DASH is the acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet can help reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol and other blood fats. It can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and help you to lose weight in a very healthy way. This diet is low in sodium (salt) and high in nutrients.
The DASH diet is NOT hard to follow, and doesn’t contain strange foods. It is full of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are the sources of phytochemicals and functional ingredients in the DASH diet, such as antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, lycopene, also fiber, vitamins A and C and folate.
How DASH Diet works
The DASH diet reduces high blood pressure by decreasing the amount of salt in your diet to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. By reducing salt down to 1,500 mg a day, reduces blood pressure even more.
With DASH diet you will:
- Consume lots of vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products (preferably nonfat)
- Include whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils
- Eats fish, poultry and lean meats
- Reduce the salt, red meat, sweets and sugary drinks
- Reduce the alcohol
You should also exercise at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity most days of the week. For example brisk walking or cycling. Aim to work out two hours per week.
You can follow the DASH diet if you want to prevent high blood pressure. It can also help you lose weight excess. Most people can benefit from a reduction in salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.
The doctor may suggest you to reduce to 1,500 mg a day if you are:
- Already suffering high blood pressure
- Suffering diabetes or chronic kidney disease
- Over 50 years old
If you take medications to treat high blood pressure, do not stop taking them while you’re following the DASH diet. Be sure to tell the doctor that you are doing this diet.
How to start and What to eat in DASH Diet
Within DASH diet, you can eat foods from all the food groups, but eat more foods that are naturally low in salt, cholesterol and saturated fats. You will also include rich potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber foods.
Here is a list of food groups and how many servings you should consume each day. For a diet that has 2,000 calories a day, you should eat:
- Vegetables (4 to 5 servings per day)
- Fruits (4 to 5 servings per day)
- Nonfat dairy products or low-fat products, such as milk and yogurt (2 to 3 servings a day)
- Whole grains (7 to 8 servings a day)
- Fish, lean meats and poultry (2 or less servings per day)
- Legumes, seeds and nuts (4 to 5 servings a week)
- Vegetable oils (2 to 3 servings a day)
- Sweets such as jelly, sorbet, hard candy, maple syrup and sugar (less than 5 servings a week)
The number of servings you get each day depends on how many calories you need.
- If you are trying to lose weight, you may need fewer servings from the list
- If you are not very active, try to consume the least amount of servings from the list
- If you are moderately active, eat the higher number of servings
- If you are very active, you may need more servings from the list
The doctor can help you find the right amount of servings per day for you.
More info about the portion sizes
To know how much to eat, you need to know the portion sizes. Here are sample portions for each food group.
- One cup of raw leafy vegetables
- Half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables and chopped
- A medium fruit (6 ounces or approximately 150 g)
- Half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruits
- A quarter cup of dried fruit
Nonfat dairy products or low-fat products:
- A cup of milk or yogurt
- One and a half ounces of cheese (approximately 40 g)
Whole grains (You’ll get more fiber and nutrients):
- A slice of whole-grain bread
- Half cup of whole-grain rice, pasta or cooked cereal
Lean meats, poultry and fish:
- Three ounces (85 g) of lean meat, fish or poultry cooked
- One egg white
Nuts, seeds and legumes:
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter
- Half a cup of cooked legumes (beans or peas)
- Half cup of walnuts
Fats and oils:
- A teaspoon of vegetable oil
- A teaspoon soft margarine
Sweets and sugars:
- A tablespoon of sugar
- A tablespoon of jelly or jam
- Half a cup of sherbet, gelatin dessert
Tips to follow the DASH diet
The DASH diet is easy to follow, but it might mean making some changes in the way we currently eat. To start:
- Do not try to make all changes at once. It’s okay to change your eating habits gradually
- In order to add vegetables to your diet, try a salad at lunch or add cucumber, lettuce, grated carrots or tomatoes to sandwiches
- There have to be something green on your plate always. It’s okay to use frozen rather than fresh vegetables. Just check the package if product contains no salt or fat added
- Add sliced fruit to your cereal or oatmeal for breakfast
- For dessert, choose fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt instead of rich-calorie sweets such as cakes or pies
- Choose healthy foods such as rice cakes or unsalted popcorn, raw vegetables or yogurt drinks. Dried fruits, seeds and nuts are also great options for snacks. Just keep the portions small
- Think of meat as part of your food, rather than the main course. Reduce portions of lean meat to six ounces (about 150 grams) a day. You can consume three portions of two ounces during the day
- Try cooking without meat at least twice weekly. Better use beans, nuts, tofu (soybean) or eggs for protein
Tips for reducing salt
To reduce the amount of salt in your diet:
- Remove the salt shaker from the table
- Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. Lemon, lime and orange vinegar also add flavor
- Avoid canned foods. They are often high in salt. Preparing food from scratch has more control over the amount of salt
- Check all food labels for sodium content. Frozen dinners, soups, salad seasons and ready meals are often high in sodium
- Choose foods that contain less than 5% of the daily sodium value
- Look for versions of foods with low sodium content if you can find them
- Reduce salty and condimented foods such as pickles, olives, sausages, ketchup, soy sauce (soy), mustard and barbecue sauce
- When dining out, ask them to prepare food without any salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG) aggregates.
Other diets that perhaps you might be interested in:
- Alkaline Diet
- Atkins Diet
- Detox Diet
- Dukan Diet
- Gluten Free Diet
- Ketogenic Diet
- Mediterranean Diet
- Paleo Diet