Skip to main content
Medically Approved

What are the benefits of the DASH diet?

twitter share buttonfacebook share buttonlinkedin share buttonemail article button
What is the DASH diet?BenefitsTips to help you follow the planOther treatmentsSummary
The DASH diet emphasizes fresh foods low in sodium and trans fats. Research shows it can be beneficial for those with hypertension because it can reduce blood pressure levels.
Medically reviewed by Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD
Written by Cathy Lovering
Updated on

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a flexible eating plan with a focus on fresh and nutritious food. Eating according to the DASH guidelines can help lower blood pressure and levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The diet includes a wide range of foods, which may make it easier to adapt to. In addition to its emphasis on specific food choices, the diet recommends a certain number of servings for each food category. You can start by making changes slowly and gradually making a more comprehensive diet shift. 

To support heart health and reduce blood pressure, it may also be beneficial to add other measures to your lifestyle. This includes limiting alcohol if you drink, quitting smoking if you smoke, and engaging in physical activity. A doctor might also recommend medications for hypertension. 

What is the DASH diet?

A plate of salmon and kale to depict the benefits of the DASH diet.
Nadine Greeff/Stocksy United

The DASH diet is an eating plan that may help support good heart health. It offers general guidelines for foods to eat and foods to avoid, along with recommended portion sizes.

Foods to eat on the DASH diet include:

  • vegetables, fruits, whole grains
  • low fat or no-fat dairy
  • fish, poultry
  • nuts, seeds, vegetable oils

Foods to avoid on the DASH diet include:

  • fatty meats
  • full-fat dairy
  • sugar-sweetened beverages
  • sweets
  • sodium 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you may want to aim for the following portions:

  • 6–8 daily servings of whole grains
  • 6 or fewer daily servings of meat, poultry, or fish
  • 4–5 daily servings each of fruits and vegetables
  • 4–5 servings per week of nuts, seeds, and dry beans. 

The DASH diet plan recommends choosing foods that are low in sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats. Foods you eat should ideally be high in protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

Man on phone in bed

100% online care

Treatment plans in 15 minutes or less for 40+ conditions.

Start consult now

What are the benefits of the DASH diet?

The DASH diet can help treat hypertension by lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can contribute to improved heart health.

A 2020 review of studies found that the DASH diet reduced blood pressure regardless of whether a person had hypertension. The review also found that having a higher daily sodium intake and being a younger age could increase the blood pressure-lowering effect of the DASH diet.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the diet can also slow the progression of kidney disease. Yet, if you already have chronic kidney disease, it’s best to speak with a doctor or dietitian, if you have access to one. The DASH diet is not appropriate for people who are on dialysis.

Tips to help you follow the DASH diet

You can adjust the DASH diet in several ways to make it easier to follow. This includes making changes to the diet to meet your individual needs, such as avoiding foods you may have an intolerance and allergy to.

Tips that may make it easier to follow the DASH diet include:

  • slowly increasing your fiber intake to avoid bloating or gas
  • reducing sodium slowly if you find it too difficult to reduce it all at once
  • flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt
  • grilling, steaming, poaching, or roasting food instead of frying
  • choosing fewer processed foods like canned, frozen, or packaged mixes
  • reading food labels to learn about serving sizes
  • keeping a food journal to track your serving and sodium intakes

You can ease into the DASH diet by making small changes at first and gradually increasing your intake of heart-healthy foods

Other treatment options

Several other treatment methods can help treat hypertension, such as:

Pill bottle with text 'Starts at $4'

Free prescription coupons

Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.

Get free card

Medication options

To help treat hypertension a doctor may recommend taking medication. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most people who take medication for high blood pressure take more than one type of medication. 

First-line medications for high blood pressure include:

Several other drug classes are also available to treat high blood pressure. A doctor might recommend one of these or a combination of medications. Examples include:

  • beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal)
  • peripherally acting alpha-adrenergic blockers, such as doxazosin (Cardura)
  • centrally acting alpha adrenergics, such as clonidine (Catapres)
  • renin inhibitors, such as aliskiren (Tekturna)

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

Lifestyle measures

In addition to adopting a nutritious eating plan such as the DASH diet, a doctor might also recommend incorporating certain measures into your lifestyle to help lower blood pressure. These include:

  • if you drink alcohol, avoid or limit your intake
  • get regular exercise
  • aim for a healthy weight
  • if you smoke, consider quitting
  • manage your stress levels
  • get good-quality sleep 

Even small changes can make a big difference to your blood pressure. According to the NIH, losing even 3–5% of body weight over a period of 6 months can help.


The DASH diet is a flexible eating plan that focuses on fresh food that’s low in salt and unhealthy fats. The diet recommends several portions of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day, with a few servings a week of nuts, seeds, and dry beans. 

There is research evidence to show the DASH diet helps reduce blood pressure. In addition to changing eating habits, other lifestyle measures can also help support good heart health, including exercise, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol.

Many medication options can also help treat hypertension. First-line treatments include diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs.

If you regularly experience high blood pressure levels, consider speaking with a healthcare professional to better understand your treatment options.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

Article resources