Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet)
8 January 2013
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) has been ranked as the best diet for two years running.
The idea of the diet was originally conceived in order to reduce hypertension. It has also been ranked the best diet for those suffering from diabetes, and many are turning to this diet for weight loss as well.
The DASH diet can lower the blood pressure in just two weeks and is recommended not only by physicians but also by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and The Mayo Clinic among other organizations. The DASH diet encourages the dieter to make lifelong heart healthy choices by limiting saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. The diet focuses on increasing the intake of foods rich in nutrients and minerals that are expected to lower blood pressure. The intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein and fiber are a vital part of this diet.
The DASH eating plan is relatively simple for the whole family to follow as it tells the follower exactly how much of what type of food to consume on a daily basis in order to decrease their blood pressure and lead an overall healthy lifestyle. The diet is divided into similar components as the food pyramid but is more refined in the way that the food groups are described. It is designed to be a well-balanced approach to eating for the general public. This eating plan emphasizes portion sizes, eating a variety of foods and getting the right amount of nutrients.
Here is a sample of what one should eat when following a 2000kcal diet:
Whole grains – 6-8 servings a day. Whole grains include rice, pasta, bread and cereals. One serving is equivalent to one slice of bread or half a cup of cooked rice, cereal or pasta. Whole grains have more fiber and are lower in fat than refined grains, choose these.
Vegetables – 4-5 serving a day. Vegetables are high in nutrients and minerals that are good for the entire body. One serving includes one cup of raw leafy greens or half a cup of cooked or diced vegetables. Fresh, canned and frozen vegetables are all healthy. Try to purchase those labeled low sodium when buying the frozen or canned, for a healthier alternative.
Fruit – 4-5 servings a day. Here is a diet that doesn’t ban fruit for its sugar content, as has become the trend among diets. Fruit is naturally low in fat (except the coconut and avocado) and high in nutrients, minerals and fiber. One serving is equivalent to one medium fruit or half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruits. Leave the peel on the fruit whenever you can as the peel contains additional fiber and nutrients.
Dairy – 2-3 servings a day. Dairy has a high calcium content and is also a source of vitamin D and protein, however it is important to choose the low fat variety as they can create an increase in the fat intake. Examples of one serving include 1 ½ ounce of cheese, onbe cup of skimmed milk or yoghurt.
Lean meat, poultry and fish - 6 or fewer servings a day. While meat is a great source of protein, it can also be a major source of fat and cholesterol so the intake should be limited. One serving of meat is equal to one ounce of chicken, fish or lean meat, one egg, 1 ounce of canned tuna. Always choose heart healthy fish such as salmon or tuna. Trim away any excess skin and fat off the meat and cook it in a heart healthy manner (broiling, boiling, grilling, roasting or poaching instead of frying).
Nuts, seeds and legumes – 4-5 servings a week. Almonds, brazil nuts, kidney beans and the like should not be eaten on a daily basis as they contain a high fat and calorie content. However these foods are also very high in protein, potassium and magnesium and they are full of fiber so they should not be eliminated from the diet. An example of one serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, two tablespoons of seeds or a half cup of beans.
Fats and oils – 2-3 servings a day. Fat is very important as it helps the body absorb fat souluable vitamins and also removes the bad cholesterol from the body. However an intake of fat has to be limited and a distinction must be made between good and bad fat. A serving includes a tablespoon of olive, nut or other vegetable oil, a tablespoon of mayonnaise or two tablespoons of light salad dressing.
Sweets and sugar – 5 or fewer a week. The body does not need sugar at all, however women need sugar to help deal with all kinds of real life situations. So while DASH does not cut all of the sugar from the diet it limits the intake to a weekly serving. One serving of sugar is equal to half a cup of sorbet, 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam or 1 cup lemonade. Always choose a low fat or fat free sweet when dealing with the cravings as this will only assist your diet. These include jelly beans, sorbet, fruit ices and hard candy among others.
The DASH diet seems relatively simple to follow as it does not cut out any major food group, it just asks the dieter to look at food from a heart healthy perspective and make informed choices on what they are eating. Remember that when embarking on any major lifestyle change it is always advisable to seek advice from your GP and get their informed opinion with regards to the diet and the effects of it on your health. Happy dieting!