The DASH diet was developed specifically to help people lower high blood pressure and is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
Blood pressure readings higher than 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) for systolic blood pressure (the top number) and higher than 80 mmHg for diastolic (the bottom number) are considered high.
The food options available on the DASH diet closely mirror the eating plan recommended in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, with a focus on whole foods, such as fruit and veggies; fat-free or low-fat dairy; whole grains; and lean meats, fish, and poultry.
Meanwhile, the plan requires cutting back on, or preferably eliminating, processed foods, like sugary drinks and packaged snacks, and limiting red meat, which has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease.
The DASH diet specifically meets the sodium requirements that can give people an edge over hypertension.
This means it’s a great diet for people who have high blood pressure or are looking to reduce their risk of heart disease, as well as those individuals who may be at risk of type 2 diabetes or are currently managing the condition.
DASH Diet Types
Depending on your health needs, you can choose from two forms of the DASH diet.
The standard DASH diet This plan limits sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.
The lower-sodium DASH diet This version calls for limiting sodium consumption to 1,500 mg per day.
The daily DASH eating plan also involves, on average:
- 6 to 8 servings of grains, preferably whole grains
- 6 or fewer servings of meat, poultry, and fish
- 4 to 5 servings of veggies
- 4 to 5 servings of fruit
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- 2 to 3 servings of fat or oils
Here are some of the other estimated daily nutritional goals of the DASH diet plan.
- Total fat is about 27 percent of calories
- Saturated fat is 6 percent of calories or less
- Protein is about 18 percent of calories
- Carbohydrates are about 55 percent of calories
- Cholesterol is limited to 150 mg
- Fiber is 30 grams (g) or more
Depending on your weight loss or weight maintenance needs, you can choose a DASH diet plan that provides 1,200, 1,400, 1,600, 1,800, 2,000, 2,600, or 3,100 calories per day.