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DASH Diet Plan 2

DASH Diet Plan

#2 in Best Diets Overall

No. 2 DASH Diet

DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes and its role in supporting heart health. It’s widely considered to be a balanced dietary approach for anyone wanting to lose weight or simply improve overall health.

Overall rank: 2
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

What is DASH Diet?

This diet has been reviewed by U.S. News’ team of expert panelists. Learn more »

The DASH Diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to do exactly that: stop (or prevent) hypertension, aka high blood pressure. It emphasizes the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber. DASH also discourages foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Following DASH also means capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams. DASH Diet is balanced and can be followed long term, which is a key reason nutrition experts rank it as U.S. News’ Best Overall Diet, tied with the Mediterranean Diet.

How does DASH Diet work?
Do’s & Don’ts

Do: Serve up lean poultry and fish in moderation.

Starting DASH doesn’t mean making drastic changes overnight. Instead, begin by making whatever small changes seem most manageable to you. For example:

Add one vegetable or fruit serving to every meal.
Introduce two or more meat-free meals each week.
Use herbs and spices to make food tastier without the salt.
Snack on almonds or pecans instead of a bag of chips.
Switch white flour to whole-wheat flour when possible.
Take a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both).



***For more guidance, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute publishes free guides on the plan, including one (PDF here) that’s 20 pages and one (PDF here) that’s six. They’ll help you determine how many calories you should eat for your age and activity level, tell you where those calories should come from and remind you to go easy on salt.**********************


The DASH Diet for Curbing High Blood Pressure
While there are many heart-healthy diets, the DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has some of the strongest science behind it. The plan, which is heavy on fruits and vegetables but low in fat and sodium, can reduce systolic blood pressure (the upper number) by about 12 points and diastolic pressure (the lower number) by about six points. It has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels by about 7%.
The DASH Diet Is One of the Top Ranked Weight Loss Plans—Here’s What It’s All About
Last week, when the annual best diets list from U.S. News and World Report came out, the DASH diet once again made the cut—praised for its ability to help people lose weight or simply improve their overall health.

This recent buzz has put DASH back in the headlines again. But what exactly is the DASH diet, and is it something you should try? As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I have counseled people through it; in my opinion there are pros and cons.
What exactly is the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, yet it’s not only effective for people trying to lower their blood pressure. The diet has been around for two decades, and studies have shown that it can lead to weight loss, protect heart health, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain cancers. For these reasons, it’s promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The plan is relatively simple. DASH recommends specific portions from a variety of food groups daily, depending on your daily calorie needs (which are determined by your age, sex, and activity level). For example, a 1600 calorie DASH diet includes 6 servings of grains daily; 3-4 servings of vegetables; 4 servings of fruit; and 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy. Also recommended are 3-4 ounces total per day of lean meat, poultry, or fish; 3-4 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week; and 2 servings of fats and oils daily.

DASH puts limits on sugar, recommending 3 or fewer servings per week of sweets. It also curtails sodium intake to a maximum of 2,300 mg per day. The diet is intended to be part of a lifestyle that reduces alcohol consumption and emphasizes stress reduction, physical activity, not smoking, and getting plenty of sleep. In short, it’s not a fad diet. DASH is meant to be followed for the long haul.


************RELATED: The Number One Thing You Need to Do to Lose Weight Forever, According to Experts
************DASH drawbacks to consider

But DASH does have some drawbacks. The plan is lower in healthful fats than I usually recommend, and there aren’t obvious options for people who can’t or don’t eat dairy or animal proteins. Also, I typically advise a higher intake of non-starchy veggies and slightly lower consumption of starches.

Another con is that the rate of weight loss with DASH can be slow. To see continued progress, it’s important to pinpoint your ideal calorie level and follow the recommended portions carefully—in other words, two level tablespoons of nut butter, not two heaping spoonfuls.


RELATED: I Just Finished Whole30 and Lived to Tell the Tale—Here’s How I Made It Through
Why Dash can work for weight loss

Yet DASH offers a number of positives. In addition to being very sensible, nutrient-rich, and effective, DASH is fairly straightforward and sustainable. Many books and cookbooks are available to help DASH dieters figure out how to transform the daily servings from all the different food groups into practical meals and snacks.

In my practice I have helped clients create outlines that make sense for meal planning (for example, including one serving of fruit with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack; one serving of veggies at lunch and two at dinner; two servings of starch at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and so on). This type of framework is essential for implementing the diet daily. Understanding how to order from restaurant or takeout menus is also important.

Bottom line: DASH is tried and true. If your goal is weight loss, DASH won’t melt the pounds off quickly. But if you identify the proper calorie level and stick with it consistently, it can be a safe, effective, and sustainable way to shed pounds, and simultaneously improve your health.

Because DASH has been around for so long and is well accepted by health professionals, there are a lot of free resources online to access help. However, if you have trouble figuring out how to take the recommended daily and weekly DASH servings and turn them into menus, consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist. He or she can also personalize the plan for your needs by adjusting for food allergies or intolerances and offering tips for following the plan as a vegan or vegetarian.

To get started, go to the NIH’s DASH page. Keep in mind that some aspects of the plan will work for you, but others may not. Ultimately the best diet is one that generates results, makes you feel well physically and emotionally, and has stick-with-it-ness.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times

How much does DASH Diet cost?

The DASH Diet can be on the expensive side, since fresh fruits, veggies and whole-grain products are generally pricier than the processed, fatty, sugary foods most Americans consume.
Will DASH Diet help you lose weight?

You’ll likely lose weight on the DASH Diet, provided you follow the rules, and especially if you design your plan with a calorie deficit.
How easy is DASH Diet to follow?

While it may be difficult to give up your favorite fatty, sugary and salty fare, DASH doesn’t restrict entire food groups, upping your chances of sticking with it long term.

Following DASH is pretty convenient. Recipe options are boundless, and the DASH guide PDFs are packed with tips to make it all easier.

It’s easy to find DASH Diet recipes. The NHLBI offers more than 180 heart-healthy recipes in its online database. Otherwise, lots of reputable organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, provide long lists of DASH-friendly recipes.

Eating out is possible on the DASH Diet, but proceed with caution. Restaurant meals are notoriously salty, oversized and fatty, so you’ll need to be conscientious if you dine out. NHLBI suggests avoiding salt by shunning pickled, cured or smoked items; limiting condiments; choosing fruits or vegetables instead of soup; and requesting the chef find other ways to season your meal. You can also drink alcohol moderately on the DASH Diet.

DASH can be time-consuming. You’ll need to plan your meals, shop for them and prepare them. Exercise is important, too.

DASH Diet resources are easily accessible. NHLBI’s PDF guide serves up a week of DASH meal plans, offers tips on reading nutrition labels, lists the sodium and potassium content of various foods and provides exercise ideas.

You don’t have to worry too much about going hungry on DASH. Nutrition experts stress the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. DASH emphasizes lean protein and fiber-filled fruits and veggies, which should keep you feeling full, even if you’ve reduced your calorie level slightly to support weight loss.

If you love salt, you’ll probably struggle to enjoy DASH at first. Your taste buds should eventually adjust, though, to the low-salt diet. Avoid blandness by getting friendly with herbs and spices.
How much should you exercise on DASH Diet?

Exercise is recommended on the DASH Diet, especially if you want to lose weight.

To get started, try a 15-minute walk around the block each morning and night, and then slowly ratchet up intensity and duration if you can. Just find activities you like (jazzercise, swimming, gardening), set goals and stick to them.

DASH Diet Meal Plan

Here’s a day of typical meals on a 2,000-calorie DASH diet at a 2,300-milligram sodium level. Substitutions for a 1,500-milligram sodium level are in parentheses. See Nutritional Table.

3/4 cup bran flakes cereal (3/4 cup shredded wheat cereal) with 1 medium banana and 1 cup low-fat milk
1 slice whole-wheat bread with 1 teaspoon unsalted margarine
1 cup orange juice


2 slices whole-wheat bread
3/4 cup unsalted chicken salad
1 tablespoon Dijon (regular) mustard


1/2 cup fresh cucumber slices
1/2 cup tomato wedges
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon low-calorie Italian dressing

1/2 cup fruit cocktail

3 ounces beef, eye of the round, with 2 tablespoon fat-free beef gravy
1 cup green beans, sauteed with 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1 small baked potato topped with:

1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon grated, reduced-fat, natural (low-sodium) cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped scallions

1 small whole-wheat roll with 1 teaspoon unsalted soft margarine
1 small apple
1 cup low-fat milk

1/3 cup almonds, unsalted
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup fat-free, no-sugar-added fruit yogurt

Need more ideas? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides recipes that follow DASH on its website.
See Nutritional Table