In contrast to the majority of diets which are aimed at weight loss, the DASH diet is designed to control and prevent hypertension. The DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is much more flexible when compared to many popular diets. The diet focuses on servings of certain food and nutrient groups, rather than the need to consume or restrict specific foods.
Certain nutrients are encouraged in the DASH eating pattern including potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein, while nutrients that are limited include saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. Food group recommendations include:
- Consume fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains
- Consume low-fat or fat-free dairy.
- Include fish, poultry and beans as protein sources, and nuts and vegetable oils for fat sources.
- Limit high saturated fat foods
- Limit sweets, such as sugary beverages, desserts, and candies
How it works
The DASH diet originated in the 1990s as a result of several National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored research studies.² Scientists were interested in discovering a diet plan to lower blood pressure- without the need for pharmaceuticals. While only recently defined as the diet to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet is truly a pinnacle of the ancient and modern world of eating. The emphasis is on consumption of minimally processed foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
If you’re thinking the DASH diet closely resembles the Mediterranean diet, you are correct! Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy. The main difference between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet is the higher amount of heart healthy fats- such as olive oil, olives, avocados, and nuts. Some people refer to the DASH diet as the “Americanized” version of the Mediterranean diet, as it has fewer specific guidelines and may be easier to follow.
Compared to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the DASH diet recommends following a lower sodium intake of 1,500-2,300mg per day. To meet these recommendations, the average American would need to reduce their sodium consumption in half. Most sodium consumed in the United States comes from salt added during commercial food processing and preparation- which is one of the reasons why the DASH diet emphasizes minimally processed foods.
When it comes to diets, one of the greatest benefits of the DASH diet is that it’s flexible! This eating pattern can be implemented within most lifestyles, budgets, and cuisines. Depending on your current diet, it might only require small shifts to your meals. Additionally, if you are cooking for more than just yourself, it is a diet plan that provides beneficial nutrition for people of all ages.
The health benefits of reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol associated with the DASH diet are rooted in science through clinical research trials. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, it was found that the DASH diet is associated with a decreased risk for all-cause mortality.³ Greater benefits were experienced with those who had medium to high adherence to the diet. Although the basis of the DASH diet is to control and prevent hypertension, benefits were seen beyond blood pressure when following this diet pattern, including decreased mortality from cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. This is likely due to the focus on many important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, as well as being low in sweets, processed meats, and high sodium foods.
Although the DASH diet is very flexible, making significant changes to your diet can be hard to maintain. Depending on what your current diet looks like, making changes may feel daunting. Remember that it is okay to start with one change first, such as adding another serving of vegetables each day, to begin working towards a healthier diet.
How to Do It Better
Studies have found that some individuals may have a genetic advantage when following the DASH diet. For instance, some people may have a greater reduction in blood pressure when following the DASH diet.⁴ These people are “sodium responders”, meaning their blood pressure can be significantly reduced by limiting their sodium intake. However, other people may not experience improved blood pressure despite following a lower sodium diet.⁵ These differences are due to genetic variations- which are taken into account when creating your GenoPalate results.
Using your GenoPalate analysis can be helpful when deciding which diets to try, such as the DASH diet. If you are a “sodium responder”, the DASH diet could be a particularly helpful, natural solution to managing blood pressure.
Eating for Your Genes
What it is
Every person is unique, down to our DNA. If everyone followed the same exact diet, we would all have different outcomes or responses. To better understand these unique differences, we look at your DNA- a science-based blueprint of you! Genes provide us with information about how your body utilizes or metabolizes nutrients such as macronutrients, micronutrients, and substances.
How it works
To decide the best nutritional interventions, we turn to science. We look at peer-reviewed research studies to identify people’s health outcomes when following a specific diet. By analyzing your DNA, we can see specific variations in your genetic sequence that are related to nutritional health outcomes. For instance, you may have a genetic variant that predisposes you to a decrease in waist-circumference when consuming a moderately high-protein diet.⁶ Maybe you have a genetic variant that predisposes you to a lower fasting blood sugar when consuming higher amounts of zinc.⁷
Why go through the burnout of trying diet after diet, when we have the scientific capability of knowing your optimal eating pattern based on your DNA? Eating for your genes means you have an eating plan that fits all your specific nutritional needs. Based on the research, we are able to provide you with nutrition recommendations far more specific than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and far more effective than the latest fad diet.
Eating for your genes not only provides you with macronutrient and micronutrient goals, but we help you put it into action by recommending optimal whole foods. Whether your health goals are focused on weight management, chronic disease prevention, or simply to gain optimal nutrition- nutrigenomics provides a targeted, accurate approach to eating.⁸,⁹
It is important to remember that our genetic information is just one piece of the puzzle that makes up our whole picture of health. Although genetic information can give us great insight to how we can best nourish our bodies, it does not provide us with information about the body’s current nutritional status or current medical conditions. Working with a healthcare provider can help you better understand how to blend your genetic recommendations with your current healthcare plan.
How to Determine the Right Way to Eat for your Body
The best eating pattern for you is one that you can follow and stick to, not one that deprives you. When eating for your genes, you simply are providing the body with more of what it needs, and less of what it doesn’t need. Instead of severely restricting food groups or nutrients, we encourage you to focus on the nutrients your body needs MORE of. The most sure way to identify what your body needs is by looking at your DNA.
The first step to this DNA based eating approach is educating yourself further. To do so, you can learn more by reading this article about how to personalize your weight loss experience or check out this FREE resource to see what personalized nutrition based on your DNA might look like and what it can do for you! You may be surprised at how fast you start to see results when you select the right path for your body and what makes you unique.
1. Vollmer, William M., et al. "Effects of diet and sodium intake on blood pressure: subgroup analysis of the DASH-sodium trial." Annals of internal medicine 135.12 (2001): 1019-1028.
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