The DASH diet, the Book(s) ... and food facts/lists and tips

I discovered The DASH Diet (which the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute created in 1997), whilst searching the web for healthy food guidelines, to help bring my blood sugars down to target.  Although this diet was designed to lower blood pressure (DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), you can't ignore the evidence that it also helps cholesterol as well as blood glucose in Type 2 Diabetes (see clinical paper published on diabetes and American National Institute of Health's brochure on blood pressure).  As these three conditions unfortunately can occur together (with disastrous consequences, e.g. stroke or heart attack), it seemed to be the easiest to actually live with (thanks to the book which you can buy from Amazon (USA) and the (free) brochure, as well as an App for SmartPhones), as well as being safe, coming highly recommended by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and The American Heart Association, as well as being ranked #1 Best Diabetes Diet and #1 Best Diet Overall by US News Best Diets (an independent panel of 22 experts, including nutritionists, dietitians, cardiologists and diabetelogists reviewed 20 popular diet profiles that were developed by reporters and editors at U.S. News and World Report. Categories were then created to rate the nutrition plans, including Best Weight-Loss Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Best Diabetes Diets, Best Diets Overall and Best Commercial Diet Plans.)

Links to the Book (by Marla Heller):

The DASH diet book (official website)

The DASH diet book on Facebook (official page)

Amazon UK or Amazon (USA)

I also found this book called The DASH Diet for Hypertension by Thomas Moore and Mark Jenkins.

In a nutshell ... the DASH Diet is: (based on 2100 calories per day)

low in:

sodium                              (no more than 1500mg recommended if diabetic)
saturated fat                      (6% of calories)
cholesterol                        (150 mg)
total fat                             (27% of calories)


fat free/low fat milk           (skimmed or semi-skimmed)


whole grain
poultry                             (no skin)


red meat                          (lean)
added sugars                   (e.g.  on cereal, in cooking)

rich in:

potassium                       (4700mg)
magnesium                     (500mg)
calcium                          (1250 mg)
protein                           (18%)
fibre                               (30g)

and carbohydrates        (55%)

Thanks to The DASH Diet Book, there is a Checklist Form here which you can fill out (weekly) to make sure you're on track, as well as a very simple chart here which shows you how many servings of each food type you should eat per meal or per day.  All you need to do is select how many calories you should be consuming per day (either to maintain, gain or lose weight.  Or to subsist you should you be very active.)  This should be used with the serving sizes chart here.

Alternatively, you can use the forms provided within the US Department of Health and Human Services brochure here.

To help me write my shopping lists for the week and to get the best out of The DASH Diet, I have written out a list of food, which identifies which foods are "Diabetes SuperFoods", marking whether some are low or high GI and highlighting which vegetables or fruit are particularly rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium or fibre.

  • Porridge F, GI (oats stabilize blood sugars)
  • Nuts F, GI, M, D (especially Walnuts  D, P)
  • Seeds F, GI, M (Pumpkin Seeds are extraordinarily rich in M)
  • Legumes F
  • Raisins HGI
  • Beans F, GI, Ca, M, D
  • Chickpeas F, GI
  • Kidney Beans F, GI, P
  • Lentils F, P
  • Apples F, GI, C, P, M
  • Apricots P, M F
  • Pears F
  • Strawberries F, P, M, GI, D
  • Plums GI
  • Kiwi Fruit (Chinese Gooseberries) GI
  • Blueberries F, D, GI
  • Whole Grain Bread F, M
  • Barley F
  • Couscous F
  • Brown Rice F, GI
  • Weetabix and whole grain cereals F, GI
  • Carrots F, HC, M, P, HGI
  • Zucchini F, LC
  • Tomatoes F, LC, P, M, D
  • Whole wheat pasta F, GI
  • Pitta Bread F
  • unsalted popcorn F, HC
  • All-Bran F, LC
  • Raspberries F, D, GI
  • Avocado F, GI, LC, P
  • Artichoke, globe and Jerusalem  - C (and contain insulin-like substances, therefore helpful in diabetes)
  • Banana P, M, F, HGI, D (green are better than ripe)
  • Grapes P,M, F, HGI
  • Oranges P, M, F, HGI, D
  • Tangerines P, M, F, D
  • Grapefruit P, M, F, GI, D  (do not eat if taking statins)
  • Chicory - helps blood sugar / hypoglycaemia
  • Garlic - LC, Ca, D (lowers blood sugar levels)
  • Spinach LC, M, P
  • Cabbage LC, GI
  • Mushrooms LC, P
  • Cucumber LC, P
  • Asparagus LC
  • Peppers LC, GI
  • Onions LC, D (lowers blood sugar levels)
  • Lettuce LC, GI, P
  • Green Beans LC, F, P, M
  • Cauliflower LC
  • Salsa LC
  • Green Peas HC, F, P, M
  • Potatoes HC, P, F, M, HGI
  • Sweetcorn HC, HGI
  • Beetroot HGI
  • Sweet Potatoes GI, HC, P, F, M, D
  • Squash HC, F, P, M
  • Broccoli F, P, M, Ca, GI, D
  • Figs F, Ca (eat in moderation as high in sugar)
  • Papaya F, Ca
  • dark green, leafy vegetables F, M, D
  • Halibut M
  • Chocolate M (in moderation)
  • Whole Grains M, D (found in bread and cereal)
  • Mango HGI
  • Dates HGI (eat in moderation as high in sugar)
  • Pears HGI
  • Cantaloupe P
  • Chamomile and Cinnamon Tea D

Fats:  (27% of diet)

Healthier options are:  corn or olive oil
Fatty fish P (eat twice a week)
lean meat
low fat or fat free milk D, P
low fat or fat free yoghurt D, P
You can eat (daily) 1 tsp margarine, 1 tsp vegetable oil, 1 tblsp low fat mayonnaise AND 1.5 oz reduced fat cheese, 1 cup low fat milk, 1 cup low fat yoghurt 


C = lowers cholesterol, D = Diabetes SuperFood, M = rich in magnesium, P = rich in potassium, GI = low GI, HGI = high GI, LC = low carb/non-starchy veg, HC = high carb/starchy veg, F = high fibre, Ca = rich in calcium*

* Diabetics eating a high fibre diet need more calcium

Warning - Diabetics should not use reduced or low sodium/salt products because these contain potassium chloride which is harmful to anyone with this condition.


magnesium increases insulin sensitivity and improves cholesterol
rinse canned tuna to remove some of the fat content
ripe fruit and vegetables have higher sugar content
fructose has minimal effect on blood sugars
avoid white flour
stir-frying is a healthier option
opt for wholegrain instead of wholemeal bread
don't buy diabetic foods (expensive and unnecessary)
cinnamon helps BP, helps regulate blood sugars and helps lower cholesterol.  half tsp daily = 14 mg calcium) - add to toast, yoghurt, porridge, apple slices or drink cinnamon tea
avoid trans fats
avoid partially hydrogenated oils
increase monounsaturated fatty acids
reduce saturated fats (means more than 5g per 100g)
low saturated fat means less than 1.5g per 100g
polyunsaturated fats are found in some margarines, sunflower oils, peanut butter and oily fish
monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut butter and avocado
unsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels

Tips to reducing salt in your diet:

rinse canned foods (e.g. tuna, olives, beans)esp if kept in brine
limit cured food (e.g. bacon and ham)
limit mustard and ketchups (high salt content)
avoid:  MSG, soy sauce, broth, anything pickled, cured or smoked
flavour food with herbs, spices, lemon, lime or vinegar
check your labels, especially frozen dinners, pizza, canned soup and salad dressings

don't skip meals
space meals evenly
don't eat too much of one food

half your plate = non-starchy (low carb) veg
one quarter of your plate = starch/carb (rice, potatoes)
one quarter of your plate = fish, chicken, eggs, low fat cheese and occasionally lean red meat)
8 oz skimmed or low fat milk
low fat/no-fat yoghurt
extra piece fruit
small wholegrain bread roll
1 piece of fruit
(max. depth of food on your plate = palm of hand/deck of cards)

don't add sugar to food
avoid squash/cordial drinks, coke, lucozade, ribena, chocolate, sweets, jam, honey, fancy cakes, cream biscuits, puddings containing sugar, tinned fruit in syrup and jelly (jello)
eat regular meals with plenty of starch (bread, potatoes, cereal, rice, pasta) AND vegetables
don't use diabetic products (instead use sugar free drinks, tinned fruit in own juice or fruit juice), reduced sugar jam (jelly), sugar free jelly (jello), diet fruit yoghurt

Additional resources:

Low GI Health - informative Australian site

Checkout the Useful sites/Resources section of this blog (on the left hand side) for other helpful advice and tools, e.g. Diabetes UK "shopping basket"

Sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself Range

Diabetic Living Online recommend the following carb intake for:

A Woman Who Wants to Maintain Weight
The recommended carb range:
3-4 carb choices per meal
(45-60 g carbs per meal)

If you feel like you need a snack between meals, choose one that has less than 7-10 grams of carbohydrate per serving.
Carb Tip: Don't skip a meal. "When you miss a meal, you don't forget about missing that meal," Kernodle says. "You tend to then overeat at the next meal. If we spread meals out, we tend to be able to manage weight more efficiently."