The DASH diet or Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension was developed in the 1990s(1) to deal with high blood pressure. During the surveys, researchers have figured out that this approach is also helpful in preventing strokes and other heart diseases. As cardiovascular and heart conditions are one of the main reasons(2) for mortality in the USA, today, the DASH diet is approved and recommended by the National Institutes of Health(3) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What’s more, the DASH diet is considered one of the best eating approaches to prevent diabetes(4).
Even though the DASH diet is not the quickest way to lose body fat, it is considered the second-best diet by the U.S. News(5), right after the Mediterranean diet. It was scored 3/5 for the short-term weight loss and 3.4/5 for the long-term weight loss, so if you’re ready to wait and move towards your goal weight slowly, the DASH diet might be the excellent choice for you!
To compose your diet to stop hypertension, you don't have to do anything supernatural: you just need to introduce the necessary foods and remove the prohibited ones gradually. If your goal is to lose weight, reduce recommended servings by 1-2 points.
As a rule, the DASH diet is divided into two phases. The first phase is more strict, and its primary goal is to stimulate your metabolism and prepare you to the diet. The first stage is usually described as a low-carb diet as it eliminates not only processed sugars, flour, and starchy vegetables, but also grains and fruits rich in carbohydrates.
The first stage of the DASH diet is plant-based. It contains a lot of leafy vegetables and plants with a low glycemic index.
The main difficulty with the DASH diet is a “servings” method of tracking food. The easiest way to stop stressing out about servings is using a “hand rule.”
Find out more about the ways to track your portions without kitchen scales in our previous article.
Along with this, don’t forget to drink your water and add taste to your meals with some bright seasoning. The recommended amount of salt per day on a DASH diet is one teaspoon which is about 5 grams. This means that you will have to discover new herbs and spices to make your dishes more joyful but less salty.
Add black pepper, chili pepper, paprika, coriander, garlic, and vinegar to your meat and vegetable meals. Make your beans more vibrant with some parsley, thyme, sage, or rosemary. Add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg to your milk, tea, or coffee. Healthy eating shouldn’t be boring! Play with seasonings to discover new tastes!
The DASH diet is easy to start as you can implement small changes into your eating one by one. By doing so, you have more chances to stick to the new eating plan forever.
To get more out of the DASH diet for weight loss, try to opt for whole products instead of their canned, frozen, or processed versions. Remember that along with preservatives, manufacturers frequently use sugar and salt to enhance the shelflife of their products and make them tastier.
The DASH diet is first and foremost designed to control your hypertension, so pay more attention to the amount of sodium you consume. You can decrease the amount of salt by limiting its amount while you cook. With this being said, remember that salt is necessary for your health, and you cannot do absolutely without it.
Shopping might be a bit more complicated when you’re on a diet. First of all, you have to make a list before you go to the store, then you shouldn’t go to the groceries when you’re hungry, and of course, you have to read labels.
The latter is an essential part when you’re on a DASH diet for weight loss. In this case, you should pay attention to both the calories in processed foods you buy and the sodium content. What will help you with sticking to your meal plan is buying your fresh fruits and vegetables first.
Another tip is buying whole, unprocessed grains like buckwheat, oat, bulgur, or brown rice and making porridge by yourself. In this case, you can be absolutely sure about what exactly has been put into your meal and can make your cereal, granola, or porridge up to your taste, for example, by adding more or less water or switching water with low-fat milk.
Choose turkey, chicken, fish, and seafood to get all the required nutrients and B12, and make sure you consume enough protein. Lean animal protein is advisable though not necessary. You can follow a well-balanced DASH diet even if you’re vegetarian.
What is especially good about the DASH diet is its sustainability. There is no specific food you should look for, no matter what, like goji berries, acai, or exotic fruits. Let nuts, seeds, and legumes become your superfoods! Enjoy your legumes and whole fresh meals to stay healthy, minimize hypertension, and decrease heart disease risks.
The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are very alike. They’re both plant-based and focus on plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. They decrease the number of saturated fats and processed foods and add more fiber to your diet. However, there are some differences as well.
All in all, you can combine the DASH and Mediterranean diets. However, you should consider their differences, especially when it comes to salt consumption.
The popularity of the DASH diet is explained by its efficiency in coping with various health conditions, including hypertension and heart diseases.
Its main advantage is that it is highly sustainable. It doesn’t prescribe to you to refrain from some particular food groups, limiting your eating time, or even counting your calories.
One of the most efficient ways to deal with hypertension is by losing weight and normalizing it to your height, age, and gender. This will lower your blood pressure, and the DASH diet can help you with your excess weight as well. However, to lose weight, you will have to track your portions. On the other hand, the portions and servings are not the easiest way to track your food, which might be the most complicated part of the DASH diet.
Another downfall of the DASH diet is that it requires determination from its followers: You will have to cook more and keep away from the cafeterias and the fast-food restaurants. The thing is, cooks have to make food tasty and not beneficial for your blood pressure. For this reason, they often put too much salt or sugar into their dishes.