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(Jacob Wackerhausen/Thinkstock)
(Jacob Wackerhausen/Thinkstock)

What's the DASH diet, and how do I follow it? Add to ...

The question: Can you explain the DASH diet? My doctor recommended it for me but I don’t know how to follow it.

The answer: DASH stands for the name of a randomized controlled trial called “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This landmark study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, demonstrated a potent blood-pressure-lowering effect from a diet low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates that emphasized fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Participants on the DASH diet who had mild hypertension achieved a reduction in blood pressure similar to that obtained by drug treatment. Blood pressure reductions occurred within two weeks of starting the diet plan and were maintained for the duration of the study. What’s more, the DASH diet resulted in substantially lower blood pressure, even in the absence of weight loss. (If you’re overweight and have hypertension, losing as little as 5 to 10 per cent of your body weight can lower your blood pressure.)

Since that first study, the DASH diet has been shown to do more than lower elevated blood pressure. It’s also been found to help lower blood cholesterol, as well as reduce the risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and congestive heart failure.

(Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle weakens and can’t pump blood fast enough to meet the needs of the body. As a result, fluid accumulates in the lungs, hands, ankles or other parts of the body. It’s often preceded by major risk factors including high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and obesity.)

The DASH diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and legumes, and foods that provide calcium, magnesium and potassium – minerals important for the regulation of blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you will get even better results on the DASH diet if you keep your daily sodium intake under 2,000 mg and closer to 1,500 mg.

If you’re considering the plan, the food groups and recommended daily servings are as follows. (I also encourage you to check out the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for more tips and recipes.)

Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is the national director of nutrition at BodyScience Medical. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel’sDirect (www.lesliebeck.com).

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DASH eating plan: Number of daily servings for 1,600, 2,600 and 3,100 calories

Whole grains include:

  • 1 slice bread
  • ½ pita pocket
  • 30 g ready-to-eat breakfast cereal
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, hot cereal

Vegetables include:

  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • ¾ cup vegetable juice

Fruit includes:

  • 1 medium sized fruit
  • ¼ cup dried fruit        
  • ½ cup fresh/frozen fruit
  • ½ cup 100% fruit juice

Non-fat/low-fat dairy includes:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 250 ml yogurt
  • 1.5 oz low fat cheese

Lean meats, poultry and fish include:

  • 3 ounces cooked meat, poultry, fish

Nuts, seeds and legumes include:

  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 2 tbsp seeds
  • 2 tbsp nut butter
  • ½ cup cooked beans/lentils

Fats and oils include:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp soft margarine
  • 1 tbsp salad dressing
  • 2 tbsp low fat salad dressing
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise

Sweets and added sugars include:

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp jam or jelly
  • ½ cup sorbet


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Food group 1,600 2,600 3,100
Fats and oils 2 3 4
Fruit 4 5 to 6 6
Lean meats, poultry, fish 3 to 6 6 6 to 9
Non-fat/low fat dairy 2 to 3 3 3 to 4
Nuts, seeds, legumes 3 a week 1 a day 1 a day
Sweets and added sugars 0 Less than 2 Less than 2
Vegetables 3 to 4 5 to 6 6
Whole grains 6 10 to 11 12 to 13


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