The DASH diet, which refers to the US National Institutes for Health (Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension) is a research-based diet that has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity. The DASH diet lowers blood pressure by going beyond simply having patients reduce their salt and sodium intake. The blood-pressure-lowering effect of this diet has been demonstrated in many studies. Further, the DASH Diet has been endorsed by the American Heart Association as well as The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The focus is on fruits, vegetables, and low-or-no fat dairy. Whole grains with fewer complex and refined grains than the average American diet are an important feature. The foods in this diet are high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber.
The diet follows US guidelines for sodium, as well as for vitamins and minerals. In addition to lowering blood pressure, this diet may lower cholesterol and help control weight. The design is flexible enough to meet the lifestyle, location restrictions, food allergies and preferences of almost everyone. Another healthy aspect of this diet is that it helps facilitate weight loss and increases insulin sensitivity. There are more aggressive versions of this diet, which may have a more rapid impact. These variations include different goals for daily caloric intake.
The original DASH diet included the chart below, and this provides a good starting point.
My practice emphasizes lifestyle modifications as the first line of treatment for blood pressure and cholesterol issues. The DASH Diet is an important tool, which is both data-driven and easy to follow.