What is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet?

Today’s leading health organizations heartily endorse the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for the informed, health-conscious diner. The DASH diet has been recommended by the National Kidney Foundation and approved by The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, The American Heart Association, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and also forms the basis for the USDA MyPyramid.

The DASH diet was developed based on a series of research studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The studies showed that the DASH diet plan helped decrease blood pressure, lower the risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer, and even reduced the risk of kidney stone formation.

The DASH eating plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. It also contains less of the following than in the typical American diet: salt and sodium, sweets, added sugars and sugar-containing beverages, fats and red meats. This heart-healthy approach to eating minimizes saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and emphasizes nutrients that are associated with lowering blood pressure -- mainly potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
There’s a great diet that’s swimming in calcium and magnesium and will lower not only your blood pressure (BP) (8 to 14 points) but also your cholesterol and your heart attack risk (almost 20%). It’s called DASH, for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. On the menu:
  • six servings of whole grains
  • three to four vegetable servings
  • four fruit servings
  • two to three low- or no-fat dairy foods
  • three to six servings of lean poultry, fish and meat
  • three servings of nuts, seeds or beans
  • two servings of healthful monounsaturated fats, such as olive, flaxseed and canola oils
That's a lot of food. Just try to slip in a bag of chips or a cruller! You won’t have room, so you'll likely lose weight, particularly if you follow DASH’s parallel Rx: Do 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Expect almost immediate gratification: DASH should start to nudge your BP numbers down in only 14 days.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH eating plan encourages you to:
  • Reduce the sodium (salt) in your diet. The standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. A lower-sodium DASH diet calls for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  • Follow a healthy diet in general, rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish and poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts.
How it works: The DASH eating plan suggests a certain number of daily servings from various food groups based on your calorie intake. Recommended calories are based on your sex, age, and activity level. If you want to lose weight, you'll need to eat fewer calories a day, increase your activity level, or both.

Here are some general tips:
  • Avoid high-sodium foods like canned soups and sauces, macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, salty snacks, prepared salads like potato salad, pickles, and processed meats (ham, salami, beef jerky).
  • Read food labels carefully. Look for foods with sodium content less than 5% Daily Value. Foods with more than 20% are considered "high-sodium." Remember to check the serving size that the sodium value and other nutrition facts are based on.
  • Go for gradual changes. For example, add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner. Add a serving of fruit to your meals or as a snack. Use half your usual amount of butter or salad dressing.
Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, has been shown to lower blood pressure enough to significantly reduce hypertension risk. To follow the DASH diet, add more fruits and vegetables to your plate gradually. Eventually make fruits, vegetables and grain products the main focus of your meal, while enjoying smaller amounts of meat, poultry and fish.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is used for the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure. It promotes positive nutritional changes rather than restrict foods. The DASH recommends plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain products, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes.

The diet is lower in saturated fat, red meats, sweets and sugar containing foods than the typical American diet.

The DASH diet is an eating plan that’s filled with vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. This eating plan offers whole grains, cold water fish, poultry without skin, legumes, seeds and nuts that are low-sodium and low-salt with few sweets or added sugars. There are fewer beverages containing sugars (such as juices) on the DASH diet. Also, red meat, trans fats, cholesterol and saturated fats are very low on the DASH diet, which helps to keep your heart healthy.

The DASH diet is high in key nutrients that are linked to lowering blood pressure, including potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, calcium, protein, and fiber. The DASH diet is high in marine omega-3 fatty acids with the cold water fish selections such as tuna, white fish, sturgeon, sardines, salmon and bluefish. While studies are not conclusive, these heart healthy fatty acids are known to reduce triglycerides, reduce clotting, and lower blood pressure. Vegetarians can get the healthy benefit of omega-3 fatty acids with the alpha-linolenic acid from soybeans, flaxseed oil, and nuts. In addition, the DASH diet has been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is important for preventing heart disease and heart attack.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.