needs.
Guidelines for the DASH diet
|Food group||Daily servings per 2,000 calories||Serving sizes|
|Grains||6–8||1 slice of bread, 1 cup of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal|
|Lean protein||6 or fewer||1 ounce of cooked meat, poultry or fish or 1 egg|
|Vegetables||4–5||1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or ½ cup of vegetable juice|
|Fruit||4–5||1 medium whole fruit, ¼ cup of dried fruit, ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or ½ cup of fruit juice|
|Low-fat or fat-free dairy||2–3||1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1½ ounces of cheese|
|Fats and oils||2–3||1 teaspoon of soft margarine, 1 tsp of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 Tbsp of salad dressing|
|Foods||Weekly servings||Serving sizes|
|Nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas||4–5||⅓ cup or 1½ ounces of nuts, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 Tbsp or ½ oz seeds, or ½ cup of cooked legumes (e.g. dried beans or peas)|
|Sweets||5 or fewer||1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 Tbsp of jelly or jam, ½ cup of sorbet or a gelatin dessert, or 1 cup of lemonade|
Additionally, the DASH diet emphasizes limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (the standard DASH diet) or reducing even further to 1,500 milligrams per day depending on individual recommendations from a healthcare provider.
- Standard DASH diet: Limiting sodium to 2,300mg/day
- Lower-sodium DASH diet: Limiting sodium to 1,500mg/day
The DASH diet and health
The DASH diet is well known for its impact on reducing hypertension. This systematic review and meta-analysis found that the DASH diet significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. This reducing effect was greater in adults with elevated blood pressure. Another study found that a diet rich in plant foods, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, and with a sodium intake within normal limits—like what the DASH diet recommends—can be effective in the prevention and management of high blood pressure.
In addition to its effects on blood pressure, another systematic review and meta-analysis found that adherence to this eating pattern resulted in decreases in total and LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials found that the DASH diet significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations, which suggests that this style of eating may play an important role in glycemic control.
The DASH diet emphasizes nutrient-dense foods without being too strict with what you can or cannot eat. It incorporates a wide variety of foods and has been well researched. The main purpose of this diet is to help prevent or lower high blood pressure, and some research demonstrates that it may improve other health markers as well.
This article includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD, and Ali Webster, PhD, RD.