The DASH Diet and Mediterranean diet are two different ways of eating that both support healthy lifestyles. Both diets have proven benefits, including aiding in the prevention of heart disease. The DASH Diet and Mediterranean diet are similar enough that they’re often confused with one another.
The DASH Diet Vs. Mediterranean Diet
How are they the same? How are they different? Which one is better for your health? We’ve compared them and have answers to all of your questions.
About the DASH Diet
The DASH Diet stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. The DASH Diet focuses on foods that help lower blood pressure naturally and is often prescribed in addition to blood pressure medications. DASH focuses on foods that are low in sodium, leaning heavily on whole foods and eliminating practically all processed foods. Foods that are high in potassium, like potatoes and bananas, are also an important part of the diet.
The DASH Diet is a strong contrast to the standard American diet that is so common today. The average diet is packed with high sodium foods, often hidden in places you’d least expect. A family trying to be healthy by choosing canned soups instead of fast food is still dealing with an unhealthy amount of sodium. So many processed foods contain enough sodium to easily surpass your daily limit. The DASH way of eating eliminates such foods.
The DASH way of eating is specifically designed for those with hypertension or prehypertension and the need to regulate their blood pressure. High blood pressure is a serious chronic condition that can increase the risk of other serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney failure.
With a focus on healthy eating that includes proper servings of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein, the DASH Diet offers many health benefits, even to those who don’t have high blood pressure. Ideally, you want to stay below 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and following DASH makes this easy. For more severe cases, it may be recommended to take your sodium level as low as 1,500 mg per day. DASH also helps with this.
At first glance, the DASH Diet might seem restrictive, but once you get accustomed to eating wholesome, nutritious foods, you’ll see that there’s actually a lot of variety to be had. If you’re considering the DASH lifestyle, or it has been suggested to you, these are some of the main benefits you can expect.
DASH Diet Benefits
- Combining a DASH healthy diet with stringent measures to control sodium reduces the risk and/or the severity of high blood pressure
- The DASH way of eating focuses on healthy, whole foods and eliminates processed foods from your diet
- All food groups are included in the DASH Diet, so you get well-rounded nutrition
- You learn proper portion sizes as part of the diet
- It’s suggested that if every person with elevated blood pressure followed the DASH Diet, more than 400,000 deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease could be prevented over the course of a decade
- Includes lots of foods with complex nutritional profiles and antioxidants
- People often experience weight loss as an unintended effect of eating according to the DASH protocol, which isn’t a bad thing if you have a few pounds you’re trying to lose
- Focuses on developing a healthy eating pattern that becomes a natural part of your life, rather than simply being a short term solution
About the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one that has long been respected as one of the healthiest diets in the world—taking cues from the eating habits of people from the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, Italy, France, and Greece.
This diet focuses on lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and seafood. The Mediterranean diet is good for your health but also includes foods that make it almost seem a little too decadent to be true.
Olives, red wine, dark chocolate, and heart-healthy fats. Eating healthy is also delicious in this case. With the Mediterranean diet, you can consume lean protein, mostly in the way of fish, but it’s a very plant-forward way of eating.
Researchers looked at the general population of the Mediterranean region. They discovered that overall, they’re far healthier than their American counterparts and also have a significantly lower risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean diet is more of a dietary lifestyle rather than a diet as we commonly think the word means. There are no hard and fast rules, mainly because people of this region feast on what’s naturally available to them and limit processed foods.
To follow this diet, you eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish until your heart and belly are content. Poultry and dairy products are eaten in moderation, and red meat, processed foods, and sugars are rarely eaten and only on special occasions.
Mediterranean Diet Benefits
- The Mediterranean diet has shown to be beneficial in managing cardiovascular disease
- This diet replaces saturated fats with an increased unsaturated fat intake, leaving you feeling satiated
- Mediterranean diets are helpful in balancing and controlling blood sugar levels
- Moderate consumption of red wine is allowed, which is ideal for those who like to have a glass with dinner
- Many find it easy to lose weight with the traditional Mediterranean diet
Pros and Cons of the DASH Diet Vs. Mediterranean Diet
Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets have proven health benefits, but neither is a one-size-fits-all solution to improved health. Each diet has its pros and cons and is going to be better suited for different people. Since it’s important to look at both diets with the same scrutiny, here’s a list of the pros and cons of each.
- Proven health benefits and is often prescribed by health professionals to help their patients regulate blood pressure and improve heart health
- No special meals, medications, or complicated metrics to follow
- Enjoy a variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meat, and low-fat dairy
- Well-balanced nutritious diet
- Following the DASH diet leads to reduced saturated fat intake
- Flexible, making it easy to eat what’s in season or in stock at your local grocery store
- Some might find the diet a bit restrictive, especially at first
- It can be hard to adapt to for someone who eats a typical American Diet
- Reading labels and keeping track of sodium intake is important
- Convenience foods, and also many restaurant foods, are off-limits due to their sodium content
- Anyone with a known health issue should contact their doctor for nutritional advice before starting the DASH diet, especially if you have Celiac disease or food allergies wheat, dairy, or soy
- The Mediterranean diet protects cardiovascular health, may prevent cognitive decline, and offers many health benefits
- Primarily a plant-based diet with the inclusion of fish and seafood, although meat can be enjoyed in moderation
- Reduces inflammation, which is a precursor to many chronic health issues
- A wide variety of foods make this diet very sustainable
- No counting calories or special meals
- Many people are able to lose weight when following a Mediterranean style diet
- Not a low-fat diet but focuses on heart-healthy oils and fats, like olive oil or avocados
- Lack of specific guidelines can make this diet difficult to follow without support
- People who aren’t accustomed to eating lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables might have difficulty feeling comfortable with this diet
- Common staples of the Mediterranean diet like olive oil, salmon, and red wine can be expensive
- It’s easy to eat only a few select foods that you enjoy and miss out on the nutrient density that’s possible with this diet
What the DASH Diet and Mediterranean Diet Have in Common
The differences between the DASH and Mediterranean diets aren’t very many. Both have whole grains, vegetables, and fruit at the forefront. The Mediterranean diet is more restrictive when it comes to meat and focuses mainly on seafood, whereas the DASH diet allows more servings of lean meat. The DASH way of eating also severely limits foods like chocolate or wine, where the Mediterranean diet encourages you to enjoy the good things in life – just in moderate amounts.
Those are the differences, but these two diets also have a lot in common. They are both low in saturated fat, many find it easy to achieve at least some weight loss. They both offer numerous health benefits, from helping people improve blood pressure, and improving insulin function, to preventing blood clots and improving heart health.
Both are dietary approaches that support your health, just in slightly different ways.
DASH and Mediterranean Diet Meal Delivery Services
Adopting a new healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. You might not be sure how to cook and enjoy the foods allowed on your diet, or maybe you’re just so strapped for time that it just seems impossible to get going with any new diet. The good news is that there are meal delivery services that cater to both diets.
Meal delivery services come in two options, meals that are premade so that you have to do is heat and eat, and then meal kits that supply all the ingredients you need and a recipe or instructions, so that with just a little effort, you can have a home-cooked meal that meets the standards of your DASH or Mediterranean diet meal plan.
There are lots of great meal delivery companies, but for the Mediterranean diet, our favorites are Modify Health as the best overall Mediterranean meal delivery, followed up by SunBasket for their great-tasting meal kits, and also Silver Cuisine, which is targeted toward those over 50 but has an excellent selection of Mediterranean style meals. Enjoy any of these with a squeeze of lemon juice or a glass of red wine for an authentic Mediterranean meal.
For DASH protocol meal delivery, Modify Health emerges as a winner again, along with a company called Mom’s Meals as an affordable option and Splendid Spoon for a delicious DASH dinner that’s also plant-based.
Keep these meal delivery services in mind if you’re considering following one of these best diets for your new healthy lifestyle.
What is the difference between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH Diet?
The main difference between the DASH and Mediterranean diets is that the Mediterranean diet promotes more plant-based foods with seafood and few extras in moderation. The DASH Diet is designed to stop hypertension, so it is intentionally lower in sodium but encourages enjoying certain foods from most food groups.
What diet is better than the Mediterranean diet?
If you’re looking to control hypertension, the DASH Diet is better than the Mediterranean. Other diets, like keto, can be more helpful for certain people who are interested in weight loss. Overall, Mediterranean diets are among the healthiest ways of eating in the world.
Is the Mediterranean diet good for high blood pressure?
Yes, the Mediterranean diet is good for elevated blood pressure, but it isn’t specifically low sodium. If you have concerns about hypertension, it’s alway best to get medical advice on which is the best diet for you to follow.
DASH or Mediterranean? They are both great, heart-healthy diets that are low in saturated fats, high in nutritious foods, and support a healthy lifestyle. For hypertension, the DASH way of eating is often the best because there’s an option for restricted sodium. The Mediterranean way of eating is overall great for your health and easy to sustain for the long term. Both have their advantages, and both are deliciously healthy. Whichever you choose, enjoy the delicious food and savor every bite.