What is the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet is one of the most popular diets out there. And while the term is tossed around as one of the “best diets” to follow for blood pressure reduction, many people may not actually know what it is.

The term DASH is an acronym and stands for Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension. So, as the name implies, this diet is followed with the end-goal of combatting hypertension, or high blood pressure, without medication. Following this way of eating can help reduce blood pressure points in as little as two weeks according to some experts.

The DASH Diet

So, what are you allowed to eat when following the DASH diet?

Following the DASH diet is quite simple with a little know-how. Food choices include those that are rich in the nutrients calcium, potassium, and magnesium (like skim and low-fat milk), as consumption of these nutrients is linked to improved blood pressure. Fiber, found in foods like whole grains and produce, is also a shining star on this eating plan. Limiting sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars is also recommended.

Specifically, when following the DASH diet, the following foods are emphasized:

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy foods
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • Healthy fats and oils
  • Maximum sodium limit: 2,300 milligrams per day

While the “classic” DASH diet limits certain fats, data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that following a higher-fat DASH diet lowers blood pressure the same amount as the traditional DASH diet, while also decreasing triglyceride and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) levels. Based on this information, you may be able to enjoy nutrient-dense foods that contain some natural fat – think cheese and whole milk – and still support your blood pressure. Your best bet is to ask your physician and a Registered Dietitian which type of DASH diet is best for your own needs.

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and freelance writer. She has been working in the nutrition field for almost 20 years and is passionate about sharing evidence-based information with the public. She manages the Instagram account @LaurenLovesNutrition. 

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