How the DASH Diet Can Help with Diabetes

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

Rest assured that diabetes will change your life, but it’s usually preventable, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can be part of the solution. With its emphasis on healthy whole foods and limits on sugary foods and snacks, the DASH diet is a great fit for people with diabetes.

Critics of DASH cite its relatively high carb count, but it’s important to remember that not all carbs are the same, and the fiber content of DASH is quite beneficial to anyone with diabetes. DASH includes plenty of nutritionally rich complex carbohydrates, including fruits, veggies, and whole grains, but it mostly eliminates sugary sodas and other sweetened drinks and highly processed foods.

The DASH creators weren’t dummies. They realized that everyone needs to sneak in a little treat from time to time, so the diet allows for up to five not-so-healthy snacks per week. It’s up to you to make those goodies count.

You don’t just have to take our word that DASH works. Several important studies have evaluated the effect of DASH on type 2 diabetes. In the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (a mouthful if there ever was one), over 850 non-diabetic individuals ages 40 to 69 filled out a detailed food questionnaire.

After five years, those whose diets were most like DASH were 70 percent less likely to become diabetic compared to those whose eating habits strayed the farthest from the diet.

In a study published in 2011, a cooperative endeavor between American and Iranian researchers, people with diabetes who spent eight weeks on DASH

  • Dropped blood sugar levels nearly 30 points

  • Lowered LDL cholesterol 17 points

  • Increased HDL cholesterol more than 4 points

  • Lowered systolic pressure nearly 14 points

  • Dropped diastolic pressure nearly 10 points