What is the Mediterranean DASH Diet?
The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are two popular diets for heart health. Despite their many similarities, the two diets have distinct characteristics that differentiate them from one another.
Because of this, some people may want to take a more flexible approach by combining the diets into one diet, also known as the Mediterranean DASH diet.
By combining the two diets, you get the best of both diets along with potential health benefits. Keep reading to learn more about the Mediterranean DASH diet and how to make it work for you.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is mostly a plant-based diet that provides heart health benefits.
The diet is based on traditional diets of people residing in the Mediterranean region and includes a variety of plants, heart healthy fats, and seafood.
Emphasizing heart health, the Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming minimally processed foods that are high in unsaturated fats.
Additionally, the Mediterranean diet discourages:
- highly processed foods
- most sources of saturated fat (including red and processed meats)
- added sugars
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Adhering to the Mediterranean diet is associated with positive health benefits including reductions in cardiovascular disease and improvements in blood pressure (1).
The diet also emphasizes minimally processed foods and lower intakes of added sugars which may aid in weight management.
Additionally, as a mostly plant-based diet, the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits including higher amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and additional health-promoting compounds from plants.
Foods to include on the Mediterranean diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Unsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, avocados, and seeds)
- Dairy (on a limited basis)
- Poultry and eggs (on a limited basis)
Foods to avoid on the Mediterranean diet:
- Added sugars
- Highly processed foods
- Red and processed meats
What is the DASH Diet?
The differences between the DASH and Mediterranean diet are subtle and may leave you wondering – is the DASH diet the same as the Mediterranean diet?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
The DASH diet is a diet that’s intended to help people with high blood pressure manage their condition through diet. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins from plants and animals. The diet differs from the Mediterranean diet in that it’s more liberal with animal-based proteins and dairy.
However, there are multiple similarities to the Mediterranean diet including the limits placed on highly processed foods, added sugars, and foods high in saturated fat.
Benefits of the DASH Diet
Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet has heart health benefits, specifically related to blood pressure management. The diet is also associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (2).
The DASH diet is also a plant-based diet which offers health benefits associated with higher fiber intake, improvements in satiety, and the potential for improved long-term weight management.
Foods to include on the DASH diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy
- Lean animal-based protein (poultry, fish)
- Plant-based protein (beans, soy)
- Unsaturated fats
Foods to avoid on the DASH diet:
- Foods high in sodium
- Foods high in added sugar
- Foods high in saturated fat
What is the MIND Diet?
Combining the Mediterranean and DASH diets gives you a diet called the MIND diet.
The MIND diet emphasizes foods from each diet that have been associated with brain health improvements.
Generally, the MIND diet is intended to lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The diet encourages high intakes of leafy greens and berries. Significantly, it encourages frequent intake of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and fish.
Like both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, the MIND diet discourages intakes of red meat and foods with added sugar.
Benefits of the MIND Diet
As mentioned above, adhering to the MIND diet is associated with reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Specifically, is beneficial for heart health, blood pressure management, weight management, and diabetes prevention as it is based on the Mediterranean and DASH diets (3,4).
Foods to include on the MIND diet:
- Fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on leafy green vegetables and berries
- Whole grains
- Nuts and other unsaturated fat sources
Foods to avoid on the MIND diet:
- Red meat
- Saturated fats (butter, full-fat cheese)
- Foods with added sugars
- Fried foods
MIND Diet Sample Day
Below is a sample day of eating on the MIND diet. Note that calories vary from person to person and portion sizes will vary based on individual needs.
1 piece of whole wheat toast
¼ avocado, mashed
½ cup arugula
squeeze of lemon
1 hard boiled egg
Massaged Kale Salad with Salmon
2 cups kale, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup roasted chickpeas
lemon vinaigrette made with olive oil
4-5 ounces of fresh grilled salmon
Black Bean Burger
Homemade black bean burger patty with black beans, onion, oats, and seasoning
Whole grain bun
Toppings: sliced avocado, spinach, tomato
Side of roasted green beans tossed with olive oil and black pepper
Comparing the Mediterranean MIND Diet & DASH Diet
Mediterranean DASH Diet: Reducing Oxidation and Inflammation
Both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are associated with reduced inflammatory markers.
The Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on unsaturated fats from fish and other sources is associated with reduced inflammatory markers (5).
The same is true for whole grain and fiber intake which is a benefit of both the Mediterranean and DASH diets.
Combined, the Mediterranean DASH diet (MIND diet) plays a role in reducing inflammation which is beneficial to heart health.
Mediterranean DASH Diet: Brain Health
Additionally, the Mediterranean DASH diet is known for its brain health benefits.
In one study, followers of the MIND diet showed a reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (6). Other studies found that the MIND diet helps with reduced cognitive decline that’s associated with aging (7).
Research shows that diet may play a role in beta-amyloid protein deposits in the brain with diets that are higher in antioxidants and unsaturated fats, which have shown to have a protective effect.
Higher deposits are associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (8).
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, the Mediterranean DASH diet is an excellent diet if you’re looking to promote both brain and heart health while also combining the research-backed benefits of both the Mediterranean and the DASH diet.
This diet may be a great choice if you’re looking for a plant-based diet that will support your health over the long-term.
Are you looking for a heart healthy meal plan that is easy to follow? Grab my free 1 week Mediterranean meal plan here.
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