DASH Diet 101

Posted on Monday, February 8, 2021

Keto? Mediterranean? Flexitarian? Which diet is right for you? When choosing a diet, it’s important to first talk with your doctor so you address your own health concerns. But, if you’re trying to manage your blood pressure or a heart condition, chances are, your doctor will suggest the DASH Diet.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet was developed in the 1990s as part of several studies designed to determine if hypertension, or high blood pressure, could be managed through diet alone.1 The diet focuses on fresh, low sodium foods with plenty of the nutrients that help lower blood pressure including magnesium, potassium, and calcium. And it’s proven to work. Some patients who follow the DASH Diet have lowered their blood pressure in a matter of weeks. 2

The DASH Diet isn’t just for people with high blood pressure; it’s a healthy dietary approach for almost everyone and it matches nutritional recommendations for preventing many diseases including diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. In fact, the DASH Diet consistently ranks as one of the most effective overall diets by U.S. News & World Report. 3

How does DASH work?

The DASH Diet focuses on low-sodium, fresh, minimally processed foods. The standard version of the diet limits sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. For comparison, the average American diet contains about 3,400 mg of sodium daily.

Here’s a daily serving guide for the DASH Diet:

  • Fruits: 4-5 servings
  • Vegetables: 4-5 servings
  • Low fat dairy products: 2-3 servings
  • Grains (pasta, bread, cereal and rice): 6-8 servings per day
  • Fish and poultry: one serving or less a day
  • Fats and oils: 2-3 servings
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: 4-5 servings per week 4

Foods that are limited on the DASH Diet include:

  • Sugary drinks
  • Desserts
  • Red meat

Tips for making DASH work for you

Following the DASH Diet requires some initial education about recommended foods, servings, and portion sizes. Once you have those down, you’ll see that you have a wide range of food choices to enjoy. Here are some tips for DASH Diet success:

Read up – There are lots of great books and online resources about the DASH Diet. Have one handy for reference as you transition to the diet.

Check labels – Many prepared foods including soups, dressings, seasonings, and deli meat, are high in sodium. Learn to read the labels so you can track your intake of salt and other nutrients.

Plan ahead – Restaurant meals tend to be very high in sodium and portion sizes are usually large. If you’re going out to eat, check the menu online ahead of time to make an informed choice so you can adhere to DASH Diet guidelines. 5

DASH at the door

Nutritional support is critical for patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital. The DASH Diet can be a good option for many heart disease patients who need nutritious, low-sodium meals as they heal after hospitalization.

One study of patients who were recently hospitalized for heart failure, evaluated the impact of home delivered, prepackaged meals that adhered to the DASH Diet. Half the study group received the home delivered meals, the other half did not. The patients who received the meals were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within a month. Those who were hospitalized spent fewer days there than those patients in the study who didn’t receive the meal delivery. 6

Mom’s Meals offers a wide range of home delivered heart-friendly, lower-sodium meals that fit in with the DASH Diet. Here’s more.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482514/

2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

3. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20200102/mediterranean-diet-repeats-as-best-overall-of-2020

4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

6. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/08/13/home-delivered-meals-keep-heart-failure-patients-out-of-hospital

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