The DASH Diet, Explained

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s one of two diets recommended by the USDA to promote health and wellness and prevent chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes. Is this diet right for you?

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The DASH diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a part of the National Institutes of Health. Even though the diet is meant to target blood pressure, it has also been shown to offer protection against osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Because it promotes healthy eating and snacking, the DASH diet may also help people lose weight.

What Is the DASH Diet?

The overall goal of the diet is to lower sodium consumption in order to lower blood pressure.

Basically, the DASH diet requires the ample consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. There can be limited consumption of fish and poultry, while red meat, sweets and fatty foods should be consumed sparingly.

What Can I Eat on the DASH Diet?

On the DASH diet, you’re expected to eat:

  • 6-8 servings of whole grains per day: This includes, whole-wheat bread, cereals, rice or whole wheat pasta. The whole grain or whole-wheat variety of grains contains more fiber and nutrients than refined grains.
  • 4-5 servings of fruit per day: In addition to providing ample vitamins and nutrients, fruits are also great sources of fiber. You can have fresh, frozen or canned fruits, just make there that there are no added sugars.
  • 4-5 servings of vegetables per day: Make sure to include leafy green vegetables in addition to tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy per day: This would include 1 cup of skim milk or low-fat yogurt. This is beneficial because of the calcium, vitamin D and protein these products provide; however, don’t overdo it. Also, avoid regular or even fat-free cheese because they are often high in sodium.
  • 6 or fewer ounces of lean meats, like poultry or fish per day: This would include skinless chicken or turkey breast, seafood, or tuna that has been packaged in water. Avoid red meat as often as possible, as it tends to be higher in fat and cholesterol. When cooking, trim away the skin and fat, then broil, grill, roast or poach instead of frying.