DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium that help lower blood pressure.
By following the DASH diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop, which can make a significant difference in your health risks.
Because the DASH diet is a healthy way of eating, it offers health benefits besides just lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is also in line with dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The DASH eating plan
- Emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains
- Includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limits foods that are high in saturated fat. These foods include fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
- Limits sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
The DASH diet calls for a certain number of servings daily from various food groups. The number of servings you require may vary, depending on how many calories you need per day.
The DASH diet suggests getting –
Grains: 7-8 daily servings
Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
Meat, poultry, and fish: 2 or less daily servings
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4-5 servings per week
Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings
Sweets: try to limit to less than 5 servings per week
How Much Is a Serving?
When you’re trying to follow a healthy eating plan, it helps to know how much of a certain kind of food is considered a “serving.” One serving is:
- 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
- 1 slice bread
- 1 cup raw vegetables or fruit
- 1/2 cup cooked veggies or fruit
- 8 ounces of milk
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or any other oil)
- 3 ounces cooked meat
- 3 ounces tofu
Dash Diet Tips:
- Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and at dinner.
- Add a serving of fruit to your meals or as a snack. Canned and dried fruits are easy to use, but check that they don’t have added sugar.
- Use only half your typical serving of butter, margarine, or salad dressing, and use low-fat products
- Drink low-fat or skim dairy products any time you would normally use full-fat or cream.
- Limit meat to 6 ounces a day. Make some meals vegetarian.
- Add more vegetables and dry beans to your diet.
- Instead of snacking on chips or sweets, eat unsalted nuts, raisins, low-fat and fat-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted plain popcorn without butter, and raw vegetables.
- Read food labels to choose products that are lower in sodium.
Health Benefits of the DASH Diet:
Reduce Blood Pressure
The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure related to its composition of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Each key nutrient plays a role in the lowering of blood pressure. Since the DASH diet innately limits salt and sodium intake, some individuals may see further reductions.
With the inclusion of whole grains, comes the natural addition of fiber. Whole wheat products, brown rice, and oats are excellent fiber sources. Adequate fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
Weight loss comes with a calorie deficit. Although the DASH diet does not stress calorie reduction, filling the diet with nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-rich foods can shed off pounds in a sustaining manner. Diets rich in fiber have also been shown to contribute to weight loss.
– Dr. Chandrashekar.