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The DASH Diet for Vegetarians and Vegans

Vegetarian and vegan food

Given that the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has secured the distinction as the healthiest diet and the best diet overall by US News & World Report, and the diet is recommended by the American Heart Association to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, DASH seems to be the way to improve your health and even lose weight. But what if you are a vegetarian or vegan—is the DASH diet for you?

The DASH diet is easy to modify

The DASH diet is doctor-recommended for people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) or prehypertension, and it has been designed for the whole family. So, yes, the DASH diet is for you if you are a vegetarian or vegan and you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney stones, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The DASH diet is a low-sodium, high-fiber, low to moderate fat diet based on a firm foundation of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat dairy. That part fits the bill for most vegetarians, except those who choose not to eat dairy products, and there are nondairy substitutions that can be made.

Yes, the DASH diet includes fish and poultry and small amounts of beef, but plant proteins can be easily substituted for these animal protein sources, even in DASH recipes.

Therefore, with some tweaking, the DASH diet can be modified to fit the needs and desires of both vegetarians and vegans.

Let’s consider the two categories that need adjustments: dairy and meat/fish/poultry. In the dairy department, vegans and vegetarians who choose not to eat dairy can substitute nondairy soy and grain products, such as soy beverages, soy and grain “cheeses,” soy sour cream, and soy yogurt. These products are available in low-fat forms and typically are low in sodium.

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The slightly more challenging category is meat, fish, and poultry, your primary protein source. Fortunately, there are excellent plant protein options, including tempeh (very high in protein and very low in sodium), tofu (fermented, baked, and regular), and seitan, a wheat gluten product, also known as “wheat meat,” that is high in protein, low in sodium, and available in a number of forms that resemble “real” meat.

In the DASH diet, the recommended consumption in the legumes, nuts, and seeds category is 4 to 5 servings per week when following the 2000-calorie-per-day plan. You could substitute an occasional additional meal that includes high-protein beans, lentils, or split peas as a meat/protein option. Two other complete high-protein options are the grains amaranth and quinoa.

A vegetarian/vegan version of a DASH recipe

Taking a recipe from the dashdiet.org website (Blackened Chicken with Berry Salad), it is easy to transform it into a vegan dish. The recipe calls for:

  • A variety of vegetables, such as grated carrots, radishes, tomatoes, peas, strips of bell pepper, and red cabbage
  • Various berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries—your choice)
  • 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast—substitute 4 oz of tempeh
  • 1 tsp blackening spice mixture (low sodium, of course)
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce
  • Olive oil and vinegar or raspberry vinaigrette dressing (low-sodium)

Rub the tempeh with the spice mixture and grill it (or pan sear using spray-on oil in a skillet). Place the romaine lettuce on a large plate. Top with the vegetables and berries. Cut the cooked tempeh into strips and place on top of the salad. Top with your chosen dressing.

The DASH diet can be for anyone who wants to live a healthier life. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can make easy substitutions in most of the DASH recipes using low-fat, low-sodium plant protein products that will give you tasty, nutritious results.

READ ABOUT fake meat and real change


Updated November 19, 2014



Hello there, I am highly interested The DASH Diet for vegetarian and would like to receive a menu plan with recipes for 1,500, 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day. I am looking for a perm solution that can help me to have a better control my sugar and high blood pressure. Many thanks in advance and have a great week! Suwanna
Hi Suwanna: I do not have menu plans with recipes for the DASH diet for vegetarians. If you use one of the many books on the topic, you can make simple substitutions for vegetarian options. Good luck to you and good health!
I'm interested in the Dash Diet for Vegetarian, however I have Low blood sugar issues. Not diabetes, would this diet work for me as well?
Kris: As long as you eat regular meals and enough balanced calories at each meal, there should be no reason why the DASH diet for vegetarians would not work for you. As always, you should check with your healthcare provider with any questions before embarking on a new dietary plan if you have a medical condition.
4 oz boneless chicken? Is that the new cool & uppity "vegan" diet?
Hi. If you notice, I am talking about making a substitution in a recipe that might call for boneless chicken and using tempeh instead. I am illustrating how easy it is to transform a regular recipe to a veggie/vegan recipe.
If you read next to it, it says SUBSTITUE..Not sure if you can read though...So yes vegans love eating chicken these days...
The chicken is not the option for the vegan meal plan. It clearly states afterwards that tempeh is the substitue for the traditional DASH meal plan
I am curious on how a vegetarian or a vegan can make these changes if they can not have soy, or a lot of wheat or gluten? And people with gout can not have a lot of legumes, so really this DASH diet is not for everyone, I was kind of hoping I had found the best diet to help a friend lose some weight and get his blood pressure down, but guess it is back to the drawing board..
Julie: Thank you for your comment. Naturally anyone who has a number of health issues and/or needs will need to make adjustments to just about any dietary plan, as no one plan is perfect. You say your friend cannot have soy and you don't say why, so I cannot address this concern. You also say your friend cannot have a "lot" of wheat or gluten of legumes, so I am assuming he/she can have some? If wheat gluten is an issue, there are many nongluten alternatives--white and brown rice, corn, pure buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, teff, sorghum. Also, some legumes are low in purines and can be consumed safely in moderation by many people who have gout. Perhaps your friend is one of them! Legumes low in purines include garbanzo, lima, red, and pinto. Also consider seeds and nuts as protein sources. A healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about plant-based eating could be of assistance. Good luck and good health!
Thanks for the reply back, wow I wasn't expecting such a great response! :-) He can't have soy because of allergies to it.. Yes he can have some gluten and wheat, once or twice a week is alright for him.. I never knew that buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum was an option! Going to check these out And also thank you for the info on the lugumes that are low in protein, I also didn't think of them as being low in purines, I thought they were all high in purines..Learn some thing new every day!
Julie: You are most welcome. It is kind of you to help your friend. Personally I find that quinoa is a nice option if you are looking for a quick side dish because it cooks up rather quickly and is a good protein source too. A tasty alternative when you get tired of rice! Don't give up....there are so many food options out there, but it requires a little research. Good luck to you.
Julie, Please do look for teff, an ancient grain, at the health food store. One of the smallest grains on earth, it looks like tiny, red quinoa and is very very tasty. It expands a lot in cooking.
I am puzzled by one aspect of substitution. Of course, you can easily find ways to substitute out the animal-based foods with healthier and kinder, plant-based foods. The DASH Diet, as I understand it, depends greatly on the COMBINATION of certain foods. That's why it requires (for my weight range--it's different for folks of different weights) 6 grain servings, 4 vegetables, 4 fruits, 2 dairy, 1 or 2 meats, 2 - 3 servings of nuts and legumes, & 1 sweet. All of these, in small servings are recommended each day! Here's my question: Ordinarily I get a large part of my protein from nuts & beans. Tempeh can be substituted for chicken, but tempeh is soybeans--legumes. The DASH calls for daily meat and legumes only a few times a week. What does substituting beans for meat more than the 2 or 3 servings per week that the DASH allows do to the ratios of the combination? In two months of following DASH closely, eliminating meat, of course, I dropped 7 lbs. AND lowered my blood pressure 28 points. My doctor was astonished and didn't prescribe side-effects medications! Carole
Carole: Congratulations on your weight loss and drop in blood pressure! I love when doctors are astonished when patients use lifestyle changes to achieve excellent results! Concerning your question about meat. I am not a physician so I cannot dispense medical advice. It would appear that what you are doing is working, so why mess with success? You say the DASH diet "requires" the 6 grain servings, etc. but these are recommendations, not set in stone. There is wiggle room! If you are concerned about getting enough protein, you may want to use quinoa or amaranth as one or more of your grain servings. They are excellent protein sources. If you can tolerate gluten, you may also want to try seitan instead of more legumes and cook it in a soy sauce rich broth to make it a complete protein source. It sounds like you are doing great. Continued good health to you!
Can you say just what the substitutions are for vegans (I do eat eggs), amounts, I get 4 oz of protein is 4 oz of tempeh, how about legumes? other than soy milk, what can i substitute for dairy (not chemical layden fake cheeses though), and more nuts? how much. I am 110 lbs, have been eating this way for some time, still 135/75.
so any book options which one are you talking about?
Judy: I don't understand your question. I don't mention any books in the article. Please let me know how I can help with your inquiry.
Would I count soy yogurt as dairy or protein?
Protein Carolyn!! :)