What Is the DASH Diet?

The DASH Diet Foods

The healthy DASH diet plan was developed to lower blood pressure without medication in research sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The first research showed that DASH could lower blood pressure as well as the first line blood pressure medications, even with a sodium intake of 3300 mg/day! Since then, numerous studies have shown that the DASH diet reduces the risk of many diseases, including some kinds of cancer, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney stones, and diabetes. It has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight and become healthier at the same time. It is full of fabulous, delicious, real foods. All of these benefits led to the #1 diet ranking by the panel of experts assembled by US News & World Report in 2011 - 2018.

The Improved DASH Diet

The original DASH diet research was not designed for weight loss, and was relatively high in refined grains and starchy foods. It was based on the prevailing nutrition "wisdom" of the mid-90s. (Note: The NIH educational materials have not been updated with the newest re in over a decade.) Since healthy weight loss is important to so many people, there was a need to create an easy-to-follow weight loss plan, based on the core DASH diet foods. The heart of the DASH diet is an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, along with nuts, beans, and seeds.

Fortunately, several new DASH diet research studies have helped optimize the DASH diet. Improved blood pressure results were obtained by cutting back on the "empty carbs" and adding more protein and/or heart healthy fats. These improvements are completely compatible with the newest research on how to have successful, sustainable weight loss.

DASH diet expert, Marla Heller, MS, RD, has written the only books with plans based on the newest DASH research. All are based on the science that promotes easily reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Meals and snacks are balanced with bulky, filling foods (fruits and vegetables), along with foods that are protein-rich and/or contain heart healthy fats, both of which help to quench hunger. The meal plans in these books are designed to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster that results in food cravings. By keeping blood sugar on an even keel, you reduce belly fat, reduce your risk of diabetes (or find it easier to manage), reduce triglycerides, improve HDL (good cholesterol), and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). The new plans are not skimpy on protein, so that you maintain more muscle while losing weight, to avoid slowing your metabolism. What is the point of working hard to lose weight, if you slow your metabolism so much that you immediately regain the weight?

  • The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution is based on the newest research showing that these two highly rated diets are better together. Heart, brain, and metabolic health and support for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is the answer to today's top health problems. Delicious and designed to be your life-long eating plan.
  • The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution is designed to pump up weight loss, especially targeting belly fat, managing metabolic syndrome, and reducing the risk of developing diabetes, while improving heart health. The DASH Diet Younger You complements it, with expanded vegetarian and all-natural options.( Sample menus.)
  • The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook is the key to incorporating the DASH diet principles into delicious meals.
  • The DASH Diet Younger You has a stronger plant-based foundation, to support both vegetarians and non-vegetarians in following the DASH diet with an all natural, real food-based plan. (Sample menus.)
  • The DASH Diet Action Plan provides the lifestyle program to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while it also supports reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Sample menus.

The DASH Diet Plan

The DASH diet eating plan is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes mostly whole grains; lean meats, fish and poultry; nuts and beans. It is high fiber and low to moderate in fat. It is a plan that follows US guidelines for sodium content, along with vitamins and minerals. In addition to lowering blood pressure, the DASH eating plan lowers cholesterol and makes it easy to lose weight. It is a healthy way of eating, designed to be flexible enough to meet the lifestyle and food preferences of most people. It can be considered to be an Americanized version of the Mediterranean diet, and to be easier to follow, since it has more specific guidelines. The plan below is for the original DASH diet, which was designed to lower blood pressure, and was not specifically a weight loss plan. The pumped up versions for weight loss is lower in calories and discourages refined and processed foods, which are mostly empty calories. You can see sample menus for the original plan, the weight loss plan, and vegetarian plan.

Research based

The DASH diet is based on the research studies: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity. Blood pressure control with the DASH diet involves more than just the traditional low salt or low sodium diet advice. It is based on an eating plan proven to lower blood pressure, a plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It emphasizes whole grains and contains less refined grains compared with a typical diet. It is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber.

Your doctor may have recommended this eating plan; it is also recommended by:

  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The American Heart Association
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure

The original DASH diet plan includes:

Food groups Number of servings for 1600 - 3100 Calorie diets Servings on a 2000 Calorie diet
Grains and grain products (include at least 3 whole grain foods each day) 6 - 12 7 - 8
Fruits 3 - 6 3 - 5
Vegetables 4 - 6 4 - 5
Mostly low fat or non fat dairy foods 2 - 4 2 - 3
Lean meats, fish, or poultry 1.5 - 2.5 2 or less
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 3 - 6 per week 4 - 5 per week
Fats and sweets 2 - 4 per week limited

Who Should Follow the DASH Diet?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the DASH eating plan as a model for healthy eating for everyone! The whole family can enjoy the DASH diet. And of course, the DASH diet was developed to help people lower their blood pressure. It provides additional heart health benefits, lowering cholesterol and inflammation. New research shows that it is effective in lowering blood pressure in children as well as adults.

How Does the DASH Diet Plan Work?

The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure by providing more key nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which are associated with lower blood pressure. These key nutrients are boosted by including more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy in your daily diet. Some people see additional benefits by lowering sodium or salt in their diet. Our book includes additional lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure, such as weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and moderation of alcohol intake.

The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution

People who want pumped up weight loss will love. The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, which is lower in starchy foods, especially refined and processed foods. It is good for heart health, and especially targets people who carry their excess weight around their middle, people with metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, diabetes, prediabetes, and/or hypertension, who are postmenopausal, or who have PCOS.

The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook

The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook is the essential companion for each of these books, to help make DASH your lifestyle. It is the only cookbook to support The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution. It avoids refined, processed ingredients.

DASH Diet Younger You

Lose weight, become healthier, and turn back the clock, with a plant-focused plan that targets the root causes of aging, including oxidation, inflammation, and glycation of body proteins. This plan supports you with all natural foods, with flexible meal plans for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

DASH Diet Action Plan

The DASH Diet Action Plan is the user-friendly guide to the DASH diet. It targets high blood pressure and cholesterol, along with weight loss if needed.