Dash stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This nutritional approach aims to reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure.
What is the DASH diet?
While more than a billion people are affected by high blood pressure worldwide, the National Institutes of Health in the United States decided to tackle the problem head-on by developing the 1990s the DASH diet (for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension). The goal: is to sustainably reduce the blood pressure of hypertensives or even prevent it to avoid cardiovascular complications, through the adoption of a healthy diet low in sodium2. It also encourages maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight, with overweight and obesity being major risk factors for high blood pressure.
How does the DASH diet work?
Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet consists of favoring a healthy and varied diet, through the consumption of foods naturally low in sodium such as fruits and vegetables. Since salt plays an important role in the occurrence of hypertension, the goal is to limit its intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day (about a teaspoon of salt), then, eventually and gradually, to 1,500 mg, with the advice of a doctor.
The DASH diet focuses on specific amounts of food to be respected: it is based on a table (available here on pages 8 and 10) that indicates the number of servings of each food group recommended for an individual according to the number of calories he can ingest. The latter is defined according to gender, age, and level of physical activity. For example, a woman between the ages of 19 and 30 who does little physical exercise will need 2,000 calories a day: according to the table, four to five servings of vegetables will be needed. This number of calories must be adjusted (in this case reduced), with the advice of a general practitioner or nutritionist, if one wishes to lose weight.
To achieve this goal, the DASH diet also recommends regular physical activity, at least 2h30 of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
The DASH diet provides the recommended three meals a day, as well as a snack and no snacks.
Dash: more than a drop of common sense
Its origin dates back to the mid-1990s. Starting from the link between cholesterol elevation and cardiovascular accidents; of the relationship between excessive salt consumption and high blood pressure, experts from the NIH (the American Institute of Health) have developed a set of recommendations based, in addition, on the association between excessive sugar consumption and cardiovascular diseases. Among these famous recommendations, let us note:
The drastic reduction in the consumption of saturated fatty acids (fatty meats, whole dairy products, tropical oils such as palm oil), salt (cooking salt, brined foods such as olives), and added sugar;
The exhortation to eat in greater quantities fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and oils (olive and rapeseed);
Free consumption of poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and nuts.
While the Dash diet shares some similarities with the Mediterranean model, it differs from it in its insistence on salt restriction and tolerance of white meat and dairy products.
To begin with, the DASH diet proposes to:
- Less salt your dishes and find alternatives to salt, such as aromatic herbs, spices, lemon, etc.;
- Add one serving of vegetables at lunch, then one at dinner the next day;
- Add a serving of fruit to a meal or snack;
- Increase consumption of skimmed or semi-skimmed dairy products to three servings per day;
- Limit lean meat to about 170 g per day;
- Make two or more meatless meals each week;
- Increase consumption of brown rice and whole-wheat pasta;
- Prefer fruits, unsalted nuts, or frozen yogurt as a snack;
- Consume fresh, frozen, or prepared fruits and vegetables as long as they are low in sodium.
An American model
More and more studies are devoted to the Dash diet, across the Atlantic. Thus, it has been shown that the adoption of the Dash diet has the effect of:
Reducing the risk of high blood pressure, gout, cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart failure, heart failure, etc.), kidney stones, cancers, and dementia;
Reduction of overweight, improvement of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease ;
Reduction of all-cause mortality.
These results are quite comparable to those observed during the Mediterranean diet but do not quite overlap able, so a new concept was born from the pooling of the strengths of these two diets.
What the DASH Diet and Mediterranean Diet Have in Common
The differences between the DASH and Mediterranean diets aren’t very many. Both have whole grains, vegetables, and fruit at the forefront. The Mediterranean diet is more restrictive when it comes to meat and focuses mainly on seafood, whereas the DASH diet allows more servings of lean meat. The DASH way of eating also severely limits foods like chocolate or wine, whereas the Mediterranean diet encourages you to enjoy the good things in life – just in moderate amounts.
Those are the differences, but these two diets also have a lot in common. They are both low in saturated fat, many find it easy to achieve at least some weight loss. They both offer numerous health benefits, from helping people improve blood pressure, and improving insulin function, to preventing blood clots and improving heart health.
Both are dietary approaches that support your health, just in slightly different ways.
The DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet do not have the initial intention of weight loss
In some cases of poor eating habits, this weight reduction can happen naturally. Research shows that the Dash Diet and the Mediterranean Diet are equally effective in preventing and treating various diseases, in addition to cardiovascular diseases.
The DASH diet is a healthy dietary pattern that aims at the adoption of a dietary habit with high amounts of fruits and vegetables, high consumption of calcium (milk and dairy products), in addition to reduced consumption of saturated fat and salt, avoiding industrialized foods, thus being effective in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension.
The difference between them is that the Dash diet is characterized by reduced fat consumption in general, with a focus on saturated. On the contrary, in the Mediterranean Diet, fat consumption, mainly monounsaturated, is prioritized. The main source food of this fat in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. The idea is that some principles such as increased consumption of fiber, vegetables, and decreased saturated fat are maintained for the rest of life. In this way, she can be adopted for life. In cases where there is overweight or obesity, it is necessary to develop a food plan with caloric restrictions.