What Is the Heart-Healthy DASH Diet?

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What Is the Heart-Healthy DASH Diet?

A common eating plan with a catchy acronym — the DASH diet — is designed to help you lower your blood pressure, but exactly what can you eat while on it?

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been around for almost 25 years and it’s still one of the top diets recommended for overall good health and heart disease prevention.

1. What is the DASH diet?

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DASH was originally created to help with high blood pressure, based on studies sponsored by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

It is a list of daily and weekly nutritional goals, rather than a specific meal plan, according to the NHLBI.

Comprised of eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils, DASH limits fatty meats, full-fat dairy, tropical oils, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

2. Benefits of the DASH diet

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Following it lowers high blood pressure, improves cholesterol and helps prevent type 2 diabetes, while cutting the chances of kidney and heart disease, heart failure and stroke, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The combination of nutrients and less sodium lowers blood pressure, but even without altering sodium intake, following the other parts of the diet was still good at lowering hypertension, according to the NIH.

People who follow those heart-healthy eating patterns have up to a 28% lower cardiovascular death rate, according to the guidance, which cited past research.

3. DASH diet food list

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This diet recommends eating certain quantities of each of the specified food groups, a number that may vary based on body size. The NHLBI gives a guideline based on a 2,000-calorie diet for an average-size person.

  • Grains: 6 to 8 servings daily

  • Meats, poultry and fish: 6 ounces or fewer daily

  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 daily servings

  • Fruits: 4 to 5 daily servings

  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy: 2 to 3 daily servings

  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 daily servings

  • Sodium: up to 2,300 mg per day, 1,500 mg daily would be even better

  • Nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas: 4 to 5 weekly servings

  • Sweets: 5 or fewer weekly servings

4. Getting started on the DASH diet meal plan

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Start slowly, experts suggest. Keep servings of meat small. Add one serving of fruit or veggies each day to increase gradually. Slowly add more vegetarian meals to your diet.

Read nutrition labels, the AHA recommends.

5. Source and more information

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