The DASH Diet Basics

The DASH Diet Basics

DASH is an acronym for a study that was conducted to determine the success of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The study was conducted by scientists supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Past studies of the effect of nutrients on reducing hypertension (high blood pressure) had been conducted using single nutrients. The DASH study changed their focus to study nutrients as they occur together in food.

It is fairly common knowledge that poor diet is one of the major contributing factors to high blood pressure. While some genetic factors come into play, many with high blood pressure could avoid the need for medication to lower their blood pressure by changing their eating habits. The results of the DASH study yielded an eating plan that has proven to effectively lower blood pressure as well as contribute to healthy eating habits for the entire family.

What are the components of the DASH diet? Basically, the diet suggests eating foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat content and cholesterol and the addition of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Eating in this way adds important quantities of magnesium, potassium, calcium, protein and fiber all important for your body to function optimally.

The DASH study included 459 adults with systolic blood pressures of less than 160/80-95. Almost half of the participants were women and 60% were African Americans. The DASH study compared three eating plans (all of which used about 20% less sodium daily than the average US adult consumption): (1) a diet similar to what many Americans consume on a regular basis, (2) a diet similar to the average American diet, with the addition of more fruits and vegetables, and (3) the ‘DASH’ diet

Those participants who consumed the diet that added fruit to normal diet and the DASH eating plan lowered blood pressure, with the DASH plan showing a more significant decrease in blood pressure. The surprising and exciting discovery during the study is that the lowered blood pressures occurred within two weeks of starting the DASH eating plan.

The following chart is adapted from Fitness, March 2000:

The DASH Diet for Control of High Blood Pressure

  • 2-3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy
  • 4-5 daily servings of vegetables
  • 4-5 daily servings of fruits
  • 7-8 daily servings of grain products
  • 2 or fewer daily servings of meat, poultry and fish
  • 2-3 daily servings of fats and oils (This applies to added fat)
  • all other food choices should be low-fat
  • 4-5 servings per week of nuts, seeds and beans
  • 4-5 servings per week of sweets (Make these treats low-fat whenever possible)

The totals listed in this chart represent about 2-3 times the nutrients most Americans consume on a daily basis. The increase in daily servings of fruits, vegetables and grains can cause bloating and/or diarrhea if your diet is changed too quickly. It’s a good idea to gradually increase the fruits and vegetables into your diet then add the additional grains to avoid these uncomfortable symptoms.

The DASH eating plan is low in fat and sodium so those who are overweight, have high cholesterol, or a heart condition can benefit greatly from the plan as well. This is an eating plan that your entire family can use without purchasing expensive special foods or other products. What a great way to introduce healthy eating habits to your children.

You can find more information here.