It's almost a stretch to call DASH—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—a diet. Created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it's specifically designed to help people lower their blood pressure by decreasing sodium, and increasing whole food intake.
However, this "diet" is also a lifestyle choice for many people rather than a short-term weight loss plan. "Outside of an emergency medical condition that requires an urgent intervention, I have never seen anything come close to providing the breadth and depth of benefits that this [whole-food] lifestyle offers," says Robert Ostfeld, M.D., M.Sc.
Whether you want to lower your blood sugar or create a healthier lifestyle, the DASH diet can get you there. All it takes is a few simple changes to your grocery list.
The DASH Diet Basics
This eating plan is basic and flexible; without counting calories or serving sizes, you can still benefit. US News and World Report have called it the best overall diet every year thanks to the simple underlying principles, which are as follows:
- Monitor your eating habits for 3 to 5 days, noting the amount of sodium in every meal and snack you eat. This will help you determine the areas in which your diet needs modifying.
- Focus on eating more vegetables and lean meat. DASH recommends you eat no more than 6 ounces of meat a day.
- Have one or two meat-free days a week.
- Slowly decrease your salt intake, starting with 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Ideally, you should have no more than 1,500 milligrams daily. To put this into perspective: 1 teaspoon of salt has more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, as opposed to a "dash" which has 155 mg.