Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, is a flexible and balanced diet for people who want to prevent or treat high blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.
The diet is simple. It promotes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium and fibre, which all help control blood pressure. Foods rich in these nutrients include:
DASH also includes small amounts of non-tropical vegetable oils like olive oil and rapeseed oil.
The DASH diet limits foods that are high in sodium, total fat, saturated fat and added sugars, for example:
The DASH diet limits salt intake to 5-6g of salt per day. For reference, one level teaspoon is about 6g of salt. However, most Irish people eat almost double this, about 9-10g of salt every day.
A lower-salt version of DASH restricts salt to half a teaspoon per day (about 3-4g of salt). You can discuss with your doctor or dietitian which version of the DASH diet best meets your health needs.
The DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are both examples of heart-healthy diets that help you manage your blood pressure. Both diets are easy to follow, varied and nutritionally balanced. The main difference is that the DASH diet puts a greater focus on reducing your salt intake and including low-fat dairy products.
Studies have shown that the DASH diet can:
Because of its focus on vegetables and fruit, wholegrains and legumes, the DASH diet is also a good example of an environmentally sustainable diet.
The DASH diet may not be suitable for everyone. For example, if you have kidney disease DASH may not be safe because of its high levels of potassium from fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
Always talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are thinking about following the DASH diet to make sure it is suitable for your individual situation.
DASH has more servings of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains than you may be used to. Eating more of these high-fibre foods may cause bloating for a short time. To help your body adjust to increased fibre, increase your servings of fruits, vegetables and grains gradually.
Because the DASH diet lowers blood pressure, some people who follow it can experience dizziness. It is very important to continue taking your blood pressure medication while changing your diet. Feeling dizzy may mean that your blood pressure medication needs to be adjusted to reflect the improvements you have made to your diet.
The DASH diet is easy to follow and packed with a variety of tasty and nutritious foods.
It provides daily and weekly goals for the number of servings from each food group. This depends on your daily energy (calorie) needs. Here’s an example of the recommended servings from each food group for an average 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet.
If you do not eat dairy products, make sure you get enough calcium from calcium-rich plant foods like green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified plant-based foods (dairy alternatives, breads and breakfast cereals), peas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soya foods (edamame, tofu and tempeh).