A diet that is supposed to lower blood pressure – can it actually work? How sustainable is such a change in diet and does it also take into account other nutritional principles that are important for long-term health? The Dash diet recommends eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, white meat, fish, poultry, nuts and beans. Sugary drinks and sweets as well as red meat should be avoided in this diet.
The Dash Diet – Diet for High Blood Pressure
The Dash diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA. The goal of this diet is to lower blood pressure through dietary changes 1 , because a large part of the US population has to struggle with this phenomenon. The cause of high blood pressure lies primarily in an unhealthy lifestyle: lots of sugar, wheat, industrially processed foods, trans fats, too few vegetables and fiber and an unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (read more here healthy fats and a healthy breakfast ) are problematic.
In everyday life, these are associated with high blood pressure and increased LDL cholesterol levels. Lack of exercise and mental challenges (negative stress) are also among the causes.
NHLBI studies have shown that the Dash diet (ideally combined with more exercise) has many advantages over the typical American diet. Among other things, it was found that the test subjects' blood pressure and LDL cholesterol decreased measurably 1 .
Dash Diet Shopping List – Diet for High Blood Pressure
Even though the word Dash diet sounds like a strict eating plan, the diet is different from other diets. It's much more about a balanced diet with some basics on the basis of which you should develop a sustainable diet. The meal and weekly menu examples provided are intended to be representative of the nutrients represented in the Dash Diet 1 . A diet consisting of the following foods should keep blood pressure and LDL cholesterol low:
+ Whole grain products
+ White meat
+ Low-fat and fat-free products
Which foods to avoid if you have high blood pressure?
Should be avoided:
Saturated fatty acids (palm oil, coconut oil, butter)
Whole milk products
In addition, around 2000 calories daily are recommended.
Does the Dash Diet Work?
The study clearly says that changing your diet to the Dash diet lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. Nevertheless, the formulation from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute was also adopted in the first section, which has the advantages of the diet compared to a “typical American diet”. The typical American diet is known to consist of a lot of sugar, industrially processed foods, unhealthy processed trans fats and little fruit, vegetables, organically produced meat such as grass-fed beef or good fiber. In addition, the average citizen in the United States generally doesn't exercise enough - let alone do more intensive sports on a regular basis. Added to this are mental stress and sleep problems and the combination of all these things results in a lifestyle that leads to overweight/obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and increased LDL cholesterol levels and consequently promotes cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
So if the diet is switched to more natural foods and, above all, sugar, bad fats and some processed meat products are eliminated from the diet, it is not surprising that the measurable parameters mentioned change positively. The Dash diet is definitely more health-promoting than the “typical American diet.” However, it also contains some outdated diet principles that current scientific evidence contradicts...
Possible criticisms of the Dash diet
The first possible problem on the menu is the beans. They belong to the legumes and therefore contain so-called Antinutrients . These can, among other things, inhibit digestive enzymes and block the absorption of micronutrients. The second point worth mentioning is fruit, because too much fruit can also be problematic: fructose is metabolized differently and - especially if you are overweight and don't exercise much - is converted into body fat or into glucose, which is the... blood sugar level messes up. Fruit and vegetables themselves have many health benefits, but this is often misunderstood and many ignorant people start drinking smoothies every day. These drinks often use 4 to 5 fruits per serving, which corresponds to far too high a fructose intake.
The third outdated nutritional recommendation of the Dash diet is to greatly reduce dietary fats. Because today the scientific situation is clear: naturally occurring fats are essential and must be consumed regularly. Among other things, they are responsible for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the formation of hormones, maintain cell membranes, stabilize blood sugar and promote intestinal health. A long-term low-fat diet can have serious health consequences such as hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, weakening of the immune system and intestinal problems.
However, it is important that natural, native fats are used and not industrially processed ones that have been heated, deodorized or even hardened (as they occur in ready meals).
The fourth possible problem with the Dash diet is dairy products: reduced-fat cow's milk products are recommended, which (as well as non-reduced fat ones) are now increasingly being discouraged: they are usually problematic, especially for the health of the intestinal mucosa, and can cause inflammation promote, trigger immune reactions, worsen the complexion and irritate the hormonal system. More about this in the article about the “ Leaky Gut ”.
The Dash diet definitely has health benefits for people who have developed very unhealthy eating habits, consuming lots of sugar, processed foods, few vegetables, and lots of hydrogenated unhealthy fats. It can improve this problem in people who already suffer from high blood pressure. However, it is better not to generalize diets and you can naturally lower your blood pressure with slightly different nutritional principles without consuming fat-free cow's milk products.
1 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: DASH Eating Plan - Also known as Dash diet. [ https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan ; 09.09.2021]