Take the guesswork out of healthy eating. The DASH diet combines the right kinds and combinations of foods and nutrients to lower your blood pressure and keep it under control. Since the initial studies, researchers have found the DASH plan not only reduces blood pressure in two weeks, it also offers other health benefits, such as protection against osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, if adopted early, the DASH plan can prevent hypertension.
The DASH eating plan is rich in grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It also includes fish, poultry and legumes. Red meat, sweets and fats are included in smaller amounts. This variety means the DASH plan is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, total fat, and sodium while rich in protein, fiber and healthy nutrients, particularly magnesium, potassium and calcium.
The basic components of the DASH plan are similar to the typical heart-healthy diet. The DASH plan is different in its mix of nutrients due to its emphasis on such foods as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. These foods provide potassium, calcium and magnesium, which together have a potent effect on blood pressure. Also, some research suggests that substituting some carbohydrates with protein, mostly from plant sources, further lowers blood pressure.
The DASH plan is based on a diet of 2,100 calories a day. If you're trying to lose weight, though, you may want to consume fewer calories, say 1,600 a day. The DASH plan is not designed to promote weight loss, but it can be used as part of an overall weight-loss strategy. Weight loss has been shown to reduce blood pressure. You may need to adjust your serving goals based on your health or individual circumstances — something your health care team can help you decide.