What Is the DASH Diet Plan? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

When you’re deciding to go on a diet, there are so many options to choose from. You can go keto and focus on healthy fats, try intermittent fasting, or just eat a certain amount of calories a day. One option you might not have tried yet, though, is the DASH diet, which has a simple goal: keeping your body (especially your heart!) as healthy as possible.

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What is the DASH diet?

DASH isn’t just a catchy phrase — it actually stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to keep your heart in tip-top shape. Because of that, it’s not very complicated: You’re simply eating a diet full of wholesome, nutritious foods.

“The eating plan focuses on reducing sodium intake and eating more fruits and vegetables,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “It also emphasizes eating whole foods — such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils — and limits foods high in saturated fat. That includes fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and tropical oils like palm kernel oil, palm oil, and coconut oil. It also limits sugar-sweetened beverages and foods.”

What are the benefits?

If you prefer going on diets that have been well-researched instead of jumping on the latest fad, you’re in luck: DASH has all the bases covered and is completely backed by science. Its many benefits actually check out — so much so that it’s been named the best diet plan for eight years in a row.

“This eating plan is based on research that shows that the diet can help lower high blood pressure levels, help improve cholesterol levels, and decrease your risk of heart disease,” Gorin says. “Other research in the Polish Heart Journal shows that people following the DASH diet had improved blood pressure and body-fat levels.”

Ready to give DASH a try?

Since the DASH diet involves eating the healthiest foods around and limiting the bad stuff, there aren’t any obvious cons. Plus, sticking to it won’t just help you lose weight, it will also help keep your “heart health, blood pressure levels, and cholesterol levels” in check.

“Almost everyone would benefit from cutting back on sodium and eating more produce,” Gorin says. “Since the DASH diet emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, I like to make a batch of roasted lemon pepper asparagus to serve alongside a lean protein like tofu. I also find spaghetti squash is a satisfying alternative to pasta.”

Now, about that whole low-fat and low-sugar thing. It can be tricky come dessert time, but Gorin has a hack for surviving that as well: “One way to feel like you’re getting the dessert that you crave while still following the diet is to eat a fruit-based ‘nice cream,’ like my chocolate-banana recipe. By combining frozen bananas and unsweetened cocoa powder, you’ll wind up with a treat that resembles the texture of ice cream yet contains no added sugar and also counts toward your daily fruit servings.”

If you want even more resources, get additional meal ideas from the Dash Diet Cookbook and The Essential Dash Diet Cookbook for Beginners. Or pick up a meal plan that will guide you through the entire process, like the A Day-By-Day Dash Diet Weight Loss Plan. You’ll be dashing your way to great health in no time.

via What Is the DASH Diet Plan? Here’s Everything You Need to Know