Whether you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or you’re simply looking for preventative measures to maintain healthy blood pressure, you may have heard of the DASH diet.
We’ve put together a guide to the DASH diet, helping you to learn more about how it can help fight high blood pressure.
What is the DASH diet?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s a healthy eating plan designed to reduce or prevent high blood pressure by supporting your body from the inside.
It was developed in the US as a means to reduce blood pressure without the need for prescribed medication, with research sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health.
The DASH diet encourages eating foods that are rich in:
It also focused on limiting foods that contain high levels of:
- Saturated fat
- Added sugar
What foods can you eat on the DASH diet?
Unlike diet plans that are designed for quick fixes, the DASH diet plan is very flexible in terms of what you can eat.
It’s based on eating healthy, whole foods and reducing the intake of processed foods that are high in sodium, added sugar and saturated fat. Instead of forcing unrealistic eating habits, it provides your body with the healthy nutrients it needs to function properly.
The main types of foods incorporated in the DASH diet include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans, legumes and pulses
- Whole grains
- Lean meats, fish and poultry
- Low-fat dairy products
If you’re following the DASH diet plan, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of variety, with lots of options that will keep you full and stop you from reaching for unhealthy snacks.
Does the DASH diet work?
Initial research showed that the DASH diet was able to reduce blood pressure, as well as the first-line prescription medication for hypertension.
Subsequent studies have supported these findings and shown that as well as reducing blood pressure, following the DASH diet plan can help reduce the risk of:
- Some kinds of cancer
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Kidney stones
The diet has been seen to lower blood pressure in both healthy people and those with high blood pressure, making it a great preventative option for those with a medical or genetic predisposition to hypertension. Research studies have also shown a reduction in blood pressure in just 2 weeks, when following the DASH diet.
Can you lose weight on the DASH diet?
While people who follow the DASH diet may also experience weight loss, this isn’t what the plan was developed for.
The main focus of the DASH diet is lowering blood pressure by reducing sodium intake. Weight loss plans tend to focus on calorie control and reducing your intake of fats and sugars.
Exercising regularly while following the DASH diet can help support weight loss, but if your goal is to lose weight, then it would be worth talking to your doctor about adopting a diet plan that has been designed specifically for this purpose.
The DASH diet in the UK
While most of the information and resources about the DASH diet are focused on the US where the plan was developed, it has begun growing in popularity here in the UK.
There is currently no official DASH diet UK presence, but there is plenty of information available online for anyone looking to learn more about the plan, download meal plans, or research the links between a reduced-sodium diet and lower blood pressure.
Because the diet is based around whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, it’s very easy to incorporate into your daily life, without having to purchase any branded products. The recommendations align with national food and nutrition guidelines in the UK, making it an appropriate choice if you’re looking to reduce your blood pressure.
As with any dietary change, it’s always recommended that you talk to your doctor before adopting the DASH diet.
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Examples of DASH diet recipes
Keen to get started with the DASH diet? We have put together Here are a few examples of meals to get you started. that are suitable if you’re looking to follow the DASH diet plan.
- Wholegrain toast or bagel with unsalted peanut butter
- Mixed fruit topped with low-fat yoghurt
- Porridge topped with fruit and cinnamon
- Spinach salad (without croutons or oil-based dressing)
- Chicken or chickpea wholegrain wrap
- Tuna sandwich on wholegrain bread with low-calorie mayonnaise
- Baked fish with steamed brown rice and vegetables
- Bolognese with low-fat mince and wholegrain pasta
- Chicken and vegetable skewers with salad
- Fruit and vegetables
- Low-fat yoghurt
- Nuts and seeds
Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your blood pressure, it is best to speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best way to manage your blood pressure.
Best and Healthiest Diet Plans, December 16, 2019 – https://dashdiet.org
DASH Diet and High Blood Pressure, March 08, 2021 – https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure-dash-diet
Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure, June 25, 2021 – https://www.mayoclinic.org/nutrition-and-healthy-eating-dash-diet-art-20048456
Sample menus for the DASH diet, April 21, 2020 – https://www.mayoclinic.org/nutrition-and-healthy-eating-dash-diet-art-20047110
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to the DASH Diet, October 17, 2018 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition-dash-diet
DASH Diet Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure, March 24, 2022 – https://www.medicinenet.com/the-dash-diet
Addressing barriers to healthy and sustainable diets, April, 2019 – https://www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/resources-dash-uk-ireland