DASH Diet vs. The Ketogenic Diet

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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If you are looking for a change in your eating habits, you must be wondering which type of eating plan is the best for you. While there are many different diets, two of the most popular ones are keto and the DASH diet.

While they might have different approaches, they can have similar results. Both look to improve your health by managing chronic health conditions (like diabetes or high blood pressure) and help you reduce some weight.

Let’s talk about the similarities and differences between them, the benefits, side effects, foods permitted, and costs to help you make a more informed decision.


What is the DASH Diet?

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” Its primary focus is what the name suggests, stopping hypertension (high blood pressure). 

According to the CDC, over 47% of adults have hypertension. If not treated, it could be a silent killer leading to a heart attack, stroke, or other heart-related complications.

The DASH diet emphasizes the foods you should be eating to control your high blood pressure. It encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and seeds), as well as lower consumption of salt.

On the other hand, it limits the intake of saturated fats, full-fat dairy products, and sweets.

In addition to describing the foods that you can eat in this meal plan, it also focuses on the nutrients that you are supposed to take. Calcium (from dairy) and potassium (from fruits and vegetables) are encouraged since they can help reduce high blood pressure.

A high sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure. The standard DASH diet recommends having no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (1 teaspoon of salt). People at high risk for heart disease are encouraged to drop this to no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.


Similarities between the DASH diet and keto

Managing chronic conditions

When it comes to managing diabetes, high cholesterol, or triglyceride levels, both diets are effective.

They can help reduce insulin resistance, which leads to better glucose control in people with diabetes. However, one distinction is that while you can follow the DASH diet if you are insulin-dependent, the ketogenic diet might not be the best approach.

They can also help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which aids in reducing the risk of heart disease.

DASH diet and keto for weight loss

Although the primary focus of DASH is not weight loss, you may see a decrease in your weight thanks to eating fewer highly processed foods. Thus, with both diets, you can get significant weight loss.

However, you might experience greater weight loss during the first weeks of doing keto, followed by a slower, steadier loss after a couple of weeks. On the other hand, the DASH diet can provide a steady weight loss for weeks.

DASH diet and keto on hypertension

Both can be good options for those looking to reduce high blood pressure. By eliminating processed foods, you significantly reduce the intake of sodium. Additionally, weight loss can help in managing your blood pressure.


Differences between the DASH diet vs. keto

Different macronutrient distribution

One of the most significant differences in the macronutrient distribution. On keto, you have a low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat approach. It uses a distribution of 5-10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70-80% fats.

On the other hand, the DASH approach has a very different macro distribution. It promotes 55% carbs, 18% proteins, and 27% fats. This makes it a higher carb, moderate protein, and moderate fat approach.

No food restrictions

While the keto limits or restricts several foods, especially those that are high in carbs, the DASH diet doesn’t necessarily eliminate foods. For example, you don’t have to entirely eliminate saturated fats, but you must make sure to decrease the amount you consume.

Ketosis state

Since the DASH diet has a high carb intake (55%), it won’t make you go into ketosis. On the other hand, since carbs are highly reduced when following a keto, you stop using glucose as the primary energy source and rely instead on ketones.


Benefits of the DASH diet and keto

While they are different approaches, they can have very similar benefits when it comes to health. Here are the most common positive effects that may come with following either of these diets:

  • Weight loss
  • Possible reduction of high blood pressure
  • Reducing sugar cravings
  • Potential to Improve insulin sensitivity
  • May improve symptoms of PCOS

There is ample research that backs up the health claims and benefits that you can get from these diets. However, each person makes different food and lifestyle choices even when following the diet guidelines. So, individual results can vary.  

Side effects of the DASH diet and keto

Since DASH follows a more balanced approach, there are no negative side effects to be aware of when following this type of meal plan. On the other hand, you might experience several side effects when going into ketosis. Here is a list of the most common ones:

  • Keto flu. During the first couple of days, you might experience fatigue, headache, nausea, or foggy brain.
  • Constipation. Reducing the carb intake can significantly reduce the fiber intake. Thus, some people might experience constipation.
  • Too restrictive. For some people, following a keto might be hard since there are more limitations when it comes to eating out.
  • Nutrient deficiency. If you are not careful to find nutritious replacements, removing certain foods can reduce the nutrients that you are consuming.


Keto vs. the DASH diet foods

Another significant difference when it comes to keto and DASH plans is the foods you are permitted or not permitted to eat. In keto, you might be able to consume certain high-carb foods as long as you measure the portion size and keep track of how many carbs they provide.
You can consume almost any food on a DASH diet, as long as you make sure to keep your consumption of saturated fat, sugar, and alcohol low.

Beans and legumes In moderation Allowed
Condiments and sauces Allowed (low-carb) Allowed (low-sodium)
Dairy Allowed (low-carb) Low fat / fat free
Sugar-free drinks Allowed Allowed (low-sodium)
Sugar-sweetened beverages Not allowed Limited
Alcoholic drinks Allowed (low-carb) In moderation
Eggs Allowed Allowed
Fish and seafood Allowed Allowed
Fruits In moderation Allowed
Grains and starches In moderation Allowed
Herbs and spices Allowed Allowed
Meat and poultry Allowed Allowed (lean cuts)
Nuts and seeds Allowed Allowed
Oils and fats Allowed In moderation
Processed foods Limited Limited
Sugar-free sweeteners Allowed Allowed
Natural sweeteners Not allowed Limited
White and brown sugars Not allowed Limited
Starchy vegetables In moderation Allowed
Non-starchy vegetables Allowed Allowed


Although there are some differences when it comes to the foods permitted, you can combine the two and do a DASH keto eating plan. This means having a low-carb approach but choosing those foods that are higher in calcium, potassium, and low in sodium.

To determine whether a food is low in carbs, you can look it up on our keto-friendly food list to ensure that it is ketogenic.

Keto vs. DASH diet costs

Both have very similar costs. Since it has a higher carb intake, the DASH diet can be somewhat cheaper since grains typically are less expensive.

However, it depends on where you buy your food. For example, if you opt for an organic or grass-fed approach, your grocery bill might be higher no matter which eating plan you are following.

To reduce spending, make sure that you are buying local products and foods that are in season.

Which plan is healthier?

Although they can both be great options when it comes to weight loss and managing chronic illness (like high blood pressure), the DASH diet may be a better recommendation — for some people, having less restrictions while still knowing which types of foods to reduce might be an easier and healthier option.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the keto is not healthy. It can be a good choice for those who can see themselves following it in a sustainable and long-term way.

Bottom line

Whether it is for the weight loss benefits or for controlling high blood pressure, both diets can be part of a healthy change. However, it’s best to choose the one that you can see as a lifestyle and not only a diet to follow for a couple of weeks.

If you feel better with a low-carb approach, then keto is ideal for you. On the other hand, if you don’t like to have restrictions, then you might go with the DASH diet.

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