What is the DASH diet?

What is the DASH diet?
February 9, 2018 Lauren Howells

What is the DASH diet?

When it is dark and cold outside, there is nothing more comforting than a hearty, calorie-packed meal. Unfortunately, this lifestyle can make us pile on the pounds. Many people are turning to the DASH diet to lose their winter weight.  

But what exactly is the DASH diet and does it really work? CashLady investigates… 

Where did the DASH diet come from? 

The DASH diet originated in the USA. According to its website, the DASH diet plan was initially developed to help people to lower their blood pressure, without medication. The research for the diet was sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

The website claims that the first research showed that the DASH diet could lower blood pressure “as well as the first line blood pressure medications”. 

According to the website, various studies have since shown that the DASH diet can reduce the risk of a range of diseases, including some types of cancer and heart disease.

It also says that the DASH diet has “been proven” to be an “effective way” to lose weight (although they admit that the original DASH diet was not designed for weight loss).

What is the DASH diet today?

The DASH diet has been developed over the years to create an “easy-to-follow” weight loss plan.

This includes what it calls “core” foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and some dairy (not full fat). 

Books based on the DASH diet have been written by Marla Heller. The website says these are “based on the science that promotes easily reaching and maintaining a healthy weight”.

The diet is “low to moderate” in fat and high in fibre. It claims that it can lower cholesterol and make it easy to lose weight, as well as lowering your blood pressure.

Indeed, it describes itself as “an Americanized version of the Mediterranean diet”.

It is worth noting that, as the diet is an American invention, it follows the US guidelines for things such as sodium intake.  

It is possible to follow the original diet, which was put together to help people lower their blood pressure, rather than lose weight. Alternatively, there is also a specific weight loss version of the diet.

For those who do not eat meat, there is also a vegetarian version of the diet.

It is possible to view sample menus of the diets on the website.

What would a typical day of food look like on the DASH diet?

The DASH diet Weight Loss Solution claims to help people to “reprogram” their eating habits. Those following the diet will be taught how to make “bulky, filling low-calorie vegetables the centrepiece” of their meals.

The book we mentioned above by Marla Heller features 28 days of meal plans to help get you started.

However, the DASH diet does not seem as prescribed or rigid as some other diets out there at the moment. You are allowed to substitute foods that have “similar nutritional properties” so that you can make the diet into something that suits you. 

What is the DASH diet?

On the website, there are a couple of sample menus. Both look to be very filling!

For example, breakfast on one of the menus includes hot chocolate, hard boiled eggs, light cranberry juice and strawberries. 

Lunch consists of a tuna salad in pita bread, with various vegetables. Dinner is a meaty red sauce over spaghetti squash and salad (with dressing!). There is even dessert in the form of a frozen light fudge bar.

A pre-dinner snack of peanuts in the shell is also allowed.

For those who are worried about feeling hungry, the diet also includes various other healthy snacks throughout the day. These include yoghurt, fruit and nuts. 

Can everyone follow the DASH diet?

According to the website, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans “recommend the DASH eating plan as a model for healthy eating for everyone”.

The website also says that it is a diet that the whole family can enjoy.

However, it is always worth talking to your GP about any diet you intend to follow, especially if you have any health concerns.

Conclusion: the DASH diet

What is the DASH diet? And how can it help lower your blood pressure?

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From what we saw, the DASH diet looks to be both healthy and filling. As with the Mediterranean diet, this isn’t a crash diet but rather a lifestyle change.  

Any diet that says we can lose weight and reduce our blood pressure, but still includes snacks, hearty, filling food and a frozen light fudge bar for dessert, gets the thumbs up from us.