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Everything You Need to Know About the DASH Diet

December 23, 2013

Some days, it seems like every time you turn around there’s a new “fad” diet promising amazing weight loss results. Well, while the DASH diet is growing in popularity, it’s much more of a lifestyle than a fad. Perhaps the biggest distinction between following a DASH diet versus other widely marketed weight loss solutions is that dropping pounds isn’t the biggest diet motivator—it’s the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure.

What is the DASH diet?

DASH Diet benefits“DASH” stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and according to Mayo Clinic, could lower your blood pressure by at least a few points in the first two weeks, with systolic blood pressure dropping up to 12 points over time. While weight loss isn’t the main goal, the DASH diet is an extremely healthy way of eating, so weight loss could be a well-deserved side effect.

The basic principle of the DASH diet is a decrease in sodium and an increase in the nutrients that help lower blood pressure, like potassium, calcium and magnesium. The standard DASH diet calls for no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily and the even lower sodium version of DASH suggests no more than 1,500 mg of sodium.

What can you eat?

The main focus of the diet is whole grains, vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy, with moderate amounts of fish, poultry and legumes, and even lower amounts of red meat, fat and sugar. Since one of the main goals of the DASH diet is to keep sodium levels low, processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. 

Typical proportions for the DASH diet recommend a 2,000 calorie per day diet, but if weight loss is also part of your goals, Mayo Clinic suggests striving for 1,600 calories.

Tips for lowering sodium

Cutting out processed food will make an enormous difference in your sodium intake, as salt is used as a seasoning and preservative in the majority of processed foods. If you can’t avoid processed foods entirely, look for foods that are labeled with “no salt added” or “lower sodium.”

When cooking, be mindful of adding salt or using seasoning blends with high salt content.  Just one teaspoon of salt contains all of the salt allowed on the standard version of the DASH diet.

Are you following the DASH diet? What are some of your favorite recipes? Share in the comments below!