What Is the Dash Diet? a Complete Beginner’s Guide

DASH Diet is ranked as one of the two healthiest diets to follow in 2018 (1).

Sharing the top spot with the Mediterranean Diet.

It’s even outranking close to 40 other diets including the Weight Watchers Diet. 

What Is the DASH Diet?

“DASH” is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

A condition that affects more than 1.1 billion people worldwide (2).

Researchers developed the DASH Diet to help people lower their blood pressure.

The diet emphasizes on eating veggies, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains.

These foods are known to prevent or reduce hypertension and lower the risk of heart disease. 

This is because high blood pressure is far less seen in vegetarian-based diets.

The diet also limits salt intakes, red meats, added sugars, and fat. 

A high intake of salt and red meats over time can lead to high blood pressure. Thus limiting them aids the condition. 

What Makes Dash Diet Healthier Than Other Diets?

First, it’s medically created.

It was developed by the National Institutes of Health (3).

They wanted to create a nutrient-rich diet that would lower high blood pressure. 

As a result, DASH is rich in plant-foods and lean meats. Examples include fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, and chicken. 

Does Dash Diet Live up to Its Name?

Scientists and dietitians say yes.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor, Edgar Miller praises its effectiveness.  

Miller attests “The dash diet lowers blood pressure significantly.” 

One essential way the DASH diet helps those with high blood pressure is its limited salt. 

The standard DASH recommends a daily sodium intake of up to 1 teaspoon or 2,300 mg. 

On a plan that’s even lower in sodium recommends up to 1,500 mg of salt. That’s only about a 3/4 teaspoon. 

Another is its focus on fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. All while limiting sugar, fat, salt, and red meat. 

By emphasizing on whole foods and managing portion, DASH brings a lot of benefits to hypertension. 

Thanks to its focuses on the portions and foods dieters eat, DASH also naturally helps with weight loss. 
Both for short and long term. 

This is no surprise.

Foods high in sugar, fat, and salt, ones to be avoided on DASH tend to be high in calories. 

By limiting them in your diet is a natural way to reduce your calories and lose weight. 

This is why the DASH diet is also known as a weight loss diet. 

The DASH Diet Eating Guidelines

DASH doesn’t have a pre-made meal plan or list of foods to shop, per se. 

Instead, it makes serving suggestions per food group. 

And the serving sizes are up to how many calories dieters need to reach their goal. 

Here are serving size suggestions for 2,000 calories a day diet. 

What is the DASH diet about

6-8 Servings of Whole Grains Per Day

For whole grains, you can eat brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, and bulgur. 

Here’s an example of a whole grain serving:

  • 1 whole grain toast
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa or brown rice

4–5 Servings of Vegetables Per Day

The Dash diet allows all vegetables, so everything from carrots to cauliflowers are good choices. 

Here’s a list of some of the healthiest vegetables you can eat:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Asparagus
  • Collard greens

Serving Examples:

  • 1 cup of raw greens veggies like kale and spinach
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, broccoli, or tomatoes 

4–5 Servings of Fruits Per Day

No fruits are off limits on DASH. Fruits are naturally sweet, high in fiber, and low in calories and fat. 

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Mango
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.)

Serving Examples:

  • 1 medium fruit such as orange
  • 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen fruits such as blueberries and cherries
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed fruit juice

2–3 Servings of Fat-Free or Low Fat Dairy Per Day

  • Low-fat cheese, 
  • Fat-free yogurt,
  • Skim milk

Serving Examples:

  • 1 cup of fat-free yogurt
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1.5 oz of low-fat cheese?

6 Servings or Less of Lean Meats Per Day

This includes chicken, fish and lean meat.

For red meat always choose lean cuts, and limit red meat to once or than twice per week.

Serving Examples:

  • 1 oz of cooked chicken, lean cut red meat or fish
  • One egg?

4–5 Servings of Seeds, Nuts, and Legumes Per Week

Nuts are certified superfoods and great on any diet.

They are full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and antioxidants that can lower your blood sugar. 

It can be any nuts from cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, peanuts, to almonds. 

In particular, sunflower seeds make great healthy snacks. 

Flax seeds are awesome for smoothies as they add extra nutritional boost.

Legumes include kidney beans, lentils, and split peas. 

Serving Examples:

  • 1/3 cup of raw nuts
  • 2 tbsp of peanut or nut butter – no salt or sugar added. 
  • 2 tbsps of flax seeds or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of cooked kidneys

2–3 Servings of Fats and Oils Per Day

Olive oil, butter, safflower oil, avocado oil, coconut oil are all good.

They also recommend you choose low-fat mayonnaise and light salad dressing.

Serving Examples:

  • 1 tbsp of avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp of salad dressing

5 or Fewer Servings of Sweets per Week

The DASH diet limits added sugars to a very small amount.

Anything from candy, fruit juices, sodas, to table sugar is added sugar. 

Unrefined sugars such as alternative sugar like honey and agave nectar also belong in this category. 

Serving Examples:

  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of spread jam
  • 1 cup of fruit juice

The takeaway here is that the DASH diet does not recommend you any specific foods. But instead, it’s an eating habit that emphasizes on food groups and servings. 

Foods to Avoid

  • Foods high in saturated fat 
  • Fatty meats
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

To sum up, when following the DASH diet, you’ll be eating a meal plan centered around foods that are:

  • Low in saturated and trans fats
  • Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
  • Lower in sodium

Potassium, in particular, is essential in balancing sodium, reports Harvard Public Health.

Reena Pande, M.D. Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School confirms potassium-rich foods are linked to “lower blood pressure and lower risk of stroke”.

This is one reason why you see a lot of vegetables and fruits on the DASH diet.

Its so you can increase your potassium intake by adding natural sources of potassium with limited sodium.

DASH diet eating guidelines

The Bottom Line

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