DASH diet: instructions for use of the diet that lowers blood pressure


 Designed by cardiologists in late 1980, the DASH diet promotes lower blood pressure, weight loss and reduces cardiovascular risk. What does it consist of? What foods to consume and in what proportion? For what results? Lighting with Raphaël Gruman, nutritionist.

Behind the acronym DASH for 'Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or 'Nutritional Approach to Stop Hypertension, hides a diet designed by cardiologists to lower blood pressure when it is too high and thus reduce cardiovascular risks. Based on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in salt, this dietary approach also allows you to lose weight effectively, without the yoyo effect, limiting processed foods and favoring raw products. What does it consist of? How does it help lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular complications? What are the results?

DASH diet: instructions for use of the diet that lowers blood pressure

DASH diet and sodium

The DASH diet is lower in sodium than a typical American diet, which can include a whopping 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium or more a day.

The standard DASH diet limits sodium to 2,300 mg a day. It meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. That's roughly the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt.

A lower sodium version of DASH restricts sodium to 1,500 mg a day. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs. If you aren't sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor.

DASH diet: What to eat

The DASH diet is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life. It's easy to follow using foods found at your grocery store.

The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. It limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.

When the following DASH, it is important to choose foods that are:
  • Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
  • Low in saturated fat
  • Low in sodium

DASH diet: Recommended servings

The DASH diet provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. The number of servings you should have depends on your daily calorie needs.

Here's a look at the recommended servings from each food group for a 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet:

  • Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day. One serving is one slice bread, 1-ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta.
  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day. One serving is 1 cup raw leafy green vegetable, 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or 1/2 cup vegetable juice.
  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day. One serving is one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings a day. One serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces cheese.
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish: six 1-ounce servings or fewer a day. One serving is 1 ounce cooked meat, poultry or fish, or 1 egg.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week. One serving is 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked legumes (dried beans or peas).
  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day. One serving is 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing.
  • Sweets and added sugars: 5 servings or fewer a week. One serving is 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade.

Take aim at sodium

The foods at the center of the DASH diet are naturally low in sodium. So just by following the DASH diet, you're likely to lower your intake of sodium.

You can further reduce sodium by:
  • Using sodium-free spices or flavorings instead of salt
  • Not adding salt when cooking rice, pasta, or hot cereal
  • Choosing plain, fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
  • Choosing fresh or frozen skinless poultry, fish, and lean cuts of meat
  • Reading food labels and choosing low-sodium or no-salt-added options

As you cut back on processed, high-sodium foods, you may notice that food tastes different. It may take time for your palate to adjust. But once it does, you may find you prefer the DASH way of eating.

What foods to avoid?

  • All industrial or processed foods (chips, commercial pizzas, cakes, sauces, ready meals, soups ...).
  • Cold cuts.
  • Smoked meat and fish, breaded and surimi.
  • Frozen, canned, and pan-fried.
  • Sauces (soy, mayonnaise, salad dressings...) of the trade.
  • Sparkling waters with a sodium content greater than 50 mg/L.
  • Saturated fats (butter, fresh cream, etc.).
  • Cube broths.

How many calories per day in a DASH diet?

"The DASH diet indeed provides a little more calories than the recommendations of the National Health Nutrition Program (PNNS), but despite this slightly high-calorie intake, it allows you to lose weight because it is only about consuming 'good calories' and above all it adapts to the energy expenditure of the person," he insists The DASH diet for:

A very sedentary person without physical activity is about 1,600 calories per day.
A moderately active person is about 2,100 calories per day.
A person with sustained daily physical activity (waiter, mover, very athletic person) is about 2,600 calories per day.

How effective is it on hypertension?

Many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of the DASH diet. Among them, the study published in January 2010 in Jama Internal Medicine showed that patients who followed the DASH diet in addition to daily physical activity reduced their systolic pressure by 16 points in 4 months. This diet also caused them to lose an average of 3.2 kg in 10 weeks. Another study, titled 'Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)' and published in PubMed in July 2015 found that following the DASH diet was significantly linked to a lower prevalence of various cancers due to its high fiber content, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant capacity.

DASH diet and hypertension treatments: is it compatible?

'Totally. Moreover, the High Authority of Health recommends to hypertensive people, before any prescription of medical treatment, modify their diet over 3 months to see how their tension evolves. Sometimes a change of power supply is enough to reduce the voltage figures. For other patients, a diversified and balanced diet as in the DASH diet (rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt) can be considered in combination with drug treatment," he concludes.

Example of a typical menu for a day (active woman or man)

Breakfast:3 slices of wholemeal bread, 20g butter, 1 tablespoon jam, 1 banana, 1 tea, and 1 plain yogurt.
Lunch:200 g raw vegetables, 1 tablespoon vinaigrette, 150 g steamed salmon, 300 g brown rice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 plain cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons red fruit coulis.
Dinner:1 bowl of soup, 150 g chicken breast, 200 g whole grains, 1 plain yogurt, 150 g compote without added sugar.
Snack: A hot drink without sugar + 1 apple or 2 slices of wholemeal bread + 25 g of almonds.