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Does the DASH diet work for weight loss?

The DASH diet is often prescribed to people with hypertension (high blood pressure). It is very low in salt and centred around whole foods which are high in minerals and vitamins.

It has been shown to decrease blood pressure and possess various health benefits. It is also beneficial if you are trying to lose weight.

Keep reading to learn more about this diet and how it works for weight loss. You can also access our free DASH diet meal plan if you’re not sure how to get started.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by Silvia Fonda Last reviewed 27-11-2023

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. As implied in the name, it was originally devised to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

Salt is very limited in the DASH diet, with a 2300 mg allowance per day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt). At the same time, it promotes the intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts.

The word ‘DASH’ with a variety of balanced, healthy foods.

This diet encourages foods rich in minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium because of their positive effects on hypertension, while limiting foods high in salt, added sugars and saturated fats.

It is also mostly made up of foods which are beneficial for weight loss, by avoiding overly processed items and foods that are very dense in calories.

Is the DASH diet beneficial for weight loss?

One study conducted on overweight or obese patients with hypertension demonstrated a significant decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat content and other markers. The study took place over 3 months.

Furthermore, findings from another 3-month study found that the DASH diet can also be used as a tool to preserve muscle strength while reducing fat mass in obese older adults.

A review Trusted source Wiley Online Library Peer-reviewed Journals Multidisciplinary Research Go to source of studies done up to 2015 also concluded that the DASH diet acts as a good option for weight reduction in overweight and obese participants.

Other benefits

The DASH diet does more than lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Similarly to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet also helps to:

  • lower blood sugar
  • reduce high cholesterol
  • aid in weight loss
  • reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • reduce the risk of heart disease

What foods are part of the DASH diet?

The DASH consists mostly of whole foods that are dense in nutrients. Food groups include:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • herbs and spices
  • fats
  • meat, fish, or plant protein
  • dairy and eggs
  • beans and legumes
  • grains

The following graphic displays a variety of examples from each food group. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to this diet, choose from the foods listed below and add them to your shopping list:

An infographic displaying foods included in the DASH diet

Foods to avoid

You should avoid eating some foods entirely when following the DASH diet. This is because, even when they are consumed in moderation, they may still impact your blood pressure. Cutting out these foods is also beneficial for weight loss.

Foods to avoid (DASH diet)
Foods high in salt (smoked fish, anchovies, bacon, sausages) black fish icon
Foods high in added salt (crisps, snacks, salted peanuts, salted butter, fast foods, ready meals) chips packet icon
Sauces (soy, ketchup, mayonnaise) Sauces icon
Fats and oil (such as whole dairy fats and deep-fried foods) french fries icon
Sweets and added sugars sweet sugar icon
Alcohol and caffeine wine glass icon

What does a DASH diet meal plan look like?

If you’re planning to start the DASH diet, whether it’s to help with hypertension or with weight loss, why not follow this meal plan?

An infographic displaying a DASH diet meal plan

You don’t have to stick to this plan exactly, but it may help you by providing several meal examples.

Remember, always opt for low-sodium versions if possible (like low-sodium soy sauce or low-sodium turkey). The same goes for low-fat dairy products.

Can I do the DASH diet if I’m vegetarian?

The DASH diet composition emphasises non-processed and fresh foods. What separates it from the Mediterranean diet is that there’s an additional focus on a daily salt limit.

It’s entirely possible to follow the DASH diet if you are vegetarian. Instead of meat and fish, ensure you are eating ample amounts of plant protein (such as tofu, tempeh, beans, and legumes).

A healthy vegetarian salad containing chickpeas.

You can also increase your protein intake by eating eggs and low-fat dairy products including yoghurt and cottage cheese. Kefir is also high in protein, and being a fermented product possesses additional gut health benefits.

You should also pay attention to your intake of iron, B12, and omega-3. This is because animal products are usually the prime sources of these nutrients.

Main takeaways

The DASH diet focuses on a low salt intake to address high blood pressure.

As you cut down on processed salty foods and start to include foods richer in other minerals (such as potassium, calcium and magnesium) several benefits have been recorded among which, is weight loss.

Dr silvia  fonda

“It may take some time for your taste buds to adjust to a lower salt intake, but once you do, you will feel the benefits.”
- Silvia Fonda, a registered nutritionist

For more useful weight loss tips from our registered nutritionist:

Further reading

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