The DASH Diet: What is it and could it work for you?

The Dash Diet could be just what you need if you want to reduce blood pressure as well as lose any extra pounds.

The DASH DIET fruit and veg in shopping bag
(Image credit: Getty Images / AlexRaths)

Thinking about trying the DASH Diet, but not sure if it will work for you? Originally developed by American health experts to lower blood pressure, the hugely-popular DASH Diet is now a must-try for those who want to lose weight to boost their health.

From the Cambridge diet to the 24-hour smoothie diet, it's hard to keep up with all the weight loss diets out there. Want to learn more about the DASH Diet and discover whether it's right for you? We've got you covered... 

What is the DASH Diet?

The DASH Diet has been touted as one of the best weight-loss regimes around, having impressed many American health experts.

But what exactly is it, and why does it have the health world buzzing? "The DASH Diet stands for The Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension," says registered nutrition consultant Jenna Hope.  "It has been designed to help reduce and or prevent hypertension (high blood pressure)." 

It was conceived by a group of American scientists and nutritionists looking for a safe way to lower blood pressure quickly.

And while the diet does just that, it also does much more. In fact, research suggests that the DASH diet can help the sufferers of other chronic conditions (including gout, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer). It also works for those simply looking to shed a few pounds!

How does the DASH diet work?

So how does it work? Unlike other faddy diets, DASH promotes a healthy long-term lifestyle for everyone. Exercise is key, and there are no 'quick fix' low-carb or fasting plans. Instead, DASH is an eating plan that only allows 'real' or 'natural' foods.

"The diet is very similar to that of the Mediterranean Diet," says Jenna. "However, it focuses on reducing sodium intake to no more than 1500mg per day, limiting alcohol, sweets and high fat foods. The diet promotes the consumption of foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium to support the reduction of blood pressure."

So, if you're looking to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, or simply want to shed a few extra pounds, why not try the DASH diet?

READ MORE:

The DASH Diet - what you need to know

  • Cooking from scratch is key. Varied, healthy, seasonal food from scratch should be what's on your plate. 
  • Avoid processed foods completely. Even those touted as 'healthy' are completely out. If the ingredients list is longer than your shopping list (or complete jargon), it should stay on the shelf. 
  • Natural is best. DASHers believe that nature provides everything that humans need. American research backs up this claim.

What can you eat on the DASH Diet?

"The diet encourages the consumption of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy products and moderate intakes of lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds," says Jenna. "The DASH Diet is low in refined sugars and is based around whole, high fibre foods."

It's also great if you want to know how to eat less salt, sweets and foods high in saturated fats.

According to Snyder, Clum and Zulaica, authors of The DASH Diet Cookbook, we should be "eating the colours of the rainbow at every meal". They also recommend using a digital scale to measure foods before tucking in to ensure you don't over eat.

What are the benefits of the DASH Diet?

The DASH Diet seems to work for most people. "It depends on the reason as to why an individual wishes to adopt the DASH diet," says Jenna. "There is plenty of research to suggest the DASH Diet is associated with a reduction in blood pressure."

What are the downsides?

As you'll be cooking from scratch, organisation is key when it comes to the DASH Diet. "It requires abstaining from ultra processed foods and foods which are high in saturated fats," says Jenna. "Some individuals may struggle with incorporating more wholefoods into their diet. Everyone begins from their own starting point and therefore the downsides are dependant on the individual’s dietary choices and starting position."

How much weight could you lose on the DASH Diet?

"The DASH diet has been shown to induce weight loss in some studies although it’s not designed as a weight loss diet but rather focuses on reducing blood pressure," says Jenna. So, if you're looking for a big weight loss then maybe try a different diet.

Is the DASH Diet worth trying?

Yes, especially if you want to eat better for the sake of your health, not just your waistline. "For those looking to reduce their blood pressure, the DASH diet is well balanced, non-restrictive and is widely acknowledged as a suitable protocol and is therefore worth a try," says Jenna.

How much does the DASH Diet cost?

The good news? "You do not have to sign up to anything to try the DASH Diet," says Jenna. While you may find you spend more money on fresh groceries, you will be saving on expensive ready made supermarket products, too. 

The Dash Diet – where to find recipe inspiration

Forty years ago, supermarkets were in their infancy and air-freighted produce - along with convenience food - was unheard of. Food had to be local and seasonal. The DASH diet encourages a return to this 'real' food. 

If ditching the takeaways sounds daunting, take a look at The DASH Diet for Beginners, which includes recipes and a 7-Day Meal Plan. Veggie? Never fear. Try DASH Diet for Vegetarians, which includes 60 delicious DASH-friendly recipes.

Why getting active is also key

Exercise is also an integral part of the DASH Diet. Try to work out at least three times a week, alternating cardio (such as walking, running or cycling) with strength training and flexibility (a yoga class) for the best results.

Good luck trying the DASH Diet - we hope it works for you!