The Beginner's Guide to the DASH Diet
What Is the DASH Diet?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet is ranked number one for eight years in a row by health experts, according to US News. As the name suggests, the DASH Diet was first created with the aim of helping people prevent and lower high blood pressure. But as more people jumped on the DASH Diet bandwagon, many have also experienced significant weight loss and improved overall health along with lowered blood pressure.
So how does the DASH Diet do it?
The Theory Behind the DASH Diet
Potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber are crucial to lowering high blood pressure, and the DASH Diet focuses on getting enough of these nutrients while limiting certain foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar. On top of that, the DASH Diet reduces the daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day, with reducing sodium down to 1,500 mg as the ultimate goal.
More specifically, the DASH Diet recommends 7-8 servings of grains, 4-5 servings of vegetables and fruit, 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy, less than 2 servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish, and 1 serving of nuts, seeds, and legumes with as little fats, oils, and sugars as possible.
Poll: The DASH Diet
Have you ever been on the DASH Diet before?
DASH Diet for Weight Loss
Since the DASH Diet was created primarily to reduce or prevent high blood pressure, how effective is it for those of us just looking to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle?
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 144 obese or overweight adults with hypertension were put on the DASH Diet, the DASH Diet along with exercise and were educated on weight loss, with a control group where participants ate normally. The results were definitive: the DASH Diet plus exercise group lost an average of 19 pounds while the other groups didn’t lose much weight at all. Some even gained weight.
Another study of 810 adults with elevated blood pressure found that the group following the DASH Diet guidelines lost more weight in 18 months than the group who ate less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day but didn’t follow the rest of the DASH Diet.
So, clearly, the DASH Diet is a great primary diet to adopt for losing weight.
How Sustainable Is the DASH Diet for Health and Weight Maintenance?
The best, more effective diets are diets that we can maintain over the long term. That’s why most fad diets just don’t work and can cause us to put on more weight afterward than before we started the diet. So just how realistic is the DASH Diet?
The DASH Diet doesn’t restrict whole food groups. Many health and nutrition websites like the NHLBI and Mayo Clinic offer hundreds of DASH Diet-friendly recipes, so it’s very easy to follow the diet correctly. And as long as you make smart choices, you can even eat out.
You won’t feel hungry.
Even though you may eat fewer calories while on the DASH Diet, you won’t feel hungry because you’re eating more high-quality protein and fiber. And since you’ll be cutting way back on sugar as well, you won’t experience unpleasant cravings or blood sugar spikes and crashes.
It tastes good.
Even though sugar and salt are restricted in this diet, you won’t miss them as you learn to enjoy the deliciousness of whole natural foods. Take this as an opportunity to learn how to cook with herbs and spices to literally "spice" up your meals without relying on salt and sugar.
You can still drink - moderately.
Alcohol will raise blood pressure and is harmful to your brain, heart, and liver, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut it out completely. The DASH Diet allows for one drink (12oz of beer, 5oz of wine, 1.5oz liquor) per day for women, two for men.
Since you won't feel restricted or feel like you're not allowed to enjoy your food, the DASH Diet is easy to maintain over a long period of time, meaning that you'll be able to lose the pounds and keep them off as well.
The DASH Diet Is Also Good for People With Diet Restrictions
Since the DASH Diet doesn’t eliminate or especially promote certain food groups (unlike high-protein diets or carb-free diets, etc.), people with diet restrictions can still follow the DASH Diet correctly and safely.
If you have diabetes.
The DASH Diet follows very closely to the advice given by the American Diabetes Association and has been shown to help prevent and control diabetes.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan.
As long as you’re getting enough nutrients on a plant-based diet, you can maintain your vegetarianism or veganism when on a DASH Diet.
If you’re gluten-free.
As long as your gluten-free foods are within the DASH Diet’s guidelines, you can eat them.
If you’re Kosher or Halal.
Again, as long as the foods and ingredients you choose are within the DASH Diet’s guidelines, you can eat them.
Poll: Losing Weight Successfully
How much weight did you lose on your last diet?
Dos and Don’ts for Successful DASH Dieting
Eat fish and lean poultry.
Eat whole grains and vegetables.
Eat too much red meat.
Satisfy sugar cravings with fruit.
Drink too much alcohol.
Drink lots of water.
Buy sugary or salty snacks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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