The DASH Diet at Pennington Biomedical

5+ Unexpected Facts about How & Why the DASH Diet Works
from the Researchers Who Designed It

Including recipes, pdf printable resources and meal plans

1. What is the DASH Diet? Why isn’t it better known as a weight loss diet?

The original DASH Diet design wasn’t focused on weight loss, although the diet does help with weight loss. In fact, the DASH Diet was developed by a team of more than 160 healthcare professionals and researchers who aimed to discover a dietary “pattern” that lowered blood pressure and still tasted good. They found that a dietary solution to high blood pressure was not only possible, it was very successful.

The "DASH" Diet stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” which is why some call it a high blood pressure diet.

Pro Tip: For those interested primarily in weight loss, our weight loss calculator is available here.

2. Who developed the DASH Diet?

The DASH Diet Collaborative Group members include a world-class group of doctors, registered dietitians and PhD nutrition researchers. Pennington Biomedical’s Dr. George Bray, Dr. Donna Ryan and Catherine Champagne, RD, LD, PhD were among the lead developers and researchers of the diet. The successful study results were published in this 1997 New England Journal of Medicine publication, which has been cited by other researchers almost 6,000 times since.

3. Does the DASH Diet really work?

Dr. Catherine Champagne
Dr. Catherine Champagne

The US News & World Report team of science and nutrition experts has listed the DASH Diet as its #1 diet for many years and it has been among the top 10 for close to a decade. They recognize its long-term success in reducing high blood pressure, improving the health of those with diabetes and as a weight loss diet that also improves health.

  • The blood pressure reduction in original DASH Diet study participants was linked to a 27% less stroke rate and a 15% less heart disease rate.
  • Study participants on the DASH Diet also saw their total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol numbers lower than those on a regular diet.
  • The DASH Diet is not considered a low-carb diet. Even so, participants on the eating plan who were fed more carbohydrates than the regular comparison diet did not see an increase in triglycerides.

“The diet was scientifically proven to be very effective for reducing blood pressure naturally,” says Dr. Catherine Champagne. “The drop in blood pressure in people with hypertension in the study was equal to that achieved with blood pressure drugs common at the time. It was effective for men, women – really all demographic groups you can list.”

4. Are there any certain foods the DASH Diet recommends you avoid?

Vegetables

Besides reducing sugar sweetened beverages and sodium, the DASH Diet is instead focused on increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dietary fiber.

The food plan in the DASH Diet includes:

  • Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy
  • Foods high in potassium – fruits, vegetables and potatoes
  • Foods high in magnesium – nuts, leafy green vegetables
  • Salt or sodium targets between 1500 – 2300 mg/day maximum (and the lower in sodium, the better!)
  • No sugar sweetened beverages and very little additional "sweets" or desserts
  • No supplements were used

5. How much does the DASH Diet cost to follow?

The diet is absolutely free of charge. These resources are available to anyone. In fact, it’s ranked by US News & World Report as an easy diet to follow in part because the foods are easily accessible in most grocery stores or farmer’s markets.

US News & World Report Best Diet Rankings

Badge for DASH Diet OVerall Best Diets as rated by US News & World Report

Beginning in 2011, the DASH Diet was ranked the #1 diet overall for 8 years in a row. As of 2020, the DASH Diet was scored as you see below, being topped only by the Mediterranean Diet by a 10th of a point on a 5 point scale (4.2 versus 4.1).

  • #1 in Best Diets in Healthy Eating (tie)
  • #2 in Best Diets Overall
  • #2 in Best Diabetes Diets
  • #3 in Best Heart-Healthy Diets
  • #6 for Easiest Diets to follow

Twenty-five nationally recognized expert panelists scored thirty-five diets in seven categories. Read more about the DASH Diet 2020 US News and World Report awards.

DASH Diet Menus and Eating Plans

A 20 page DASH Diet pdf booklet including DASH menus and recipes is available for download free of charge.

A 2,000 Calorie Day Menu with DASH Diet recipes can be found on our blog site.

The Dash Diet Eating Plan - A four-page quick-glance pdf of DASH Diet foods developed by Pennington Biomedical registered dietitians and our partners from the LSU Ag Center.

Dr. Champagne reviews the benefits of the DASH diet in this short video.

Here are two sample DASH Diet recipes developed by the Pennington Biomedical Metabolic Kitchen, Renee Puyau, Director; and Catherine Champagne, RD, LD, PhD. Dr. Champagne served on the original DASH Diet Collaborative Group.

SUMMER VEGGIE PASTA

Pairs flavor with nutrients.

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds raw zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta, uncooked
  • 3 pounds raw cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 3/4 cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • Seasoning salt or salt-free seasoning and garlic powder to taste

Serves 9. Cooking instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Spread the zucchini and eggplant on a sheet pan in an even layer, drizzle about half of the olive oil over the veggies, and sprinkle with seasoning salt (or salt free seasoning blend), and garlic powder.
  3. Roast the zucchini and eggplant in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until soft and browned. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot and boil until al dente.
  5. Drain and rinse the pasta, and add it to a large bowl.
  6. When the veggies are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and add them to the bowl with the pasta, along with the cherry tomatoes.
  7. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Toss everything together until combined.

BAKED CATFISH

A Louisiana favorite that doesn’t have to be fried.

  • 3 oz catfish filet
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp seasoning blend (we used Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic Seasoning Blend)

Serves 1. Cooking instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the catfish filet onto a sheet pan.
  3. Rub the filet with olive oil and seasoning blend, and bake it for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.


Acknowledgements:

The DASH Diet study was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

The DASH Diet Collaborative Group is composed of scientists, registered dieticians and physicians from these institutions:
Boston University School of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Duke University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute.