DASH Diet: The Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss Meal Plan
According to the WHO, over a billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure – and the number is growing. High blood pressure is linked to numerous health risks like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. ( 1 )
Since high blood pressure is often triggered by poor nutrition, among other things ( 1 ), it makes sense to do something about this. That’s what the inventors of the so-called DASH diet thought too.
In this article, you will learn what the DASH diet is and what foods are allowed. Of course, you will also get to know the advantages and disadvantages of this diet. In addition, a 7-day nutrition plan gives you an insight into the exact process of the diet.
Slight digression: What is high blood pressure?
You have probably heard of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). However, most do not know precisely what and why this disease can be so dangerous. That’s why we’re going to look at this in a nutshell so that you can understand the DASH diet’s approach as well.
Blood pressure is the pressure with which our heart pumps blood around the body. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), healthy people have a blood pressure of around 120:80 mmHg. ( 2 )
120 describes the heart’s pressure when ejecting blood (systole). The value 80 represents the pressure it has in the suction phase of the blood (diastole).
The AHA defines high blood pressure if the first value is consistently above 140 mmHg or the second value is always above 90 mmHg. Severe hypertension begins at levels greater than 180:110 mmHg. This is also called hypertensive crisis, according to the AHA. ( 2 )
Causes of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can have various causes. However, some factors can increase the risk of high blood pressure. ( 3 )
- These include:
- lack of exercise
- genetic predisposition (i.e., hereditary)
- certain organ diseases (e.g., kidney disease)
Risks of high blood pressure
So what makes high blood pressure so dangerous?
The problem is that the permanently increased pressure damages the vessels. This can lead to heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, poor eyesight, etc. ( 1 )
It is also treacherous that high blood pressure is not always noticed. Complaints often only appear when damage to the vessels and organs has already occurred.
So you see, high blood pressure is not a phenomenon to be taken lightly. Fortunately, there are countermeasures.
The DASH diet as a diet against high blood pressure
DASH is the abbreviation for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” As the name suggests, this is a diet designed to lower high blood pressure.
Scientists from the USA discovered in studies that a vegetarian and low-salt diet could reduce blood pressure. ( 4, 5 )
In working with high blood pressure patients, the researchers also found that this lifestyle has a positive effect on weight. ( 4, 5 ) The primary goal of the DASH diet is to lower the blood pressure of hypertensive patients. Losing body fat is still desirable for some individuals and is an excellent by-product that can eliminate one of the causes of hypertension, obesity.
While the DASH diet is excellent for losing weight, it should be viewed more as a long-term diet than a short-term diet.
These foods are allowed on the DASH diet.
In the DASH diet, there are no precise food specifications. Instead, the information relates to food groups.
As the studies show, the DASH diet should be kept more vegetarian. However, lean meat or fish is allowed.
These food groups should be consumed primarily:
- vegetables and fruit
Fruit and vegetables should be eaten in abundance and included in every meal.
- whole-grain products
Whole grain products should be preferred to white flour products. In addition to grain products, starchy vegetables such as potatoes or sweet potatoes are also allowed.
- Low-fat dairy products
When it comes to dairy products, low-fat varieties such as skyr, low-fat quark, low-fat milk, yogurt with 1% fat, and so on should be used.
- Lean meat and fish
All types of fish are allowed. When it comes to meat, it is best to use lean poultry. However, fatty sea fish such as salmon should be eaten less often.
Filling legumes such as beans and lentils can be used in the DASH diet.
- nuts and seeds
Small amounts of nuts and seeds are allowed to intake essential vegetable fats.
- High-quality vegetable oils
High-quality vegetable oils are recommended for preparing the food (e.g., frying or the salad).
You should avoid these foods on the DASH diet.
Of course, there are foods that you’re better off avoiding on the DASH diet.
These foods are not recommended:
- Salty foods
Salt consumption should be severely restricted, especially with low-salt variants of the DASH diet. You can find the explanation for this further down in the article.
So that your food does not taste boring, you can use various spices and herbs.
- finished products
In addition to preservatives and flavorings, finished products often contain a lot of salt.
- Fatty meat and meat products
Fatty meat, such as pork belly, should be consumed seldom due to the high-fat content. Processed meats such as sausages, frankfurters, and bacon are very fatty, but they are also often heavily salted. They should be eliminated during the DASH diet.
- sweets and sugar
When shopping, pay attention to hidden sugar, usually added to food unnecessarily. High-fat sweets in particular, such as cakes with lots of cream or chocolate, should be eaten sparingly. Otherwise, added sugar should be avoided.
The DASH diet has these effects.
This type of diet is said to lower blood pressure, but it also has some other benefits. This includes, among other things, the loss of excess fatty tissue.
We now take a closer look at the effects of the DASH diet and what it can do to our bodies.
The DASH diet can lower blood pressure.
As already mentioned, high blood pressure is associated with numerous health risks. The DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure. ( 4 )
Some studies have shown that people can lower their blood pressure by following the DASH diet despite not losing weight. ( 6 )
However, the scientific research that assumed a very low-salt DASH diet showed even better blood pressure reduction. ( 7 )
Especially in study participants who had very high blood pressure, a low-salt diet achieved an average reduction of 12 mmHg (systolic) and five mmHg (diastolic) in two months. ( 4 )
The DASH diet can help you lose weight.
As we saw earlier, this diet can lower blood pressure without losing weight at the same time. However, losing weight is often a positive side effect that further lower blood pressure. Obesity is a factor that promotes high blood pressure. ( 1 )
So losing weight is a good idea to lower your blood pressure. Various studies show that people who stick to the DASH diet lose weight well. ( 8 )
However, it must also be said that in these studies, the participants’ calorie intake was controlled. So you were always in a calculated calorie deficit.
Ultimately, however, the nutritional requirements of the DASH diet exclude high-calorie foods anyway. This makes it easier for most people to keep calorie intake low, which leads to fat loss.
The DASH diet may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Diabetes is a severe metabolic disease that can cause considerable consequential damage.
Researchers found that the DASH diet reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. ( 9, 10 )
It can also help prevent what is known as insulin resistance. This is a condition in which our cells no longer respond appropriately to insulin, which in the long term can lead to diabetes. ( 9, 10 )
The DASH diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Lowering blood pressure is not the only thing that can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
A balanced choice of food is also good for the cardiovascular system. A study published in 2013 showed that participants who followed the DASH diet had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 29 percent lower risk of stroke. ( 11 )
Seven-day nutrition plan
To give you a good idea of what a week on the DASH diet can look like, I will show you a meal plan for a whole week.
Note that the use of salt should be a little more economical. You can compensate for the lack of taste with fresh herbs or other low-sodium spices.
Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Porridge
Lunch: trout fillet with parsley potatoes and grilled vegetables
Dinner: Chickpea salad with feta and avocado
Snack: banana with almond butter
Breakfast: 2 soft-boiled eggs, a slice of wholemeal bread lightly brushed with butter, bell pepper, and carrot sticks
Lunch: Sweet potato ground beef skillet with lean ground beef
Dinner: Asparagus salad with strawberries and mozzarella
Snack: Low carb carrot muffins
Breakfast: 250g low-fat quark with hot raspberries, 1/2 banana, and 20g cashew nuts
Lunch: Stir-Fried Chicken with Green Vegetables
Dinner: Tuna apple salad with walnuts
Snack: 250g melon
Breakfast: Millet porridge with fruits
Lunch: Wholemeal spaghetti with vegetable sauce
Dinner: Cottage cheese salad with pumpkin seed oil
Snack: apple cinnamon energy balls
Breakfast: 2 slices of wholemeal bread with cottage cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes
Lunch: Chicken breast fans with pesto and zoodles
Dinner: Oven falafel with green salad and herb dip
Snack: Vegan Oatmeal Banana Cookies
Breakfast: banana mug cake
Lunch: Serbian bean soup (vegetarian version) with a whole-grain bun
Dinner: Tomato mozzarella light salad with wholemeal toast
Snack: 200g yogurt with grated apple and hazelnuts
Breakfast: Low carb pancakes with berries
Lunch: beef roulade with potatoes
Dinner: Wholemeal pasta with paprika sugo and feta light
Snack: rhubarb pie
The DASH diet can lower blood pressure and generally have a health-promoting effect. The recommendations are very similar to those of the DGE (German Society for Nutrition). ( 12 )
Since this diet is designed for the long term and is easy to implement, it should be seen more as a change in diet. Due to various possible food combinations, you do not have to do without everything.
Have you tried the DASH diet before? Please write us your experiences in the comments!
Please always remember that you must discuss any change in diet with your doctor beforehand. This is especially true if you have high blood pressure.
Many greetings and see you soon, Nazmul