DASH Your Way to a Healthy Heart

Healthnotes Newswire (June 18, 2009)—The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet is a healthy eating pattern proven to lower high blood pressure (hypertension) and the risk of developing this condition. Now researchers are turning to DASH as a way to reduce heart failure risk.

DASH diet details

The DASH eating plan originally was developed to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. The plan is based around eating a low-sodium (low-salt) diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit each day, plus several servings of low- or no-fat dairy. The diet also includes whole grains, nuts and beans, lean meats, fish, and poultry.

For the current study, researchers collected diet questionnaires from 36,019 Swedish women, ages 48 to 83. Each woman’s diet was assessed, scored, and classified into one of four categories, ranging from not following the DASH diet guidelines at all, to following it very closely.

After seven years, the researchers found that women following the DASH diet most closely had a 37% lower rate of heart failure compared with women who did not follow the DASH diet.

Putting DASH to work for you

The DASH diet is proven to reduce existing hypertension and the risk of developing it. Other possible benefits include reducing cholesterol and lower risk of coronary heart disease, obesity and overweight, osteoporosis, and stroke.

If you’re interested in “DASH-ing” your way to better health, the following information will help you along the way.

Eat Daily—To closely follow the DASH eating plan, you need to include the following foods each day:

• 6 to 8 servings of whole grains (the word “enriched” in the ingredient list is a tip-off that the product is not whole grain) • 4 to 5 servings of vegetables • 4 to 5 servings of fruit • 2 to 3 servings of no- or low-fat dairy • No more than 2 to 3 servings of fat

Eat Weekly—On a weekly basis, the DASH diet specifies:

• 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes • No more than 6 servings of lean mean, fish, or poultry • No more than 5 servings of sweets

Meet the Nutrition Goals—The daily nutrient goals for a typical, 2,100 calorie version of the DASH diet are:

• No more than 27% of calories from fat (63 grams)

• No more than 6% of calories from saturated fat (14 grams)

• Approximately 18% of calories from lean protein (95 grams)

• Approximately 55% of calories from carbohydrate (289 grams), mostly whole grains

• No more than 150 mg of cholesterol

• No more than 2,300 mg of sodium (approximately 5,800 mg of salt)

• A minimum of 1,250 mg of calcium

• A minimum of 4,700 mg of potassium

• A minimum of 30 grams of fiber

If this eating plan is very different from your current diet, you may want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian for help getting started. Additionally, you can find free information about the DASH diet on the web, including recipes and sample meal plans, by searching the terms “DASH diet details.”

(Arch Intern Med 2009;169:851–7)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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