It’s an easy, safe and useful plan that can help you feel better and reduce blood pressure.
DASH was named the number 1 for “Best Diets Overall” for the eighth year in a row in 2018 and tied on number 2 “For Diabetes” out of 40 diets tested in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Diets” rankings
What Is the DASH Diet?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s currently promoted by the U.S.-National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it was developed specifically to reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension .
This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes moderate amounts of meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans. It limits sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats.
It increases the intake of potassium, magnesium, protein, fiber, nutrients believed to help control blood pressure.
It’s one of the three recommended diets in the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines, it’s considered as a well-balanced approach to eating for the general public.
Types of DASH diets
The main goal of the DASH diet is to reduce the amount of sodium consumed daily. A normal American diet can contain as much as 3,400 mg of sodium per day. The 2 main DASH diets are:
- Standard DASH diet: up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.
- Lower sodium DASH diet: up to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Potential benefits of a DASH diet
Besides reducing blood pressure, the DASH diet is beneficial for other health issues. It can reduce cholesterol, prevent stroke and heart failure, it might also bring weight down to a healthy level.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It is one of the vital signs along with respiratory rate, heart rate, body temperature, and oxygen saturation .
Blood pressure that is too low is called hypotension, pressure that is consistently high is called hypertension and normal levels of blood pressure is called normotension.
Long-term hypertension can cause illnesses like, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Normal resting blood pressure in an adult is about 120 millimeters of mercury systolic, and 80 millimeters of mercury diastolic, or just 120/80 mmHg.
A reading of 140/90 mmHg is considered as high blood pressure
Around 50 million people in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide are affected by high blood pressure.
The DASH diet showed that dietary changes can reduce blood pressure in moderate hypertensive adults by an average of 5.5 mmHg systolic and 3.0 mmHg diastolic. Hypertensive adults showed reductions in blood pressure of 11.4 mm Hg in their systolic and 5.5 mm Hg in their diastolic phases.
Might help you lose weight
The DASH diet is not a weight-loss program, but it certainly provides a healthy way of eating that might help you lose a bit of weight.
Following the diet will make us reduce sugary foods and drinks, by doing so we might immediately cut down our calorie intake and in turn lose weight
Other potential benefits
The DASH diet might offer other health benefits beside lowering blood pressure
- Reduces cholesterol– partial replacement of carbohydrates with either protein or unsaturated fat proved to reduce cholesterol
- Prevents stroke and heart failure – by reducing blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol we will also reduce coronary heart disease risk
- Prevents and aides diabetes – Studies show that it improves insulin resistance and helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
What to eat on a DASH diet
There’s no cutting out or starving involved, we can have all sorts of tasty dishes. It’s not about the quantity of the food as much as it is about the quality. We just need to keep in mind a few general rules that the NHLBI provides as a sample plan for daily 2000 calories
- 6-8 servings of grains or grain products
- 4-5 servings of fruits
- 4-5 servings of vegetables
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy foods
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils
- 2 or fewer servings of meat, poultry or fish
We also need to watch out for the following weekly limitations :
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds or dry beans
- a maximum of 5 servings of sweets and food with added sugars
Grains can be bread, oatmeal , rice, pasta, etc. A few examples of one serving of grains can be 1 slice of whole-wheat bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, 1/2 cup cooked cereal like rice or pasta.
It’s also important to focus on whole grains instead of processed grains. We should use brown rice instead of white rice, whole grain bread instead of white bread.
Vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Examples of one serving can be a cup of raw leafy green vegetables, 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables rich in fiber.
Fruits are packed with fiber, potassium and magnesium and are typically low in fat. One serving of fruit can be one medium fruit, 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit (just make sure it doesn’t include any added sugars). Also 4 ounces of juice can be counted as a serving.
Low fat dairy foods
One serving can be 1 cup of skim or 1 percent milk, 1 cup low-fat yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces part-skim cheese. Dairy products are a major source of calcium, vitamin D and protein.
Fats and Oils
A serving can be 1 teaspoon of soft margarine, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing. The DASH diet limits the total amount of fat to less than 30 % of daily calories, keeping in mind that we need to focus on the healthier monounsaturated fats.
Meat Poultry or Fish
meat, poultry or fish
Meat can be a good source of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc
Examples of one serving can be 1 egg, 1 ounce of cooked meat, poultry or fish.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll need to control yourself, you don’t have to stop eating sweet foods completely just no more than 5 times a week. Examples of one serving can be 1 of tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, or 1 cup lemonade.
If you are used to drinking coffee or tea with added sugar, you will need to cut down a bit or try to substitute with artificial sweeteners, although it is not highly recommended.
nuts, seeds or dry beans
Food in this family are excellent sources of magnesium, potassium and protein. They’re also full of fiber and phytochemicals, which may protect against some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Examples of one serving can be a third of a cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds or nut butter, or 1/2 cup of cooked beans or peas.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day and women to one or less.
Caffeine can cause your blood pressure to rise at least temporarily. The DASH diet doesn’t address caffeine consumption, so we might want to ask a medical professional for advice given our individual circumstances.
Is this diet for Everyone?
The reduction of sodium associated with the DASH diet can reduce blood pressure, in both individuals with and without hypertension.
The DASH diet requires us to plan our own daily menus based on the allowed servings. If we are not used to meal planning or cooking, we may need a bit of help from a medical professional to guide us through the process.
The NEJM study reports that some individuals might experience constipation as a problem.