What are the health benefits of the DASH diet, and why do experts recommend it?

  • 3 Minutes Read

The health benefits of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) are impressive. If you or a family member have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest following DASH.

While the eating plan is well-known for preventing and treating high blood pressure, you'll also see results if you follow DASH for weight loss and disease prevention. Read on to learn what to eat and avoid on DASH. We've even included a one-day, 1200-calorie DASH sample menu.

Benefits of the DASH diet

What foods help me reap the benefits of the DASH diet?

What foods do I need to limit or avoid when following DASH?

Many people like following DASH because it's a less-restrictive eating plan. Eating out or dining with friends is less-challenging than other diets. Besides, when following DASH, your risk of developing a nutrient deficiency is low.

What nutrients make DASH so healthy?

Limited sodium

The researchers who developed the DASH eating plan found that consuming no more than 2300 mg sodium/day and eating a diet rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium effectively lowered blood pressure.

Once you reach an average intake of 2300 mg sodium, consider reducing your goal to 1500 mg if you have high blood pressure and/or are middle-aged (or older) or African American.

For additional resources on lowering the sodium in your diet, click here.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels. Shoot for 500mg/day of magnesium.

Try these whole-food magnesium sources

1 ounce pumpkin seeds (173 mg), 1 ounce sesame seeds (102 mg), 1/4 cup wheat bran (90 mg), 1 ounce almonds (80 mg), 1/2 cup cooked Swiss chard or spinach (77 mg), 1 ounce dark chocolate (65 mg), 1/2 cup cooked black beans (61 mg)

Potassium

Potassium helps lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessel walls and helping the body rid sodium through urination.

As of 2020, potassium content is now required on all nutrition facts labels. Although 4700 mg/day of potassium sounds high, it is easier to come by than you think.

Easy, everyday whole-food potassium sources

Medium baked white potato (940 mg), medium baked sweet potato (564 mg), 1 cup yogurt (470 mg), 1/2 cup cooked spinach (423 mg), medium banana (423 mg), 1/4 cup dried apricots (376 mg), 1 cup milk (376 mg)

Here are some other potassium-rich foods.

Calcium

Calcium is another mineral that may be beneficial for controlling blood pressure. Individuals following a DASH diet featuring low-fat dairy products had a greater decrease in blood pressure than individuals who did not consume dairy while following DASH. A healthy goal is 1250 mg/day of calcium.

Calcium sources from food

8 ounces low-fat yogurt (415mg), 3 ounces sardines (325mg), 8 ounces calcium-fortified juice (349mg), 1.5 ounces cheddar cheese (307mg)

Whole-food sources of magnesium, potassium, and calcium are recommended over supplements.

Customize your nutrient targets using MyNetDiary

You can customize your nutrient goals for these four nutrients using the DASH guidelines-

While in MyNetDiary app on the iPhone, go to the Coach tab, tap My Plan, then tap Nutrient Targets. Now you can adjust your nutrient targets to reach your goals. If you have kidney disease, make sure to talk to your doctor about individualized nutrient targets. Most nutrient tracking and customizing require a Premium membership.

How does the DASH diet work to prevent chronic disease?

Researchers found that the high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium in the diet favorably impact blood pressure. Additional research has also shown that DASH is an effective diet plan for weight loss. It is also helpful in preventing osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes and may even be useful in reducing gout and kidney disease.

A typical 1200-calorie DASH diet day

Breakfast
Whole wheat toast (one slice) with natural peanut butter (one tablespoon) + fat-free plain yogurt (1 cup) topped with fresh melon (1/2 cup)

Snack
Carrot (1 medium) + celery (1 stalk) + hummus (2 tablespoons)

Lunch
Large garden salad consisting of mixed greens (3 cups) + cucumber slices (4) + sliced cherry tomatoes (3) + low-fat part skim mozzarella cheese (1 ounce) + walnuts (1/8 cup) + low-fat vinaigrette dressing (2 tablespoons) with whole-grain crackers (2)

Dinner
Grilled chicken fajitas made with skinless chicken (2 ounces), grilled onions (2 tablespoons), red bell pepper slices (1/2 medium) on corn tortillas (2). Topped with avocado (2 small slices) + black beans (1/2 cup)

The DASH diet allows you to indulge in an occasional glass of wine, enjoy up to five small servings of desserts a week, and still eat some pasta!

Initially proven to lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension and or prehypertension, the DASH diet also assists in weight loss and disease prevention. The diet works because it emphasizes whole foods, small amounts of meat and significant servings of vegetables and fruits each day.

The high consumption of high-water content, low-calorie, and high-fiber foods such as vegetables and fruits is known to promote satiety, allowing a feeling of fullness without going over your calorie budget. Food choices are less-restrictive than other weight-loss plans, which makes DASH easier to adopt and maintain.

Additional resource

DASH diet in detail

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Meal Planning & Diets->Healthy Eating Other Health Issues->Cardiovascular Disease Weight Loss->Diets
Mar 1, 2021
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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