The DASH diet: Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

The DASH diet is an eating plan primarily targeted to lower BP21,22. It is also an effective nutritional strategy to prevent CVD13 since it has also been shown to also have great beneficial effects on blood lipid levels, improving both TC and LDL-cholesterol, thus leading to a reduction of CVD risk14,23.

The DASH diet shares some dietary features with the Mediterranean diet as it:

  • Emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limits sodium intake as well as sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meat consumption

Most of the effects of the DASH diet may be ascribed to a higher intake of protective nutrients present in the different food groups (Figure 1) such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, dietary fibre and vegetable proteins. At the same time, this dietary pattern is lower in refined grain foods, saturated and trans fats, sodium, as compared to the Western diet characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grain foods13.

Figure 1 The DASH diet foods groups

nuts, seeds and beans

fat-free and low-fat dairy products

lean meat, poultry and fish

a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables

whole grain foods

Overall, all three dietary patterns are shown to be beneficial with respect to CVD risk.They reduce total and LDL-cholesterol levels and BP, emphasizing the importance of specific food choices and healthier alternatives rather than a specific macronutrient composition.