DASH: A Primer on the Heart Healthy Diet

Health and Wellness

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a lifelong approach to healthy eating. It was originally created to lower blood pressure without any medication, as part of a research study sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health.

Purpose of the DASH diet

  • The most definitive aim of DASH diet is that if you follow it religiously, you can reduce your blood pressure by a few points in a span of just two weeks.
  • Over a period of time, the systolic blood pressure would drop by 8-14 points, which makes a significant difference in the earlier health risks.

Guidelines of the DASH diet

The DASH diet research is based on the concept of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

  • With an intent to quench hunger, the meals and snacks are balanced with bulky, filling foods (fruits and vegetables)
  • There is also an inclusion of foods that are protein-rich and/or contain heart healthy fats, to keep the person well fed.
  • The meal plans aid in avoiding the blood sugar roller coaster, which is one of the main causes of unhealthy cravings.
  • The plan is also generous on protein, which helps to maintain more muscle while losing weight. The protein balance in the diet also helps to avoid a slowdown in metabolism.

Characteristics of the DASH diet plan

  • Rich in fruits
  • Rich in vegetables
  • Low in fat or nonfat dairy
  • Includes whole grains, nuts and beans
  • Includes lean meats, fish and poultry
  • High fiber and low to moderate fat

Instead of suggesting specific foods to eat, the DASH diet recommends a dietary pattern that emphasizes the number of servings of different groups of food. Based on a 2000-calorie diet the number of servings that should be aimed for are decided.

Recommended Read: Shed those Pounds With This Amazing 1200 Calorie Diet Plan

Whole Grains: 6–8 Servings per Day

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread
  • 1 ounce of dry, whole grain cereal
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal

Vegetables: 4–5 Servings per Day

  • 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables like spinach or kale
  • 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables like broccoli, carrots, squash or tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable juice

Fruits: 4–5 Servings per Day

  • 1 medium fruit or 1/4 cup of dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup of fruit juice

Dairy Products: 2–3 Servings per Day

  • 1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt
  • 1.5 ounces of low-fat cheese
  • Lean Chicken, Meat and Fish: 6 or Fewer Servings per Day

Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 4–5 Servings per Week

  • 1/3 cup or 1.5 ounces of nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons or a half ounce of seeds
  • 1/2 cup of cooked legumes

Fats and Oils: 2–3 Servings per Day

  • 1 teaspoon of soft margarine
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of salad dressing

Candy and Added Sugars: 5 or Fewer Servings per Week

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam
  • 1 cup of lemonade

Sample DASH meal plan for a day


  • 1 cup (90 grams) of oatmeal with 1 cup (240 ml) of skim milk
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of blueberries
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) of fresh orange juice.

Day snack

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 cup (285 grams) of low-fat yogurt.


  • Tuna and mayonnaise sandwich made with 2 slices of whole grain bread
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • 1.5 cups (113 grams) of green salad
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) of canned tuna
  • 1 cup (248 grams) of vegetable soup.

Evening snack

  • 1 medium banana.

Recommended Read: The Whole 30 Diet Plan: A Primer


  • Chicken breast 3 ounces cooked in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil with 1/2 cup (75 grams) of broccoli
  • Carrots 1/2 cup (75 grams) served with 1 cup (190 grams) of brown rice.


  • Lowers blood pressure without any medication.
  • Reduces the risk of many diseases like cancer, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney stones, and diabetes.
  • Effective way to lose weight and become healthier.
  • Targets belly fat, manages metabolic syndrome and reduces the risk of developing diabetes.