The DASH Diet: The Best Diet You’ve Never Tried?

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  • The DASH Diet (nope, us neither) has been dubbed ‘Best Overall Diet’ by US doctors, beating weight loss favourites Atkins, Paleo and Dukan to the top spot at the end of 2013. DASH, which was originally developed by Nutritionist Marla Heller (and not the Kardashians, incidentally), stands for Dietary Approaches To Hypertension but was never originally intended for weight loss… So what’s its big secret?

    What is the DASH diet?

    The DASH diet was originally developed as part of a study to find ways of lowering blood pressure without medication but these health benefits have implications on the waist line too, as Nutritionist Katy Mason explains: ‘Early phases of the DASH diet are similar to low carbohydrate diets like Atkins and Paleo, where both would encourage the eating of different types of fats. Later stages of the DASH diet are more like a low GI diet because it contains wholegrains and avoids foods that raise blood sugar levels quickly like refined carbohydrates. Both methods have proven track records with weight loss.’

    When do you eat?

    Phase 1 of the DASH diet takes place in the first two weeks of the programme. It is a low-carbohydrate transition phase, designed to ‘reset’ your metabolism by cutting out wholegrains and fruit. This is known as the fast-effect phase, which can have immediate effects on the waistline in most people.

    Phase 2 follows immediately after, where fruits, starchy vegetables and wholegrains are reintroduced, in order to continue the diet and weight loss, plus lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. In Phase 2, you learn how to sustain the diet as a long-term strategy for reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol.

    Why does it cause weight loss?

    ‘By maintaining a protein-rich diet for the first two weeks, it will help keep your hunger satisfied for longer, that combined with it being low-carb, should kick start your metabolism and start some visible weight loss happening,’ explains NutriCentre expert Katy.

    ‘In Phase 1 of the DASH diet the body, is stimulated to burn fat (instead of glucose) as fuel. This is because there are no carbohydrate intake, so the body has no choice but to burn its stores of fat tissue for energy.’ 

    ‘In Phase 2, the body has been retrained to use a different pathway to make energy. So, when you do start reintroducing carbohydrate (in the second stage) you may experience less sugar cravings, as the body has shifted to burning more fat for energy. ‘

    How do you do it?

    5 daily dietary dos and don’ts for using the DASH diet as a long-term strategy:

    DON’T eat as many high saturated fats like coconut oil and palm oil in salad dressings.
    DO consume low-fat or non-fat dairy as well as artificially-sweetened products such as yoghurt and fruit-flavoured ‘jelly’ (2-4 servings per day).

    DON’T consume as many naturally sugary foods.
    DO increase artificially sweetened foods.

    DON’T eat as many sodium-rich foods and reduce your salt/sodium intake.
    DO decrease your portion sizes.

    DON’T eat as many processed foods but add protein with lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs (1.5-2.5 servings per day).
    DO eat plenty of servings of fruit and vegetables (4-6 servings of each per day). 

    DO snack on nuts, seeds and legumes – these are to be consumed (3-6 times per week).
    DON’T avoid any opportunities to exercise. Walk where you can and increase activity overall.

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    Don’t fancy the DASH diet? How about trying the 5:2 diet.

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