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This Exact Diet Lowers Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease, Expert Says

A Cleveland Clinic dietitian says your health may improve if you mind just two elements of your nutrition.

When you start a new diet, sometimes it's easy to get caught up in how your body looks—when it's also worth remembering that losing weight and eating better is ultimately about improving your health for the long-term. That's the precise focus of a particular eating plan that a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic says is transformative for a lot of patients who try it. Not only does this list of foods help a lot of people slim down, but science shows this nutritional approach also slashes the risk of some cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

Continue reading to learn about the DASH diet and its benefits, and sign up for the Eat This, Not That! newsletter for the nutrition news you need. Also don't miss One Major Effect Coffee Has on Your Metabolism, Expert Says.

Here's why it's called the DASH diet:

Woman is measuring her mother's blood pressure at home.

According to a Cleveland Clinic blog post featuring insights from Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, the DASH diet is the acronym for Dietary Approaches That Stop Hypertension (which you may recognize as the clinical term for "high blood pressure"). The DASH diet brings an individual's sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day (1,500 milligrams for individuals who need to lower their sodium more aggressively). The DASH diet also increases the amount of potassium one eats, since potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure.

The benefits of the DASH diet are multifold.

Senior tourist couple travellers hiking in nature, walking and talking.

According to the Cleveland Clinic's blog, research has found that following the DASH diet "could lower your risk of" breast cancer, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome (which is a group of conditions that together raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes), heart disease, and stroke.

RELATED: The Surprising Reason Why You Could Get a Stroke

The DASH diet is flexible.

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If strict food regimens aren't super appealing to you, the DASH diet could be a plan that provides healthy parameters, without making you feel stuck or bored. "It doesn't require special foods," Patton said, "and you don't have to go hungry or eliminate treats."

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The DASH diet, in a nutshell:

produce shopping

The DASH diet is definitely not limiting—keep reading to see a few main components. Also, read up on Underrated Exercises Everyone Over 40 Should Do, Says Trainer.


frozen fruit

The DASH diet calls for fruits such as these, which drive the most weight loss, according to science (some which are also found in 40+ Best-Ever Breakfast Smoothies For Weight Loss).


sliced sweet potatoes

These sweet potatoes are just one example of the many potassium-rich vegetables—but there are a lot more in this list of 21 High Potassium Foods That Keep Your Muscles Healthy and Strong.

Whole Grains

Plain bowl of oatmeal and raw oats

Oatmeal is just one of several whole grains with a healthy potassium content. Others include brown rice, buckwheat, and bran cereal. (Gotta love a diet that leaves in healthy carbs!)

What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Oatmeal


Beans legumes and pulses

Legumes like many beans (including black beans) pack a lot of potassium.


mixed nuts

A small handful of nuts can pack a powerful amount of potassium, plus they deliver many other health benefits—read 15 Nuts Better than Supplements and Protein Powder.

Low-Fat Dairy


A 2020 study funded by the National Dairy Council concluded that milk contains nine essential nutrients, including potassium and Vitamin D—read Major Recent Findings About Dairy You Should Know.

Foods to eat less of on the DASH diet:

bbq brisket

The Cleveland Clinic's blog lists fatty meats (think red meat or poultry with skin), full-fat dairy like butter and whole milk, high-sugar foods and drinks, and "oils that are solid at room temperature, such as coconut and palm oils."

There's more good news.


Even if you love the foods on the non-DASH list, Patton says it's not entirely necessarily to quit them all cold turkey or stop enjoying them occasionally.

You might find it impressive that focusing on just two elements of diet can help put your health on a better path. Check out This Is the Best Coffee for Weight Loss, Says an Expert, and keep reading:

Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy
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