The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet) involves reducing the amount of sodium in your diet, which can treat and prevent high blood pressure.

While the DASH diet is not specifically a weight-loss program, it is a lifelong commitment to healthy living and eating foods high in nutrients that can lower blood pressure, such as calcium and potassium.

The DASH diet and diabetes

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is common in people with diabetes. It can affect up to 50 per cent of diabetics.

Keeping blood pressure low is an important aspect of diabetes management, and through the DASH diet, you could reduce your blood pressure by a few points (mmHg) within two weeks.

The DASH diet also helps protect against diabetes and cancer, as well as complications associated with diabetes, such as osteoporosis, stroke and heart disease.

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) following studies conducted at major US universities.

The studies showed that the DASH diet reduced blood pressure and increased levels of blood lipids, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Over time, the DASH diet could help you lower your systolic blood pressure by between seven and 12 points, which can significantly reduce your risk of health complications.

Weight loss through the DASH diet

The DASH diet was not designed as a weight-loss program but you can still lose weight. Eating healthier meals and snacks can help you shed some unwanted pounds.

The strong focus on vegetables and increased fiber intake encourages you to consume less calories and help you to feel fuller for longer.

What do you eat on a DASH diet?

A variety of different foods can be eaten to ensure you consume the right amount of nutrients. These include:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Nuts
  • Alcohol – two drinks or less per day for men, one or less per day for women

All of these foods are low in sodium and trans fats, while being rich in fiber, protein, potassium and calcium.

Among the products that are not allowed on the DASH diet include red meats, sweets and sugary drinks.

Sodium levels of the DASH diet

There are two eating plans in the DASH diet; the standard diet (2,300 mg of sodium per day) and the lower sodium diet (1,500 mg of sodium per day).

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that sodium intake is less than 2,300 mg per day, but certain groups are advised to lessen their sodium intake further.

You are recommended to adopt the 1,500 mg diet if you are either aged 51 or over, black or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

If you are looking to embark on the DASH diet, you should consult your doctor over which of these two diets will be right for you.