The main aim and benefit of the DASH diet is to reduce high blood pressure. It focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts. It also involves limiting red meat, fat, sugar, and salt.

DASH stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.” A person may choose to follow the DASH diet to manage their blood pressure. It can also offer other health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and helping prevent diabetes.

Read on to learn more about what the DASH diet is, what it involves, and how it can benefit a person’s health.

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The main aim of the DASH diet is to reduce blood pressure. However, it can also help those who want to lose or manage their weight, lower cholesterol, and manage or prevent diabetes.

Important aspects include:

  • portion size
  • consuming a wide variety of healthful foods
  • obtaining the proper balance of nutrients

DASH encourages a person to eat less sodium (the key ingredient in salt), and to increase their intake of magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

These strategies can help lower blood pressure.

DASH is not a vegetarian diet, but it adds lots of nutritious items, such as:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • low or nonfat dairy foods
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • fish
  • poultry
  • vegetable oil

The DASH diet offers numerous possible health benefits.

Heart health

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

Experts who reviewed the DASH diet in 2017, 20 years after its launch, described it as an intervention that could considerably boost the health of the population.

According to the review, if people with high blood pressure followed the DASH diet precisely, this could prevent around 400,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease over 10 years.

Learn about the best foods for heart health.

Weight management

A person may choose to follow the DASH diet to help with weight loss or weight management.

If a person wishes to lose weight with the DASH diet, they may gradually reduce the number of calories they consume. Consuming more fruits and vegetables and eating less meat may also help.

Other benefits

According to a 2023 article, people who follow the DASH diet can reduce their:

These are all features of metabolic syndrome, a condition that also involves:

The National Kidney Foundation also recommends DASH for people with kidney disease.

The DASH diet emphasizes:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • low fat dairy products
  • whole grains
  • some legumes, poultry, and fish
  • limited amounts of red meat, fats, and sweets

It is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.

View the table below for examples of foods a person may consume on the DASH diet and the benefits or nutrition they can provide.

Food groupExamplesBenefits
Whole grainspasta, rice, bread, cerealenergy, fiber
Vegetablesbroccoli, sweet potatoes, greens, carrots, tomatoesfiber, vitamins
Fruitapricots, bananas, dates, oranges, grapes, melonfiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamins
Fat free or low fat dairy productsmilk, cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurtcalcium, vitamin D, protein
Meat, poultry, and fishskinless poultry, lean meats, seafoodproteins, B vitamins, zinc
Nuts, seeds, and legumessunflower seeds, beans, peas, lentils, almonds, peanuts, pistachiosprotein, potassium, magnesium, fiber, phytochemicals
Healthful fats and oilsmargarine, low fat mayonnaise, light salad dressinghelping absorb essential vitamins and other nutrients
Sweetshard candies, fruit punch, maple syrup, sorbetN/A

The DASH diet aims to provide nutrients that can help reduce blood pressure.

The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute recommends the following daily servings for each food group:

Food groupDaily serving
Meat, poultry, and fishUp to 6
Whole grains6–8
Fat free or low fat dairy products2–3
Fats and oils2–3

A person should also aim for 4–5 servings of nuts, seeds, peas, and dry beans each week. They should consume 5 or fewer servings of sweets each week.

How much sodium a person should consume each day will depend on whether they are following the standard or low sodium DASH diet.

People consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day with the standard DASH diet.

The maximum sodium intake is 1,500 mg each day when following the low sodium DASH diet.

As people reduce their salt intake, they should also eat more foods that contain potassium. Potassium helps the blood vessels relax, and this can lower blood pressure. Adults and children aged 4 years and older should aim to consume 4,700 mg of potassium each day.

Learn about foods rich in potassium.

A person may wish to contact their doctor or a registered dietitian before they begin following the DASH diet. They can advise on how the diet may benefit their health, as well as offering tips on creating meal plans.

Some general tips include the following:

  • Make sure there is plenty of color on the plate.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, and nonfat or low fat dairy foods.
  • Have at least two side dishes of vegetables.
  • Prepare fruit-based desserts, rather than pastries.
  • Instead of using salt, add flavor to dishes using herbs, spices, or fragrant fruits and vegetables.
  • Focus on an overall eating plan, rather than specific dishes, to get a variety of nutrients.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the DASH diet.

Are eggs in the DASH diet?

A person can eat eggs if they are following the DASH diet. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests that a serving size is 1 egg.

Are potatoes OK on the DASH diet?

A person can eat potatoes when following the DASH diet. They provide a good source of potassium.

The dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet can help a person manage their blood pressure. It also offers other possible health benefits, such as weight management, lowering cholesterol, and reducing the risk of diabetes.

The DASH diet focuses on consuming whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, lean poultry, fish, nuts, and beans. A person following the diet should avoid red meat, fat, and sugar. How much sodium they should consume will depend on whether they follow the standard or low sodium DASh diet.

A person can contact their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice before beginning the DASH diet. They can help them create a suitable eating plan and advise on how the DASH diet may benefit their health based on their individual circumstances.