The DASH Diet: A Look at the Research

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is widely recommended to help prevent and manage high blood pressure.1,2 The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and milk products as part of a healthy eating pattern. Decades of research indicate that the DASH diet is the most effective dietary approach for managing blood pressure.3-8

Belle sélection de produits laitiers, fruits, légumes et protéines frais

Leading health authorities highlight healthy eating habits as a priority to help manage high blood pressure and heart disease risk. Hypertension Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend the DASH diet to manage and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.1,2

The DASH diet is a healthy eating pattern that includes 8 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits and 3 servings of milk products every day.3-5 This evidence-based diet emphasizes potassium, magnesium and calcium, three minerals that play a role in healthy blood pressure control. It also includes foods that provide protein and fibre such as whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

The original DASH diet study

The original landmark DASH diet study published in 1997 showed that the DASH diet reduced blood pressure twice as much as a diet high in vegetables and fruit, but low in milk products.3 The DASH diet included about 2 servings of low-fat dairy foods (milk and yogurt) and about 1 serving of regular-fat dairy (cheese), as well as 8 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit daily.

In practice

Health authorities such as Hypertension Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend the DASH diet to help prevent and manage high blood pressure.1,2

  • The DASH diet is a healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruit and milk products.3-5
  • Extensive evidence shows that DASH diet is the most effective dietary approach to reduce blood pressure.6-8
  • Several variations of the DASH diet have been shown to be effective, including one with high-fat instead of low-fat dairy foods.5,9,10

Recent evidence

Studies have found that the DASH diet is more effective for lowering blood pressure than other diets including low-sodium and Mediterranean diets.6-8 A 2020 review, that examined all of the available evidence on many different dietary patterns, confirmed the DASH diet, high in vegetables, fruits and dairy foods, was associated with the greatest overall reduction in blood pressure.7 Another 2019 review also found the DASH diet to be the most effective diet to lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure as well as those who are pre-hypertensive.8

Modified DASH-style diets

A number of studies have also demonstrated that modified DASH-style diets can be as effective as a standard DASH diet in terms of blood pressure lowering.5-7 That is when the core components of the original DASH diet, such as servings of vegetables and fruits and milk products, are retained. These modified DASH-style diets allow for more flexibility in food choices to suit personal preferences.

The OmniHeart study compared the effects of different variations of the DASH diet. This study found that replacing some carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fat, in a DASH-like diet, led to similar or greater reductions in blood pressure as the standard DASH diet.9 These DASH diet variations also improved blood lipids.

The BOLD diet study found that DASH-style diets that included lean beef effectively lowered blood pressure and improved blood lipids to a similar extent as a standard DASH diet.10

Another study compared the effects of a high-fat version of the DASH diet, including high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy, to a standard DASH diet.5 The high-fat version compensated for higher fat by lowering energy from carbohydrates primarily by reducing sugars from fruit juices. This study found that the high-fat version of the DASH diet lowered blood pressure as much as the standard DASH diet, without having an adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Watch the webinar on the DASH diet here.

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