Diet & Nutrition

What exactly is the DASH diet and should you try it?


Our resident dietitian, Melissa Meier gives us her verdict on the DASH diet and tells us whether you should try it. 

When it comes to diets, you’ll usually get an eye roll from me. More often than not, they’re restrictive, unsustainable and guilt-inducing, so you’d have trouble finding one that gets my dietitian tick of approval.

But… there’s a very small, teeny-tiny, select group of diets that aren’t total nonsense. Today, we’re talking DASH.

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What is the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s an eating plan that works to reduce blood pressure – and given that around one third of Australians have high blood pressure, the DASH diet is something that could do a lot of people good.

In case you missed the memo on high blood pressure: it’s a risk factor for serious health issues like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. So, even if you’re in tip top shape, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly and do your best to keep it under control.

On the menu on the DASH diet is a whole lot of nutritional goodies. Fruit and veggies are cornerstone, with four to five serves of each recommended per day. In practical terms, one serve of fruit is simply a piece of fruit (think: a banana or an apple), while one serve of veg is one cup of raw veggies or half a cup of cooked veggies. Note that legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils count as veggies and should be consumed regularly on the DASH diet, too.

When you’re on the DASH diet, you’ll also enjoy up to four serves of reduced-fat dairy (one serve is a glass of milk or small tub of yoghurt) and up to eight serves of grains per day.

One serve of grains is equivalent to a piece of bread or half a cup of cooked rice – and there is a preference for wholegrain (think: brown grainy bread over white or rolled oats over sugary breakfast cereal). Healthy fats should also be consumed on the reg.

Protein foods (like meat, chicken and seafood) take a back seat on the DASH diet, with just two serves (roughly 100 grams each) allowed each day. It’s no surprise that foods high in added sugar and unhealthy fats, like soft drink and pastries, are also limited.

Should you try the DASH diet?

If you’ve got high blood pressure, the DASH diet is a sensible place to start. Packed with plants, the DASH diet is low in sodium and harmful saturated fat, but full of good-for-you nutrients like potassium to support muscle and nerve function and calcium for strong bones and teeth.

Studies have even shown that the DASH diet can lower your blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The DASH diet isn’t just for people with high blood pressure, either – if you want to lose some weight or just eat a little healthier, the DASH diet is based on wholefoods, reflects many of the core values of the Australian Dietary Guidelines doesn’t spruik expensive superfoods or restriction, so it gets a big Y-E-S from me.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.