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Saturday, 24 March 2018 17:31

The DASH diet Featured

The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute developed the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. U.S. News & World Report in January 2017 ranked the DASH diet as the best overall diet for the seventh year in a row.1

Standing for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, DASH has been specially formulated to help people lower blood pressure. It is a flexible and balanced eating plan based on research studies sponsored by the institute, which says the diet:

  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Improves levels of blood lipids (fats in the bloodstream)
  • Reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The DASH diet is based on the research studies: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity. Blood pressure control with the DASH diet involves more than just the traditional low salt or low sodium diet advice. It is based on an eating plan proven to lower blood pressure, a plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It emphasizes whole grains and contains less refined grains compared with a typical diet. It is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber. Your doctor may have recommended this eating plan; it is also recommended by2:

  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The American Heart Association
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure

How does the DASH Plan work?

The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure by providing more key nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which are associated with lower blood pressure. These key nutrients are boosted by including more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy in your daily diet. Some people see additional benefits by lowering sodium or salt in their diet. Our book includes additional lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure, such as weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and moderation of alcohol intake.


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What is included in the DASH diet?

The DASH diet eating plan is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes mostly whole grains; lean meats, fish and poultry; nuts and beans. It is high in fiber and low to moderate in fat. It is a plan that follows US guidelines for sodium content, along with vitamins and minerals. In addition to lowering blood pressure, the DASH eating plan lowers cholesterol and makes it easy to lose weight. 

Specifically the DASH diet plan includes3:

Type of food Number of servings for 1600-3100 Calorie diets Servings on a 2000 Calorie diet
Grains and grain products
(include at least 3 whole grain foods each day)
6 - 12 7 - 8
Fruits 4 - 6 4 - 5
Vegetables 4 - 6 4 - 5
Low fat or non-fat dairy foods 2 - 4 2 - 3
Lean meats, fish, poultry 1.5 - 2.5 2 or less
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 3 - 6 per week 4 - 5 per week
Fats and sweets 2 - 4 limited


You can find recipes for the DASH Diet online, in social media or through their books. The Everyday Dash Diet Cookbook4 provides great recipes for breakfast, soups and chowders, salads, protein, side dishes, deserts and even vegetarian meals. Here are some tips and recipes from The Everyday Dash Diet Cookbook:



Never Skip Breakfast. This meal fuels you for the entire day, and will help you stay full throughout the day. Be sure to include protein in the meal to help keep you feeling satiated.

Recipe: Banana-Berry Smoothie

• ½ ripe banana
• ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
• ½ cup low-fat milk
• ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon amber agave nectar (optional)

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.


Soups and Chowders

Soup is nourishing and satisfying. Soups often rely on salty liquid as its base, but the DASH plan recipes use vegetables in their base.


Recipe: Homemade Clam Chowder

• 1 Large red-skinned potato, scrubbed but unpeeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
• 2 ¼ cups water
• 1 teaspoon canola oil
• 2 strips reduced-sodium bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 cups low-fat milk
• ¼ teaspoon thyme
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 cup chopped clams with juice

Bring the potatoes and 2 cups of water to a boil in medium saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until potatoes are barely tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook. Remove and let cool.

Melt the butter in the large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Return the bacon to the saucepan long with the potatoes and their water, the broth, milk, thyme and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the cornstarch over the remaining ¼ cup water, stir until dissolved, and whisk into the simmering soup. Add the clams and their juice and bring just to a boil. Serve hot.


Fruits and vegetables are key to most of the health benefits of the DASH Diet. They are bulky and filling, while mostly being relatively low in calories for their size.


Recipe: Chinese Chicken Salad

• 2 cups packed, shredded Napa cabbage
• 8 ounces Basic Roast Chicken Breast
• 1 large shredded carrot
• ½ medium red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin strips
• 2 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
• Asian Ginger dressing (recipe below)

In a medium bowl, mix well the Napa cabbage, chicken, carrot, bell pepper, and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Stir in the dressing. Divide the salad between two bowls, sprinkle with additional cilantro, and serve chilled.


Asian Ginger dressing

• 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, unpeeled and shredded
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
• ¼ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
• ¼ teaspoon amber agave nectar
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon Asian dark sesame oil

Squeeze the shredded ginger in your hand and extract the juice into a medium bowl. Add vinegar, soy sauce, water, hot pepper and agave and whisk well. Gradually whisk in the vegetable and sesame oils.



Recipe: Beef Fajitas with peppers

• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 lb. sirloin steak, excess fat trimmed, cut into ½-inch thick slices and then into 2-inch wide pieces
• 1 large red bell pepper, cored and cut into ¼-inch wide strips
• 1 large green bell pepper, cored and cut into ¼-inch wide strips
• 1 medium red onion, cut into thin half-moons
• 2 cloves of minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon Mexican seasoning (recipe below)
• 12 flour tortillas or Boston lettuce leaves
• Lime wedges

Spray a large nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add half of the sirloin and cook until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining sirloin.

Heat the 2 teaspoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the beef with any juices and the Mexican Seasoning. Transfer to a platter.

To serve, fill a flour tortilla or lettuce leaf with the beef mixture and squeeze lime juice on top. Roll up and serve.

Mexican Seasoning

• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon granulated onion or onion powder
• 1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small covered container.


Vegetarian Main Courses

Recipe: Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

• 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into bite-sized florets
• 1 ¼ cups elbow macaroni
• Canola oil in a pump sprayer
• 2 cups low-fat milk
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
• 1 cup shredded reduced-sodium mild cheddar cheese
• 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• ¼ cup panko or whole-wheat bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook just until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a wire sieve or skimmer, transfer the cauliflower to a colander; leave the water boiling. Drain well. Pat the cauliflower dry with paper towels.

Add the macaroni to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Drain well.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with oil.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and mustard powder and whisk the dissolve the cornstarch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often to avoid scorching; the sauce will thicken when it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the cheeses and pepper, and whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower and macaroni and mix well. Spread in the baking dish and sprinkle with panko or bread crumbs.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, the serve.


Side Dishes

Recipe: Quick “Baked” Beans

• 1 strip reduce-sodium bacon, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon canola oil
• 1 small yellow onion, chopped
• 1 small red bell pepper, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
• 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
• 1 can no-salt added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 tablespoons no-salt added tomato ketchup
• 1 tablespoon amber agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey
• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Cook the bacon and oil together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 6 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the beans, ketchup, agave and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.



Recipe: Easy Pear Crisp

• Canola oil in a pump sprayer
• 5 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces
• 2 tablespoons amber agave nectar or maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 cup Granola (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly spray an 11x8 ½-inch baking dish with the oil.
Mix the pears, agave, lemon juice, cornstarch, and nutmeg in the baking dish. Bake, stirring after 15 minutes, until the pears are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the granola over the pear mixture. Return to the oven and bake just to heat the granola, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Spoon into dessert bowls and serve warm.

Recipe: Make it your way Granola

• ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon maple flavoring or vanilla extract
• 4 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
• 1 cup dark raisins
• ½ cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, water, oil, cinnamon and maple flavoring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oats and mix until lightly coated.
Spread evenly on a baking sheet.

Bake, stirring occasionally and bringing the toasted edges in toward the center of the granola, until the oats are evenly crisp, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the raisins and dates. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

1National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for seventh year in a row
2The Dash Diet Eating Plan
3What IS the DASH Diet
4The Everyday Dash Diet Cookbook, Marla Heller, MS, RD

The DASH diet was not designed as a weight loss regime. It was designed to reduce blood pressure.


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