DASH diet against hypertension: what to eat, what to avoid


the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a model promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) created and studied to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

It is a diet plan with a high fiber content, with medium levels of protein and higher whole grains. For this reason it is currently recommended by many medical associations around the world for people at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In its original form, therefore, it is not a diet designed to lose weight because the number of calories introduced is not lower than those that are needed every day, but – since the overweight is in turn a risk factor – they also exist other versions of the diet DASH which, despite maintaining the same distribution as regards the categories of food, provide for a reduced intake of total calories, so as to also favor weight reduction.

What are we eating

It is a diet that encourages the prevalent consumption of some foods and the reduction or elimination of others.

In particular, prefer fruit vegetables, carbohydrates from whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, white meat and vegetable oils.

On the contrary, it predicts a substantial decrease or elimination of red meat animal fats, sugar and alcohol.

Furthermore, the DASH diet is usually accompanied by a reduced use of cooking salt.


The beneficial effect deriving from was previously known consumption of fruit and vegetables on cardiovascular risk and their role in lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels e cholesterol in the blood.

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Even replacing saturated fats in the diet (typically of animal origin, therefore contained in butter, cheese and fatty meat) with unsaturated fats (contained in olive oil, almonds, walnuts and other seeds), has an effect positive on blood pressure and reduces triglycerides and cholesterol.

On the contrary, it is equally known that saturated fats, sugar and alcohol worsen not only cardiovascular risk factors but also those for other chronic degenerative diseases. For this, the DASH diet can help lower the risk of developing too diabetes cancers and other diseases of old age.

Its general principles represent common-sense criteria from which health benefits at all ages:

  • favor vegetables and fruit
  • prefer vegetable oils and foods with a low salt content
  • reduce animal fats
  • decrease sugar consumption
  • avoid the alcohol
  • reduce consumption of preserved products which often contain high amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat.

Clinical studies

Together with Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet is one of the most studied eating patterns in the world. It was formulated and tested for the first time in a study carried out in the United States and published in 1997, in which, on the basis of previously known observations, we wanted to verify the effect of different food combinations on blood pressure.

As it reads sul sito del National Heart, Lung and Blood Insitute (NIH), several studies have found that eating plan helps reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease. Compared to a standard diet, adults following the DASH diet without altering their sodium intake can lower blood pressure within weeks. Study participants who reduced their sodium intake from 3,450 mg to 2,300 mg or less per day had even greater reductions in blood pressure instead. People with high blood pressure who adopted a low-sodium DASH diet, the equivalent of cutting their sodium intake in half, eventually saw major improvements.

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A very healthy food model, therefore, which however – as with any other type of diet – should be discussed with your doctor before starting it.

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