What is DASH diet?: Menu plans, recommendations

DASH diet food components

What does the DASH diet stand for?

DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This means that you can reduce your blood pressure by following the DASH diet. This diet is not a low sodium diet, but it is rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. In combination, these minerals will reduce our blood pressure. Also, it is high in fiber and low in fats. Because of this dash diet will help everyone even if you do not have hypertension.

What foods you can eat on the DASH diet?

If you are eating healthy already, you will be able to follow the DASH diet easily. It advises you to eat 1/2 – 1 serving of nuts seeds and legumes daily. DASH diet will also encourage you to take low fat or non-fat milk, but not full fat milk. Since this diet is low in fat, it will be lower in unhealthy fats such as saturated fat and cholesterol.

DASH diet is lower in sugar and sweetened beverages. If you are following this diet, you will have the chance to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Is the DASH diet low sodium?

Well, the DASH diet does not give us recommendations on salt intake. It will be naturally low in salt because it has more fruits and vegetables. However, you have to keep an eye on your salt intake. It is better if you can keep the salt intake limited to 1 tsp per day. [1]Sacks, Frank M., et al. “Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.” New England journal of medicine 344.1 (2001): … Continue reading

Not only that when you go to the supermarket, do not be attracted by processed foods, packaged foods, salty snacks such as crackers, pretzels, and crackers.

Eat less salt text on salt spoon

As a bonus tip for following the DASH diet, you can also lose weight. Losing weight will also help you to lower blood pressure. If you can also combine aerobic exercise or moderate-intensity exercise with the DASH diet you will get maximum benefits. Ask your doctor before following any exercise or diet regime.

What is the DASH diet plan?

DASH diet plan includes different serving sizes of foods to match your daily calorie requirement. If you want to know about serving sizes you can also use the diabetic exchange list. You can of course plan your own DASH diet in 3 steps.

Also, the DASH diet does not recommend you any specific fruits or vegetables that you can consume, It generally says all fruits are vegetables are good for hypertension because almost all of them are rich in minerals, vitamins, and fiber. But in this article, I will introduce you to what will be good to reduce your blood pressure according to current evidence.

#1 Step calculate your daily calorie requirement

To calculate your daily calorie requirement you can use our calorie calculator.

Enter your age, height, weight, gender, and physical activity level to the calculator and it will give you the calorie requirement.

#2 Step determine how many servings of food you can eat according to the calories

Following I am going to include several servings for different calorie requirements.

1600kcal DASH diet menu

  • Low fat/ non-fat milk – 2 to 3 servings
  • Whole grains- 6 servings
  • Vegetables-  3 to 4 servings
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds- 3 servings per week
  • Fruits- 4 servings
  • Meat and fish- 1 to 2 servings
  • Sweets and sugary beverages- 0 servings
  • Fats and oils- 2 servings

2000kcal DASH diet menu

  • Low fat/ non-fat milk – 2 to 3 servings
  • Whole grains- 7 to 8 servings
  • Vegetables-  4 to 5 servings
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds- 1/2 to 1 serving
  • Fruits- 4 to 5 servings
  • Meat and fish- 2 or less than 2 servings
  • Sweets – 5 servings per week
  • Fats and oils- 2 to 3 servings

2600kcal DASH diet menu

  • Low fat/ non-fat milk – 3 servings
  • Whole grains- 10 to 11 servings
  • Vegetables-  5 to 6 servings
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds-1 servings
  • Fruits- 5 to 6 servings
  • Meat and fish- 6 servings
  • Sweets – less than 2 servings
  • Fats and oils- 3 servings

3100kcal DASH diet menu

  • Low fat/ non-fat milk – 3 to 4 servings
  • Whole grains- 12 to 13 servings
  • Vegetables-  6 servings
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds- 1 serving
  • Fruits- 6 servings
  • Meat and fish- 2 to 3 servings
  • Sweets – 2 servings
  • Fats and oils- 4 servings

#3 Step its time to find what is in those one serving of food

Following are the low-fat or non-fat milk one serving that you can include in the DASH diet. Although I have included the whole milk options here, only take low fat or non-fat milk and milk products. When you take low-fat dairy products, it will become your main source of calcium, vitamin D, and proteins.

Table 05: Milk food group serving sizes of exchange list
Source: Krause and Mahan’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process 15th Edition [2]https://www.elsevier.com/books/krause-and-mahans-food-and-the-nutrition-care-process/raymond/978-0-323-63655-1

Following are the foods that you can include as 1 serving of whole grains. But make sure you choose whole grains or whole-grain cereal products. These whole-grain foods will give you energy.

Table 02: Carbohydrate food group serving sizes of exchange list

  • Oats are a good choice for the DASH diet as a cereal. Because it is rich in fiber that reduces your blood pressure as well as your cholesterol levels. You can take oats for your daily breakfast.

Jar of oats

Following are the vegetable that is in one serving, you can include in your DASH diet. You can include 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables in the DASH diet. These vegetables are rich in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and also fiber.

Table 06: Nonstarchy vegetable food group serving sizes of exchange list

  • Eat vegetables such as mushrooms, beans, and tomatoes because they are rich in potassium.
  • Take nitrate-rich vegetables such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, cabbage, swiss chard, and collard greens.

Following is the list of foods you can include as one serving of nuts, legumes, seeds, and fats. Although I have included other fatty foods here, make sure you take them in moderation. Nuts and seeds will be rich sources of energy, fiber, protein magnesium, and monounsaturated fat (good fat) in your DASH diet.

When you are calculation the fat percentage on a daily diet, make sure you take only 27% of calories as fats. These fats include the fats naturally present in food and also the ones that are added to food. Keep in your mind the amount f servings of fat you can take in your diet according to your daily calorie requirement.

Table 08: Fatty food group serving sizes of exchange list

  • Pistachios and almonds are a good choice as nuts because it can reduce blood pressure.

Following is a list of starchy vegetables and legumes that you can consider as one serving. These starchy vegetables will provide you potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and also fiber. Lentils and legumes are also proven to reduce blood pressure. Make sure that you add lentils to your diet.

Table 03: Starchy vegetables and pulses/ legumes food groups serving sizes of exchange list

  • Sweet potatoes and other root crops are a rich source of potassium and try to incorporate those into your diet.
  • Scientists have found that beet can reduce blood pressure. If you drink one cup of beet juice every day, your blood pressure will be reduced. This might be because beet contains nitrates and it reduces blood pressure. Although nitrates are not a concern in the DASH diet, it might be beneficial to add beet to your daily diet. You can drink a glass of beet juice every day or you can cook it as your choice.

Beetroot juice

The following list represents one serving of fruits. Fruits will provide you energy, magnesium, potassium, and fiber in your diet.

Table 04: Fruit group serving sizes of exchange list

  • Try to add berries to your diets, such as blueberries and strawberries. You can take them as a snack or as a dessert after meals (berries are a rich source of antioxidants)
  • Eat potassium-rich fruits such as bananas, avocado, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.
  • Add kiwis to your daily diet as scientists have found evidence that it reduces blood pressure.
  • Watermelon is another great choice as a fruit. Many studies have found that it can reduce blood pressure if you consume more watermelon. You can add watermelons to your salads and smoothies, or you can consume it as it is.


Following are one serving of meat and fish food group. Although there is high-fat meat in this list, Focus on taking low-fat lean meat. Trim away any visible fats. When preparing these foods you can roast, boil, grill,l, or broil them instead of frying.

Meat and fish groups in the DASH diet will be a source of proteins, magnesium, and zinc.

Table 07: Meat food group serving sizes of exchange list

  • If you are taking eggs, only take egg yolks 4 times a week because egg yolks are high in cholesterol.
  • Add garlic to your foods. You can add them when you are cooking savory meals, omelets, soups and use them if you are doing the stir-frying. It will enhance the flavor of the meal and also it will reduce your blood pressure.

If you are taking sweets, make sure they are low in fats.

Is the DASH diet good for kidney disease?

Another thing is DASH diet is rich in minerals such as potassium, so if a kidney patient is following a DASH diet he/she should take the approval from the healthcare provider and make necessary adjustments to the DASH diet. Generally, for someone with chronic kidney failure, it is recommended to take less than 4.7g of potassium per day.

Is the DASH diet good for diabetes?

DASH diet plan is a good choice for diabetes also because it is rich in fruits and vegetables which are rich in fiber. Also, this diet recommends whole grains which are also good for diabetes. However, what you need to know is, when choosing fruits do not choose very sweet fruits in this diet if you have diabetes. Go for citrus fruits or berries. Always refer to your health care provider before following any new diet.

Now you are done with your DASH diet, now you have how many servings you can consume from each food. Now head over to your kitchen and start making your DASH diet. push that high blood pressure further down!

In conclusion…

The DASH diet emphasizes the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. If you are following this diet you will have to eat more fruits and vegetables if you are not already eating. Also, this diet is low in fat so whole milk products and fats are limited in this diet. However many studies have proven benefits for the DASH diet. If you incorporate the right foods in the right quantities as I have mentioned in this article your skyrocketed blood pressure will come down for you.

Dilini Tharaka

Dilini Tharaka

BSc. (sp.) in Food Science and Nutrition, Specializing in Applied Nutrition (Founder, Editor, and an Author)
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