DASH Diet: What You Need to Know

DASH Diet Plan

The DASH diet plan is straightforward, especially if you are familiar with the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) newest food pyramid. Luckily, the DASH diet doesn't involve the same rigorous steps and restrictive demands as some other diets. And the "DASH Diet Action Plan" book is specifically designed to help you follow the plan by adding better foods to your refrigerator, providing recipes and helping you choose diet-friendly foods at restaurants [source: DASH Diet].

In order to follow the plan, you'll need to increase your intake of vegetables, fruits and certain dairy products. You're able to eat whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts on the DASH diet, but you should reduce your intake of fats, red meats and foods and drinks that might have too much sugar [source: NHLBI].

If you are on a 2,000-calorie diet, you should be aware of how much of each food group you should consume each day. For whole grain foods, you should eat somewhere between seven and eight servings per day for energy and fiber. For fruits and vegetables, you should eat eight to 10 servings per day. Fruits and vegetables are important because they contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. Dairy is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and protein. And you should plan to have two to three servings of low fat or nonfat dairy products each day [source: Mayo Clinic].

Now that we know which food groups the DASH diet recommends that you get a healthy helping of, let's talk about the foods that'll require you to exercise a little more self-control. When it comes to meats, legumes, fats and sweets, the DASH diet suggests moderation. For meats, fish and poultry, you should incorporate two servings or less per day, but make sure the meat is lean. And when eating beans, nuts and seeds, the DASH diet plan suggests four to five servings per week. Foods that are rich in fats and oils are still essential, but only in small amounts. The DASH diet recommends that you cut back to two or three servings a day of this food group. And finally, deliciously sinful sweets should be limited to five servings or less per week [source: Mayo Clinic].

Read the next page to learn about the possible side effects you might encounter when you go on the DASH diet.