DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a flexible eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy and maintainable way of eating.
The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and foods that are lower in sodium as well as foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium — nutrients that help lower blood pressure.
Other components of the diet include:
- Consuming fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Incorporating fat-free or low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, fish, and poultry
- Limiting saturated fats such as those found in full-fat dairy, fatty meats, and oils such as coconut and palm
- Restricting refined sugar as well as processed and packaged foods
It is best done in two stages- the DASH Diet phase 1 is a low-carbohydrate diet, with no fruit and whole grains, and lasts for 14 days. Once you’ve completed the 14-day DASH Diet meal plan phase 1, phase 2 reintroduces carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits while emphasizing a nutrient-dense diet with low sodium intake.
The Dash Diet
What are the Benefits?
The main benefit of the DASH diet is to reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension. However, there are some other benefits to following the diet including better kidney health (less sodium in your body means your kidneys won’t have to work as hard).
The DASH diet meal plan is easy to follow using common foods found at the grocery store and includes daily servings from various food groups.
Foods to Eat Phase 1
- Bell Peppers
Meat & Fish
- Lean beef
Dairy & Eggs
- Skinless Chicken
- Lean Ground Chicken
- 1% Greek Yogurt
Nuts & Seeds
- Chia seeds
- Linseed (flaxseed)
- Brazil nuts
- Cashew nuts
The DASH diet includes foods from different food groups, to create a balanced eating plan which is easy to follow.
Foods to Add in Phase 2
- Brown rice
- Bulgar wheat
- Pearl barley
- Wholegrain pasta
- Whole Wheat bread
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Red kidney beans
- Sweet potatoes
During phase 2 of the DASH diet, it is recommended to incorporate whole grains, beans, and fruits into the diet.
10 Fundamental Principles of The Dash Diet
- More fruit and vegetables every day (including berries, cabbage, root vegetables, legumes, potatoes, and herbs).
- More whole grain, especially oats, rye, and barley
- More food from the sea and lakes
- Higher-quality meat, but less of it
- More food from wild landscapes
- Organic produce whenever possible
- Avoiding food additives
- More meals based on seasonal produce
- More home-cooked food
- Less waste
The first 14 days of the Dash Diet is Stage 1 and it is designed to help develop healthy eating habits for life and regulate blood sugar. Avoid all starchy foods, fruits, and whole grains. Avoiding carbs and high-sugar foods will help regulate blood sugar and diminish cravings.
You can enjoy 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy per day, such as 1 cup of skim milk or low-fat yogurt. Consume an unlimited intake of non-starchy vegetables and include some protein-rich foods, such as lean meats, fish, low-fat cheese, and nuts. Salad greens, grilled chicken, carrots, and avocados can all be enjoyed during Phase 1 of the DASH Diet action plan.
Proteins work to prevent snacking and work to keep blood sugar levels stable because they help you feel full and satisfied.
This temporary phase may feel limiting, but there are plenty of delicious foods that fit into the plan. If you’re worried about successfully shopping for the right foods, create a 7-day DASH Diet plan before you go to the store. Take things one week, or even one day, at a time until it’s time to begin Phase 2.
After the first 14 days, you will continue to eat the foods from Phase 1 but re-introduce some other healthy foods that will help you continue improving your health.
Here, you’ll reintroduce whole grains, fruits, and complex carbohydrates, in healthy moderation. Cooked brown rice, barley, beans, potatoes, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes are just some of the foods that get re-introduced during Phase 2.
How long does Phase 2 last? It’s your life plan, so it should last forever so you can continue to lower high blood pressure and keep extra weight off. The DASH Diet focuses on being sustainable for the long term so sticking to it is a realistic goal.
This phase continues to be low in sodium and works to prevent heart disease and kidney failure. People who follow the lower sodium DASH Diet can look forward to lowering systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. By prioritizing mostly whole foods and minimizing saturated fat, your calorie intake with naturally be lower.
Are eggs allowed on the Dash diet?
Eggs are included in both phases 1 and 2 of the DASH diet. They are a good source of lean protein and are a perfect option to incorporate as part of a healthy, balanced breakfast. Eggs are one of the heart-healthy foods you can enjoy guilt-free.
What foods are not allowed on the DASH diet?
Although no foods or food group is strictly off-limit, it is recommended to limit foods that are high in saturated fats, added sugars, and high in sodium.
Foods that are high in saturated fats include full-fat dairies such as whole milk, fatty meats such as red meat, pork, and bacon, and oils such as coconut oil, and palm oil.
Check food labels to keep added sugars and sodium to a minimum. Added sugar and sodium are commonly found in Candy, soda, and many processed foods.
Does the DASH Diet recommend exercise?
The DASH diet is even more effective at lowering blood pressure when combined with regular exercise. It is recommended to include 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. Regular exercise benefits your heart health, promotes weight loss, and can help stop hypertension.
The DASH diet may be an easy and effective way to manage high blood pressure.
It is endorsed by health organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
If you have concerns regarding the DASH diet for yourself, consult with a medical professional for further information.
Kristen Kuminski, RD, CDN
Kristen is a consultant Dietitian with experience working with a variety of individuals and populations. Kristen has experience counseling/ coaching clients in eating disorders, pediatrics, weight management, mental health nutrition and other chronic health conditions.