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The complete beginner’s guide to DASH Diet

The rate at which people are diagnosed with high blood pressure, or hypertension, has doubled in the last 40 years. A combination of poor diet, lifestyle decisions, and other concerns have led to a dramatic increase in the number of people living with high blood pressure. While there are many highly effective medications to treat high blood pressure, a diet specifically designed to help combat high blood pressure can be effective. This is the reasoning behind the development of the DASH diet. 

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Because high blood pressure is often the direct result of diet and lifestyle choices, it is thought that changes in diet can lead to significant improvement in blood pressure for many people. The opportunity to avoid taking a regimen of pharmaceuticals to treat high blood pressure can be a great relief for many people. 

The DASH diet emphasizes things like lean proteins, beans, and legumes along with low salt intake. This simple adjustment in your diet can have lasting effects on your health. Simply by making changes in your diet that conform to the DASH diet can reduce your blood pressure significantly. 

What is the DASH diet? How does the DASH diet impact your health? And how do you make the right changes to start living with the DASH diet? This guide will give you the information you need to start the DASH diet and improve your health with healthy dietary changes. 

What is the DASH Diet?

healthy food

The DASH diet was created after researchers found that there was a low incidence of high blood pressure among vegetarians and vegans. These researchers realized that the reduction in things like red meat was linked to the healthy blood pressure of vegetarians and vegans. 

Most significant is that vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be much lower in salt content than more conventional diets. This led them to develop a diet plan that reduced the main dietary links to high blood pressure. 

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, simply reduces or eliminates those foods and food additives that are directly linked to high blood pressure. Doctors have for years counseled patients with high blood pressure to eliminate or drastically reduce their salt intake. Now, the DASH diet takes this wisdom to another level by providing and lifestyle alternative that can seriously reduce blood pressure and get people on the path to good health. 

The DASH diet relies mostly on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It also demands that you cut back on the amount of salt you consume. 

Benefits of the DASH Diet

The DASH diet was developed specifically to help people get control of their high blood pressure. However, since the development of the DASH diet, people have discovered that it can provide a range of benefits in addition to treating high blood pressure. 

The common DASH diet insists that you consume no more than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. That is 2300 mg of sodium. This recommendation adheres to guidelines that have been in place of people with high blood pressure for many years. An even lower-salt version of the DASH diet reduces salt intake to no more than ¾ teaspoon or 1500 mg of sodium. 

Some of the benefits of the DASH diet include:

Helps with weight loss. If you have high blood pressure you have almost certainly been counseled by your doctor to lose weight. Being overweight is one of the main causes of high blood pressure. The good news for you is that one of the main collateral benefits of the DASH diet is weight loss. Simply by switching to a diet that consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low salt, combined with the elimination of things like red meant that tend to have a high-fat content, will necessarily allow you to lose weight

Lowers blood pressure. Blood pressure is the measure of the force exerted on your blood vessels and organs as your blood passes through your body. Blood pressure is measured in two forms: 

  • Systolic pressure: The pressure in your blood vessels when your heartbeats.
  • Diastolic pressure: The pressure in your blood vessels between heartbeats, when your heart is at rest.

Normal blood pressure for adults is a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg. This is normally written with the systolic blood pressure above the diastolic pressure, like this: 120/80.

Research shows that people can significantly reduce their blood pressure levels by taking on the DASH diet, even if they do not lose weight. This reveals that the diet works toward reducing blood pressure independent of weight loss. 

When salt levels are dramatically reduced along with the DASH diet, blood pressure comes down even further. Doctors recommend that people with high blood pressure combine the DASH diet with low salt intake for the best results. 

Decrease heart risk. The DASH diet can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. One study showed that the DASH diet reduced heart attacks by as much as 20 percent. Since the DASH diet can achieve these results independent of weight loss, researchers know that it is the DASH diet alone that leads to these health benefits. 

Other potential health benefits. 

The DASH diet can also reduce your risk of cancer. One study demonstrated DASH diet drastically reduced the risk of colorectal cancer and breast cancer. 

The DASH diet also lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome. People who were on the DASH diet reduced their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by as much as 80 percent

The DASH diet also lowers the risk of diabetes. People who adhered to the DASH diet lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies also showed that the DASH diet improves insulin resistance

Does DASH Diet work for everyone?


The DASH diet does not produce the same results for everyone. While just about anyone will benefit from the DASH diet due to the reliance on lower-fat foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, not everyone will see the same reductions in blood pressure. 

The consensus among doctors is that salt is more relevant for reducing blood pressure levels than anything else. What are more some people tend to be more salt-sensitive than others, and need to take more care with their salt intake if they develop high blood pressure. 

What can I eat with DASH Diet?

Part of the appeal of the DASH diet is that it is flexible. You need to pay attention to certain types of foods more than specific foods. In this way, it differs drastically from something like a low-carb diet which eliminates an entire category of foods. 

The DASH diet consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You can also include things like fat-free dairy products. Proteins come mainly from things like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. The main thing to do is avoid fatty meats and full-fat dairy products. 

Other things to consider include choosing foods that are:

Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein. 

Low in saturated fat. 

Low in sodium. 

Low-sodium and low-salt foods are of the highest priority for the DASH diet. 

Sample menu for one week during DASH Diet

dash diet

Day 1

Breakfast (266 calories)

Egg Toast with Salsa

  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 egg, cooked in 1/4 tsp. olive oil
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. pico de gallo or salsa

Top bread with the egg, salt, pepper, and pico de gallo.

  • 1 medium banana

AM snack (102 calories)

  • 1 pear, sliced topped with cinnamon

Lunch (325 calories)

PM snack (48 calories)

Dinner

Daily Totals: 1,192 calories, 60 g protein, 161 g carbohydrates, 37 g fiber, 40 g fat, 1,438 mg sodium

Day 2

Breakfast (258 calories)

Fig & Honey Yogurt

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 5 dried figs, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey

Top yogurt with figs, chia seeds, and honey.

AM snack (52 calories)

  • 1/2 cup grapes

Lunch (350 calories)

White Bean & Avocado Salad

  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 3/4 cup chopped veggies, such as cucumber and cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup canned white beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. All-Purpose Vinaigrette

Top salad greens with veggies, beans, avocado, and vinaigrette. Toss to combine.

PM snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (489 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,184 calories, 41 g protein, 155 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 53 g fat, 818 mg sodium

Day 3

Breakfast (266 calories)

AM snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (342 calories)

  • 1 serving Salmon Pita Sandwich (save the other half of the pita for lunch on Day 5)
  • 1 cup grapes

PM snack (102 calories)

  • 1 medium pear, sliced topped with cinnamon

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,212 calories, 69 g protein, 164 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 35 g fat, 1,234 mg sodium

Day 4

Breakfast (251 calories)

Yogurt with Nuts & Raspberries

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 5 walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp. honey

Top yogurt with raspberries, walnuts, and honey.

AM snack (951 calories)

  • 1 medium apple, sliced sprinkled with cinnamon

Lunch (332 calories) 

Top salad greens with cucumber, carrot, and vinaigrette. Toss to combine.

PM snack (30 calories)

  • 1 medium plum

Dinner (472 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,181 calories, 58 g protein, 176 g carbohydrates, 46 g fiber, 36 g fat, 976 mg sodium

Day 5

Breakfast (266 calories)

AM snack (70 calories)

  • 2 clementines

Lunch (332 calories)

Green Salad with Pita Bread & Hummus

  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp. All-Purpose Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 large whole-wheat pita round
  • 1/4 cup hummus

Top greens with carrot, cucumber, and vinaigrette. Serve with pita bread and hummus

  • 1 medium plum

PM snack (104 calories)

  • 1 cup grapes

Dinner (412 calories)

Top chili with avocado and yogurt.

Meal-Prep Tip: Save 1 1/2 cups of the chili for lunch on Day 7.

Daily Totals: 1,184 calories, 50 g protein, 166 g carbohydrates, 31 g fiber, 42 g fat, 1,322 mg sodium

Day 6

Breakfast (258 calories)

Fig & Honey Yogurt

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 5 dried figs, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey

Top yogurt with figs, chia seeds, and honey.

AM snack (64 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries

Lunch (342 calories)

Turkey & Pear Pita Melt

  • 1/2 large whole-wheat pita round (save the other half of the pita for a snack on Day 7)
  • 3 1/2 oz. low-sodium deli turkey
  • 1 medium pear, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mixed greens

Stuff pita pocket with turkey, half of the pear slices, and cheese. Toast in a toaster oven until the cheese starts to melt. Add greens to the pita just before eating. Serve the remaining pear slices on the side.

PM snack (83 calories)

  • 1 medium plum
  • 4 walnuts halves

Dinner (469 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,216 calories, 80 g protein, 162 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 31 g fat, 1,290 mg sodium

Day 7

Breakfast (266 calories)

Egg Toast with Salsa

  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 egg, cooked in 1/4 tsp. olive oil
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. pico de gallo or salsa

Top bread with egg, salt, pepper, and pico de gallo.

  • 1 medium banana

AM snack (136 calories)

  • 1/2 large whole-wheat pita round, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp. hummus

Lunch (324 calories)

PM snack (32 calories)

  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Dinner (448 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,205 calories, 62 g protein, 171 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 36 g fat, 1,754 mg sodium

This seven-day plan is one example of many. Any combination that stays within the food choices, salt intake, and caloric intake given in this example will work fine for a DASH diet. 

DASH Diet FAQs

What is the DASH diet? The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, simply reduces or eliminates those foods and food additives that are directly linked to high blood pressure. Doctors have for years counseled patients with high blood pressure to eliminate or drastically reduce their salt intake. Now, the DASH diet takes this wisdom to another level by providing and lifestyle alternative that can seriously reduce blood pressure and get people on the path to good health. 

Can the DASH diet lower my blood pressure? The DASH diet has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure even in people who do not necessarily lose weight. 

What are some other benefits of the DASH diet? The DASH diet can lower blood pressure, help you lose weight, fight heart disease, and may even lower your risk of certain types of cancer. 

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