The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (commonly referred to as the DASH Diet) is the standard-of-care diet recommendation for blood pressure (BP) control by the American Heart Association. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods, restricts saturated and total fat, and is lower in sodium. Another promising diet is a very low-carbohydrate (VLC) diet, also known as a ketogenic or “keto” dietary pattern, which is a very low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, higher-fat diet. A VLC diet has been found to decrease BP, and it is recommended as an option for glycemic control and weight loss by the American Diabetes Association.
A recent study performed at the University of Michigan and published in the Annals of Family Medicine compared the DASH diet and VLC diet to determine which diet had a better impact on lowering systolic blood pressure. No studies to date have directly compared a DASH vs VLC diet for efficacy in improving measures of hypertension, diabetes, and weight loss in this population. The results of this small study found that the VLC diet led to greater improvement in estimated mean systolic blood pressure.
What is a low carb diet?
A low-carb diet means that you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of protein and fat. This can also be called a keto diet. However, not all low carb diets result in ketosis.
- Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground and natural fats (like butter).
- Avoid: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes).
Eat these foods when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. It can be that simple. You do not need to count calories or weigh your food.
Impacts on Disease: DASH Diet and Low Carb Diet
For this study, the subjects on the very-low-carb diet were recommended to limit carbohydrates to 20 – 35 grams of non-fiber carbohydrates per day with the goal of being in ketosis, when your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates. The DASH diet called for limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg daily and fat intake to 20% – 30% of calories per day. Participants were asked to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Both diets led to improvements in participants’ conditions, but the very-low-carb diet led to much greater impact on health. Almost 44 percent of subjects from one of the groups eating a very-low-carb diet were able to decrease or discontinue medication for hypertension, compared to just 5 percent in the DASH group.
DASH Diet v. Very Low Carb Diet: A brief overview
|Low Carb Diet
|Limits sugars, including sugar in fruit
|Limits added sugars
|Eat plenty of vegetables, except for starchy ones
|Eat plenty of vegetables, especially those rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium
|Limits all grains
|Eat plenty of whole grains
|Fatty meats are allowed
|Lean proteins and fish are allowed
|No fat limit
|Low-fat dairy allowed
|No sodium restriction
|Allowed 2,300 mg of sodium
|20-57 grams of carbs allowed
|No carb limit
If you are faced with hypertension and type 2 diabetes, trying a low carb diet may help you better manage your condition and even reduce dependence on pharmaceuticals. Talk to your healthcare provider for a solution that can work for you.