• The DASH diet, created to help lower blood pressure and promote heart health, has been consistently ranked by experts as one of the healthiest ways to eat.
  • Nutritionists say the eating plan can also help with weight loss in some cases by cutting out processed foods and sugar.
  • DASH includes plenty of fresh produce, whole grains, and nuts, and a moderate amount of lean meat and low-fat dairy.
  • Here are six food groups you’ll eat a lot of on the DASH diet.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

The DASH diet dates back to the 1990s, but continues to be ranked as among the most healthful ways of eating into 2020. The plan, whose name is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, originated from the National Institutes of Health as a method of helping patients lower their blood pressure.

It favors nutrient-dense foods low in sodium like fresh vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It also includes low-fat dairy and lean meat in moderation.

Although not specifically intended for weight loss, the DASH diet has been shown in some studies to help people lose weight by helping them cut back on processed foods and salty or sugary snacks.

No foods are forbidden on the diet, but the plan suggests limiting sugary items like candy, cookies, and soda to fewer than five servings a week, and limiting alcohol to no more than one serving a day for women and two for men, per CDC recommendations.

The diet also recommends cutting back on red meat, fat, and sodium.

If you are looking to lose, maintain, or gain weight, the DASH diet offers several calorie levels, from 1,600 calories a day to 3,000.

While the diet "is very safe and sustainable for anybody who's looking to eat healthier," registered dietitian Lisa Sasson previously told Insider, a possible pitfall of the plan is that it includes very broad recommendations, and some people may need more specific guidance if they lack experience in cooking or meal planning, according to Harvard Health.

Otherwise, here's what you can expect to eat on DASH.

Produce of all kinds is a foundation of the DASH plan.

Foto: Multi-color veggies from greens and broccoli to sweet potatoes and carrot are encouraged on the DASH diet.sourceAlexRaths/ iStock

DASH dieters are encouraged to get four to six servings of vegetables a day depending on total calorie intake, according to the NIH's DASH diet guide.

Veggies provide vitamins and fiber as well as potassium and magnesium, two nutrients believed to help control blood pressure, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peas, greens, potatoes, and squash can enjoyed on the eating plan, whether raw, steamed, roasted, or otherwise prepared. Just hold the extra salt, since the DASH plan limits total sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day.

High-fiber fruits are also an important part of the diet, including citrus, berries, bananas, and apples.

Foto: Grapefruit is a good source of vitamin C as well as potassium, pectin, and fiber.sourceAfrica Studio/ Shutterstock

The DASH diet also includes a hefty amount of fresh fruit - between four and six servings a day.

Options like apples, bananas, berries, melons, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit offer dietary fiber, which helps to regulate digestion and blood sugar. Fiber can also help lower cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fruits recommended the DASH diet are low on the glycemic index, meaning they release glucose more slowly to avoid creating a spike in blood sugar. However, no fruits are off-limits.

Frozen fruits and canned fruits are also encouraged, so long as they don't come with added sugar or heavy syrup.

You can eat carbs in the form of whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.

Foto: More than half of your daily calories come from carbs on DASH.sourceiStock

In contrast to carb-phobic eating styles like the ketogenic diet, the DASH plan embraces carbs of all kinds, specifically whole grains. Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta contain more fiber and nutrients then more refined alternatives, and also have a lower glycemic index.

The DASH diet recommends six to eight servings a day of whole grains. Minimally-processed grains are naturally low fat, which is important to this eating plan since it strives to limit saturated fat.

Approximately 55% of your daily calories come from carbs on the DASH diet, which is consistent with the US Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines of between 45% and 65%.

Meat is part of the diet, but only lean cuts with fat and skin trimmed away.

Foto: You'll be eating skinless chicken breasts, not crispy chicken wings, on this plan.sourceLauriPatterson/Getty Images

Lean meats provide protein on the DASH diet, including chicken (with the skin removed), low-fat cuts of beef, and fish.

DASH dieters are advised to avoid processed and cured meats, as they tend to be high in sodium and have been linked to increased risk of chronic illnesses like cancer.

Low-fat dairy provides calcium and protein.

Foto: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are fair game on the DASH diet as long as they're low-fat or fat-free.sourcemeaofoto/Shutterstock

Milk, cheese, and yogurt can all be part of the DASH diet, but in low-fat or fat-free versions, as the eating plan aims to reduce saturated fat.

Saturated fat has long been suspected as the source of diet-related chronic illnesses such as heart disease, in part because of its link to "bad" cholesterol in the blood.

Although research is beginning to show fat is less of a dietary concern than previously thought, some cardiologists continue to recommend avoiding saturated fat to reduce the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Dairy is a good source of calcium, which is important for bone health, and protein, a necessary macronutrient your body uses to build and repair tissues.

Nuts, seeds, and legumes round out the eating plan with added fiber, protein, and healthy fat.

Foto: Nuts are a good source of healthy fats, which support heart health.sourceWestend61/Getty Images

Although the DASH diet is low-fat, some dietary fat is needed for a healthy brain and body.

Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts, are a good source of unsaturated fat, which is linked to better cholesterol levels. They also provide protein.

Legumes like beans and peanuts can also provide plant-based sources of protein as well as additional fiber and magnesium, rounding out the DASH diet.

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