A popular eating plan with a catchy acronym — the DASH diet — is designed to help you lower your blood pressure, but what exactly can you eat while you’re on it?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been around for nearly 25 years and remains one of the top recommended diets for overall good health and heart disease prevention.
One recent study on the DASH diet was published in the Journal of Nutrition Journal of the American College of Cardiology found “some of the strongest evidence that diet directly affects heart damage, and our findings show that dietary interventions can improve cardiovascular disease risk factors in a relatively short period of time,” said study author Dr. Assistant professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School in Boston at the time.
Juraschek added that the DASH diet reinforces the importance of a diet that is low in sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
What is the dash diet?
DASH was originally created to help with high blood pressure, based on studies sponsored by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
It’s a list of daily and weekly nutritional goals, not a specific meal plan, according to the NHLBI.
Consisting of eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils, DASH limits fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, tropical oils, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
Foods should be low in both saturated and trans fats as well as sodium. It should be high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein, according to the NHLBI.
One modification replaces 10% of the carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fats, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Benefits of the DASH Diet
The diet was tied for #1 as the best heart-healthy diet in the 2021 Best Diet from U.S. News & World Report, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Subsequently, it lowers high blood pressure, improves cholesterol, and helps prevent type 2 diabetes, while lowering your chances of developing kidney and heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, according to the National Library of Medicine.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the combination of nutrients and a little sodium lowers blood pressure, but even without changing sodium intake, other parts of the diet are still good at lowering high blood pressure.
The US National Library of Medicine says you should also limit your intake of alcohol and packaged foods.
In its 2021 Scientific Statement on Dietary Guidelines, the American Heart Association recommends the Mediterranean and DASH diets for good heart health.
People who follow heart-healthy eating patterns have a 28% lower rate of cardiovascular death, according to the guidelines, which cited previous research.
DASH diet food list
This diet recommends eating certain amounts of each of the specific food groups, a number that may vary based on body size. A doctor can help individuals figure out the specifics, but the NHLBI gives guidelines based on a 2,000-calorie diet for an average-sized person.
- Cereals: 6 to 8 servings per day
- Meat, poultry and fish: 6 ounces or less per day
- Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
- Fruits: 4 to 5 daily servings
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 servings per day
- Fats and oils: 2 to 3 daily servings
- Sodium: Take up to 2300mg per day, 1500mg per day would be better.
- Nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas: 4 to 5 weekly servings
- Sweets: 5 weekly servings or less
Fat should provide 30% or less of a person’s daily calories. Get about 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day by eating a mix of foods such as bananas, potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, soybeans, apricots, citrus fruits, yogurt and tuna. People with kidney problems should check with their doctors before adding this much daily potassium intake.
Starting the DASH diet meal plan
Start slowly, the experts suggest. Keep meat portions small. Add one serving of fruit or vegetables each day to increase gradually. Slowly add more plant-based meals to your diet.
The American Heart Association recommends reading nutrition labels.
Harvard Health suggests some potential ways to add DASH-approved foods.
Kathy McManus, MD, director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, suggests eating fruits and vegetables for breakfast, and adding them to an omelet or eggnog smoothie. Have a large salad for lunch with a lean protein such as beans or tuna, a sprinkle of nuts or grains and a drizzle of olive oil.
French fries, chili, or whole-grain pasta dishes are other DASH-friendly options.
“Following this diet will provide all the nutrients you need. It is safe for both adults and children. It is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, and is an eating style recommended for everyone,” according to the National Preliminary Library of Medicine. on the DASH diet.
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