According to the US Center for Science in the Public Interest, unhealthy diet habits account for around 678.000 deaths in the US every year.  Besides, an unhealthy diet can be considered to be a leading cause for the development of hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease (KD), diabetes, and other health conditions, including cancer. 
Some of the most common unhealthy eating habits include the overconsumption of foods high in hydrogenated fats, sodium, processed meat, refined grains, as well as foods and beverages with added refined sugars. 
One particular diet focuses on changing those eating patterns to prevent the development of chronic diseases and improve the quality of life of individuals who already suffer from hypertension, KD, diabetes, etc.: DASH diet.
What is a DASH diet?
DASH is an abbreviation for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” It is not a typical short-term diet, but an eating plan that individuals adopt for a long period of time, or for life. According to NHLBI, this eating plan doesn’t focus on excluding specific macronutrients or food groups, but rather sets daily and weekly nutritional goals emphasizing healthy foods you should be eating such as minimally processed fresh foods rich in micronutrients and fiber. 
What are DASH diet foods?
Here is a list of the main foods that DASH plan includes:
- All fruits
- All veggies
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or 0 fat dairy foods
- Fish and seafood
- Plant based proteins such as nuts and seeds, beans and lentils
- Unsaturated and unrefined oils (olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil)
DASH diet limits the consumption of the following 4 food types:
- Foods high in saturated fats (like red meat, beef or pork fat, butter, coconut oil, full-fat dairy foods)
- Foods rich in trans/hydrogenated fats (packaged foods like processed meat, flavored popcorn, fast food, some crackers, baked goods, savory and sweet snacks)
- Foods and beverages with added sugar.
- Foods with high sodium (salt) content (those are also often processed foods)
How much should you eat on DASH diet?
NHLBI has published the following daily DASH goals for a 2000 daily calories diet  :
- 6-8 servings of whole grains
- Up to 6 servings of poultry, fish, or non-fatty meat
- 4-5 servings of fruits
- 4-5 servings of veggies
- 2-3 servings low or 0 fat dairy foods
- 2-3 servings of healthy oils
- Up to 2.300 mg sodium
The number of servings depend strongly on your age, recommended calorie intake, and activity level. So if you decide to adopt this eating regime, it’s important to have a consultation with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider and follow his/her advice.
Most people find the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables to be overwhelming. The DASH diet suggests consuming 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day! This may seem daunting at first, but people find success when starting small and working their way up. For example, if you are eating only 2 servings of fruits and vegetables right now, aim for 3 servings!
I like to think of each meal and snack as an opportunity to slip in a few servings of fruits or vegetables. Having pasta for dinner? Make sure to add a side salad and maybe even add vegetables into the pasta dish. Making a quick sandwich? Add some lettuce or tomato and a side of carrot sticks. Craving something sweet? Enjoy some fresh, juicy fruit instead of a cookie. These small changes make a big difference in the end!
Who should follow the DASH diet?
Even though the name of DASH eating plan suggests it is suitable only for people with hypertension, this diet has shown very positive effects on individuals suffering from other health conditions related to high blood pressure.
Evidence suggests that following a DASH diet may slow the progression of the following diseases and improve the overall quality of life of the patients  :
- High total or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
- Kidney disease (only for patients who do not have high potassium, which is more likely for people with KD stage 5 or those who are on dialysis)
- Heart disease
Learn how dietary protein consumption affects kidney disease in our dedicated article!
How to adopt DASH diet?
The National Kidney Foundation gives some useful tips on how to make DASH eating plan easier for you! 
- Use more spices (instead of salt) to enrich the flavors of your dishes.
- Read the food labels to recognize fat, sugar, and sodium content.
- Make your plate colorful (include various types of veggies, fruits, and nutritious foods)
- Swap your processed snacks with healthier versions. For example, choose whole grain crackers without much added salt or made with virgin olive oil instead of regular crackers.
Disclaimer: This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the counsel of a medical doctor.