Dash Diet – How Does It Work & What Are Its Benefits?

Dash Diet

Image: Shutterstock

Ever heard of the DASH diet? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The aim of the DASH diet is to lower sodium consumption and high blood pressure. It emphasizes on getting the right amount of nutrients through eating a variety of foods.



The DASH diet claims to lower blood pressure and reduce health risks within the first 2 weeks of incorporating it into your lifestyle. A healthy eating pattern is the key to lower high blood pressure. The diet recommends to consume healthy foods like vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy while limiting the intake of sweets and calorie-laden food.


There are two DASH diet plans to choose from – DASH diet and Low sodium DASH diet. The only difference between both the diets is that those who follow the Low sodium DASH diet need to be cautious about their sodium intake.

DASH Diet Plan:

The DASH diet plan does not involve the restrictive demands of other diets. To follow the plan, you need to increase the daily intake of fruits, vegetables and dairy products. You should also consume whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. Try to consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day. The DASH diet plan limits the intake of fats, sugar-based drinks and red meat.

1. Grains:

Ideally, one should consume six to eight servings of grains daily. Try to focus on whole grains as they have more fiber and nutrients than refined grains. Look for products that are labeled 100% whole grain or whole wheat.

2. Fruits:

You should eat at least 4 to 5 servings of fruits to raise the levels of energy and fiber in the body. Eat fruits like pears, apples and grapefruit with peel as these contain high concentrations of antioxidants and fiber. Four servings can include a medium-sized fruit, ¼ cup of dried fruit, 4 ounces of juice and ½ cup of chopped fruits. While choosing canned juice, make sure no sugar is added to it.

3. Vegetables:

People following the DASH diet should consume 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, potassium and magnesium. While purchasing canned vegetables, choose one with low sodium content.

4. Dairy:

Milk and its products are an excellent source of calcium; protein and Vitamin D. Choose low fat dairy products over whole milk. Try to eat at least 2 to 3 servings of non-fat dairy products daily. If you have trouble with digesting milk products, opt for lactose-free products.

5. Meat:

Meat is a rich source of protein, iron, zinc and B complex vitamins. The DASH diet suggests moderation in meat consumption. Do not incorporate more than two servings of meat daily. Make sure that the meat is lean and skinless. Eat fishes like salmon, tuna and herring for a healthy heart.

6. Nuts and seeds:

The DASH diet recommends eating four to five servings of beans, nuts and seeds weekly. Nuts have a bad reputation of owing to their high fat content. They contain monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids, which are highly beneficial for the health. Almonds, cashews, pistachio, sunflower seeds, peas, lentils and beans are good sources of potassium, fiber and magnesium.

7. Essential oil:

Fat helps the body to absorb essential vitamins that aid the immune system. Yet, too much fat can increase the risk of heart diseases, obesity and diabetes. The DASH diet limits one’s daily fat consumption to 27% or less. It recommends cutting back to two to three servings a day. One serving of soft margarine or vegetable oil, along with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing are enough for the day. The DASH diet keeps the daily limit of saturated fats to less than 7% by restricting the consumption of meat, butter, cheese, eggs and whole milk.

8. Sweets:

You do not need to banish sweets completely from your diet. Those delicious sweets should be limited to five servings or even less a week. Choose low fat servings like fruit ices, jelly beans, low fat cookies and granola bars. Artificial sweeteners should be used sparingly.

Low Sodium DASH Diet Plan:

The Low sodium DASH diet plan recommends decreasing the amount of sodium intake. While following the Low sodium DASH diet plan, you need to limit the sodium intake to 1500 milligrams a day. Reducing the sodium intake will lower the blood pressure even further. The Low sodium DASH diet plan is recommended for people suffering from health conditions like chronic kidney diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and for those aged 50 years and above.

  • You can reduce the sodium intake by using sodium-free spices and flavorings instead of salt.
  • Avoid adding salt while cooking pasta, rice and hot cereal.
  • Purchase products labeled as ‘sodium-free’ and ‘no salt added’. You can also rinse canned foods to remove some of the sodium.
  • While beginning with the Low sodium DASH diet, start slowly and make gradual changes. Adopt the regular DASH diet plan that allows 2400 milligrams of salt per day, i.e. around 1 teaspoon a day. Then gradually lower the salt intake to 1500 milligrams per day.

Initially low sodium foods seem too bland to eat. You can avoid the blandness by adding heart-friendly herbs and spices. Introduce the low sodium foods gradually and cut back on table salt until you reach your goal. It will take some weeks for your taste buds to get used to less salty food.

Nutritional value:

The DASH diet is rich in several minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, manganese and potassium. These nutrients help to regulate the blood pressure.

1. Fat:

The DASH diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fats, including trans-fats are linked with the increased risk of heart diseases. This diet provides 20 to 35% of the daily calories from fat. Saturated fats should be limited to just 7% of the daily calorie intake as per the DASH diet.

2. Protein:

The DASH diet provides a significant amount of protein. Lentils, legumes and meat can help you meet your daily protein requirement. Sufficient levels of protein in the diet can also help to lower blood pressure.

3. Carbohydrates:

The DASH diet can help you meet your daily recommended value of carbohydrates. The diet recommends 4 serving of grains that can help you to meet the daily value.

4. Fiber:

You need to get at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber to carry out the day-to-day functions. Fiber will keep you full for a longer time, preventing obesity. The DASH diet provides more than the recommended amount of fiber. Fiber is also essential to keep the blood pressure and blood sugar levels stable.

5. Potassium:

The DASH is one of the few diets that can help you to meet the daily recommended amount of potassium. Potassium, which is very essential in this diet, counters the ability of salt to raise blood pressure. It also checks bone loss, preventing osteoporosis.

6. Calcium:

The recommended dietary amount of calcium is 1000 milligrams to 1300 milligrams. You will probably face no difficulty in meeting your daily calcium requirement with the DASH diet. Calcium helps you to build and maintain strong bones.

7. Vitamin B12:

The DASH diet provides sufficient amount of Vitamin B 12. Vitamin B12 is required for proper cell metabolism.

DASH Diet Benefits:

The DASH diet provides a healthy way of eating and offers several health benefits besides lowering the blood pressure.

1. Heart health:

A rigorous DASH diet is proven to increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad cholesterol. This diet works best for people suffering from moderately high blood pressure and pre-hypertension. It does not show any dramatic results for people suffering from severe hypertension.

2. Diabetes:

Several studies have shown that following the DASH eating pattern can help to control diabetes.

3. Weight loss:

Besides helping the heart, the DASH diet can also help to lose weight. A calorie-deficit diet will eventually lead one to lose excess fat from the body. This diet also encourages one to incorporate increased physical activity that further helps the person to lose weight. The combination of healthy foods and exercise contributes to the overall health of a person. This diet can help you to lose 500 calories per day.

4. Keeps you full:

The DASH diet places a lot of importance on satiety. It recommends lean protein and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, which keep you full for a longer time. It also reduces the calorie intake, supporting a healthy weight loss.

5. Other benefits:

The other benefits of the DASH diet include- reduced risk of cancer, osteoporosis, ageing and mental diseases.

Side effects:

There is practically no health risk associated with the DASH diet. In fact, the diet is sustainable and recommended for the rest of your life. Do consult your doctor if you suffer from any health condition.

Leave a Comment.