The DASH diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet (or more precisely the DASH Eating Plan) is published by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood institute (NHLBI) and is based upon comprehensive studies they supported that showed the positive effects of a particular diet on high blood pressure

dash diet

The DASH diet was low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and high in fruits and vegetables. It also emphasizes whole grain products, fish, poultry, nuts - and reduced salt.

The result is a low sodium , high potassium, calcium, magnesium and fibre diet, .

The DASH studies

There were two main studies. One looked at a group of adults, some of whom had high blood pressure, and compared three diets. A ‘typical’ American diet, a 'typical' diet altered to have more fruit and vegetables and the last group followed the DASH eating plan. However all three groups consumed equal amounts (roughly 3000mg) of sodium.

The results showed that the two groups who ate altered diets had reduced blood pressure with the DASH group having the greatest reductions.

The second study included a check on the effects of reducing salt thus reducing dietary sodium. Two diets were used – normal or DASH and then three different levels of sodium were tested – High, medium and low (3,300mg, 2,300mg, 1,500mg). The reduction in sodium reduced blood pressure in people on both eating plans. As you would have guessed it was more pronounced in the group who followed the DASH plan.

These carefully controlled studies have shown that sodium reduction reduces blood pressure particularly when accompanied by the DASH eating plan.

According to the NHLBI, “the DASH eating plan, used along with other lifestyle changes can help you prevent and control blood pressure. If your blood pressure is not too high you may be able to control it entirely by changing your eating habit, losing weight if you are overweight, getting regular physical activity and cutting down on alcohol”.

The DASH diet recommends:

Reduce: Saturated fat, cholesterol, red meat, sweets/sugar, sodium

Increase: Fish, poultry, whole grain products, fat free dairy products, nuts

• Grains

Whole wheat bread & rolls, wholewheat pasta, cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn

These provide energy and fiber

• Vegetables

Broccoli, carrots, green peas, spinach, potatoes, kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

These provide potassium, magnesium and fiber

• Fruits

Apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, mangoes, raisins, strawberries

These provide potassium, magnesium and fiber

• Fat free/low fat milk and dairy products

Milk, yoghurt, cheese

Source of Calcium and protein

• Lean meats, poultry, fish.

Beef, chicken, egg (ensure fat is trimmed or skin removed.) Grill , roast or boil.

Provide Protein and magnesium

• Nuts, seeds and legumes

Peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils

Good energy source, also protein, magnesium and fiber

• Fats and oils

Margarine, vegetable oils (canola, corn, olive).

Provide Energy

• Sweets and added sugars

Jelly, sorbet, sugar.

Provide Energy

The NHLBI site gives detailed instructions on serving sizes and example diets should you wish to follow this eating plan.

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