The DASH Diet

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How does the DASH diet lower blood pressure and promote weight loss?

The DASH diet is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber; and has a low content of sodium (salt) and saturated fat. Adding more of these nutrients improve the electrolyte balance in the body, allowing it to excrete excess fluid that contributes to high blood pressure. These nutrients also promote relaxation of the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. These nutrients are often deficient in overweight and obese people, so the DASH diet can help correct those deficiencies and help people feel better. By itself, some people may lose weight with the DASH diet, but most will need to add exercise or further reduce carbohydrates to see big weight losses. The good news for people with diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance is that the DASH diet does improve insulin sensitivity.

The DASH diet guidelines from the original research study specified two levels of sodium reduction.

  • The DASH diet phase 1 limited sodium to 2300mg, or about 1 teaspoon per day.
  • The DASH diet phase 2 further reduced sodium to 1500mg.

To reach the goal of phase 2, the person should avoid all table salt and avoid adding any salt to cooking. We tend to get more than the recommended amount of sodium when we eat packaged or processed foods or when eating or dining out. Salt is the major source of sodium in the diet, and we can usually refer to the two words interchangeably unless we are discussing specific biochemical processes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/10/2016

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