You may have heard the DASH diet being recommended for patients suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension. Yes. Indeed, the DASH diet is a well researched diet plan to lower blood pressure and is possibly also useful in reducing the risk of many other lifestyle related disorders. It is based on the research studies – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).
The DASH diet is not just about reducing the salt intake, but it is a proper therapeutic eating plan, aimed at lowering blood pressure, blood cholesterol, weight management and improving insulin sensitivity. Most of these conditions are risk factors for heart disorders, stroke, kidney disorders and diabetes.
About The DASH Diet
The DASH diet is recommended by most of the health and dietary institutes for disease prevention and health promotion. In fact, this is considered as an ideal healthy diet for everyone by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The ideology of the DASH diet is simple and clear. It emphasizes more on vegetables, fruits, whole grain foods, nuts, poultry and fish. It promotes trimming of all saturated fats and cholesterol rich foods and suggests inclusion of low fat dairy foods. Another most important part that the diet focuses on is limiting sodium and sugar intake, sugar laden foods or drinks and red meat.
The main idea behind this diet is to provide the chief nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are linked with lowering blood pressure as compared to sodium, which can increase your blood pressure. Hence, the DASH diet promotes consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and low fat dairy products, which provide the chief nutrients, while reducing the intake of sodium and fat rich foods.
How To Start The DASH Diet?
The first step towards incorporating the DASH diet is to analyze your present diet pattern. You can maintain a food diary to make note of the foods that you are regularly consuming; this will help you to understand your present eating habits. Include all the food items that you eat, their quantities and at which time of the day.
Write down about your snacking habits, for example, munching something while watching television, drinking colas or packing a small snack while on the go or skipping breakfast, etc. This will give you an idea of what and how you are eating currently. Then, based on the DASH diet, you can slowly make changes in these patterns.
The DASH Diet Meal Plan
The DASH diet provides an eating plan based on the calorie intake and usually provides plan for 1600 calories, 2000 calories and 2600 calories. The total daily calorie intake is based on your age, gender and level of physical activity.
Following types of foods are included in a DASH diet and a sample of an average 2000 calories per day diet plan is given as below.
- Whole Grains – 6 to 8 ounces daily
(1 oz portion includes ½ cup cooked rice or pasta, 1 ¼ cup dried cereal or 1 slice of bread)
- Vegetables – 2 to 2 ½ cups daily
- Fruits - 2 to 2 ½ cups daily
(½ cup includes 1 cup green leafy vegetables, 16 grapes, ½ cup raw, frozen or canned vegetables or fruits or 4 oz of 100 % juice.)
- Low Fat Dairy And Milk - 2 to 3 cups daily
(1 cup is 8 ounces of milk or yogurt)
- Poultry, Fish And Lean Meat – 6 ounces or less daily
(1 oz is 1 egg or 1 oz cooked fish or chicken)
- Legumes, Nuts And Seeds – 4 to 5 portions per week
(1 portion is ½ cup cooked lentils, peas or beans, 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons peanut butter or ½ oz seeds)
- Oils – 2 to 3 teaspoon daily
(For e.g. 1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil)
- Sugars – 5 tbsp per week
(Example of 1 serving is 1 tablespoon sugar, jam, jelly or 1 cup lemonade)
- Sodium – use sparingly
(1 teaspoon of salt, which is 2,300 mg of sodium daily)
- Alcohol – use sparingly.
In case of canned foods and juices, it is important to read labels and make sure that they are low sodium preparations.
Dietary Tips for the DASH Diet
Some Handy Tips That Can Be Of Great Use To You While Following The DASH Diet Include:
- Add whole grains and products to your diet. For example, whole grain cereals, bread or pasta, oats, brown rice, etc.
- Include servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner. Add more green vegetables and beans to your meals.
- Fruit servings work the best when taken alone; so they can be included as a mid-meal snack or can also be added it to your meal.
- Replace whole milk and full fat dairy products with low fat milk and milk products.
- Restrict meat intake; prefer fish and lean meat cuts.
- For better snacking options, choose plain nuts, raisins, vegetable salads or low fat yogurt instead of cookies or other junk foods.
- Limit salt intake and use herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme instead.
- Read labels while shopping and have shopping list at hand; check canned foods, choose low sodium, low fat foods.
- Make sensible choices and eat in moderation while dining out in restaurants.
Having said about all this, the most important part of staying on DASH diet is to enjoy the foods that you are having. Keep making a note of the foods that you are adding to your diet and review it to make the necessary changes.
The fact is that the DASH diet does not take away foods from your diet but gives you a variety of healthy options and flavors to choose from. There are many quick cooking ways and you get a chance to be creative while planning your DASH meal. So, focus on the foods that you can have and enjoy them.