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What is the Mediterranean DASH Diet?

two cartoon hands, one holding unhealthy food on a platter and the other holding healthy food.

The typical American diet includes large amounts of processed foods, salty snacks, and sugary drinks. This type of diet is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that a healthy diet and moderate physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of these serious chronic health conditions. 

The Mediterranean and DASH diets are two proven dietary approaches that can help prevent hypertension (high blood pressure) and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

In this article, we will look at these diet plans and their health benefits. We will also talk about what foods you can eat and what foods to avoid if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle inspired by these eating plans.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is modeled on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Research has shown that people in the Mediterranean region have better health and a lower risk of many chronic diseases; especially cardiovascular diseases. Health professionals, therefore, recommend eating a Mediterranean diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.

What are the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet?

A Mediterranean diet is a great way to practice healthy living. Studies have shown that this diet can help you lose weight and improve cardiovascular health. It can prevent type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. A Mediterranean diet is healthy and nutritious, but it’s also delicious!

What foods are included in Mediterranean diets?

Mediterranean diets focus mainly on plant-based foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs. Low fat or fat-free dairy products and lean protein (poultry, fish, and seafood) are included in moderate amounts. The main source of added fat in a traditional Mediterranean diet is olive oil. Red wine is included in moderation, too.

What foods to avoid in a Mediterranean-style diet?

Here are some foods that you should avoid or eat in limited quantities if you want to follow a Mediterranean diet:

  • Red meat, deli meats, and processed meats
  • Refined grains (white bread, white pasta, chips, crackers)
  • Trans fats (found in processed or packaged foods)
  • Foods with added sugar such as cookies, cakes, candies, ice creams, and sodas
  • Convenience meals and fast foods such as granola bars and microwave popcorn

Tips on eating the Mediterranean way

Here are some tips on planning meals modeled on the cuisines of Mediterranean countries:

  • Make vegetables and whole grains the focus of your meals.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week.
  • Eat fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Eat heart-healthy fats like avocado.
  • Use olive oil (which contains monounsaturated fat) to prepare food.
  • Eat lean meat like poultry in moderation.
  • Eat dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk) in moderation.
  • Eat red meat and processed meat very rarely.
  • Make water your main beverage.
  • Drink fruit juice in moderation (check labels for added sugar)
  • Moderate consumption of coffee and tea is okay (be mindful of how much sugar or cream you add to these beverages).
  • Limit sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas and iced teas. 
  • You can include a glass of red wine every day!

What is the DASH diet?

The full form of DASH is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Experts have developed the DASH eating plan to treat or prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and is one of the signs of metabolic syndrome, a collection of conditions that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

What are the benefits of a DASH diet?

Randomized controlled trials have shown that a DASH eating pattern can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. It can also help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

What foods are included and excluded in the DASH diet?

The DASH diet focuses on eating foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These nutrients help to control blood pressure. The DASH dietary pattern limits foods high in sodium (salt). 

Other foods included as part of DASH healthy eating habits are fresh fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of dietary fiber, whole foods like whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds. 

Foods to avoid on the DASH diet included packaged and processed foods, snacks with added sugars, and saturated fat. 

As you can see, there are many similarities between the DASH and Mediterranean diets.

How much salt can you eat on a DASH diet?

The average American eats 3,400 mg or more of salt a day. The DASH diet restricts sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day, which is roughly 1 teaspoon of table salt.

A stricter version of the DASH eating pattern limits sodium to 1,500 mg a day. 

If you are not sure how much salt you should consume, talk to a registered dietitian or healthcare provider. 

Tips on reducing sodium intake

You can lower your sodium (salt) intake by:

  • Reading food labels and choosing low-salt or salt-free products
  • Using salt-free flavorings like lemon juice
  • Not adding extra salt to meals
  • Eating fresh vegetables
  • Eating more protein in the form of lean cuts of meat, fish, and fresh/frozen skinless poultry, which contain far less salt than processed meats

It can take time for your palate to adjust to the taste of a low-salt diet like DASH. But cutting back on processed meat, packaged snacks, and other high-sodium foods is the key to the DASH way of eating, and if you stick with it, you’ll start to enjoy this form of healthy eating.

Plant-based diets like the DASH and Mediterranean diets are proven approaches to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve heart health. The best diet for you is a healthy eating plan you can sustain. Always obtain professional medical advice from a healthcare provider before starting any new diet plans.


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456#