What is DASH Diet?
The DASH Diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to do exactly that: stop (or prevent) hypertension, aka high blood pressure. It emphasizes the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.
DASH also discourages foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Following DASH also means capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams. DASH diet is balanced and can be followed long term, which is a key reason nutrition experts rank it as U.S. News’ Best Overall Diet, tied with the Mediterranean Diet.
How does DASH Diet work?
Starting DASH doesn’t mean making drastic changes overnight. Instead, begin by making whatever small changes seem most manageable to you. For example:
- Add one vegetable or fruit serving to every meal.
- Introduce two or more meat-free meals each week.
- Use herbs and spices to make food tastier without the salt.
- Snack on almonds or pecans instead of a bag of chips.
- Switch white flour to whole-wheat flour when possible.
- Take a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both).
For more guidance, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute publishes free guides on the plan, including one that’s 20 pages and one that’s six. They’ll help you determine how many calories you should eat for your age and activity level, tell you where those calories should come from and remind you to go easy on salt.
How much does DASH Diet cost?
The DASH Diet can be on the expensive side, since fresh fruits, veggies and whole-grain products are generally pricier than the processed, fatty, sugary foods most Americans consume.
Will DASH Diet help you lose weight?
You’ll likely weight loss on the DASH Diet, provided you follow the rules, and especially if you design your plan with a calorie deficit.
Beyond reducing blood pressure, the DASH diet offers a number of potential benefits including weight loss and reduced cancer risk. However, you shouldn’t expect DASH to help you shed weight on its own — as it was designed fundamentally to lower blood pressure. Weight loss may simply be an added perk. The diet impacts your body in several ways. Blood pressure is a measure of the force put on your blood vessels and organs as your blood passes through them. It’s counted in two numbers:
The pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. 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 and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg. This is normally written with the systolic blood pressure above the diastolic pressure, like this: 120/80. People with a blood pressure reading of 140/90 are considered to have high blood pressure. Interestingly, the DASH diet demonstrably lowers blood pressure in both healthy people and those with high blood pressure.
How to Do the Dash Diet for Weight Loss
According to the official DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution page, this eating plan actually turbocharges the original DASH diet by further reducing added sugars, refined grains, and heavily-processed foods. It also includes some specific guidelines for weight loss, such as making colorful vegetables the center of your meals and adding fresh fruits to your plate whenever you get a craving for sweets.