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. 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.
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.
Eating too much sodium can raise your blood pressure.
The researchers who developed the DASH eating plan found that consuming no more than 2300 mg sodium per 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 plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels. Shoot for 500mg per day of magnesium.
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 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 per day of potassium sounds high, it is easier to come by than you think.
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 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 per day of calcium.
8 ounces low-fat yogurt (415mg), 3 ounces sardines (325mg), 8 ounces calcium-fortified juice (349mg), 1 1/2 ounces cheddar cheese (307mg)
Whole-food sources of magnesium, potassium, and calcium are recommended over supplements.
You can customize your nutrient goals for these four nutrients using the DASH guidelines-
While in MyNetDiary app, 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.
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.
Whole wheat toast (one slice) with natural peanut butter (one tablespoon) + fat-free plain yogurt (1 cup) topped with fresh melon (½ cup)
Carrot (1 medium) + celery (1 stalk) + hummus (2 tablespoons)
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 (⅛ cup) + low-fat vinaigrette dressing (2 tablespoons) with whole-grain crackers (2)
Grilled chicken fajitas made with skinless chicken (2 ounces), grilled onions (2 tablespoons), red bell pepper slices (½ medium) on corn tortillas (2). Topped with avocado (2 small slices) + black beans (½ 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!
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.
DASH diet in detail
Expert tips on how to reduce sodium intake
Live longer with these 8 heart-healthy lifestyle tips
Reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow on March 23, 2023.
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