One in three grown-ups has high blood pressure. Moreover, one in four adults is close to hypertension1. After age sixty five, two of three people are hypertensive. It raises the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and many other illnesses.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is an eating plan popularized by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, headquartered in the USA, to control and prevent high blood pressure. The diet is also recommended by the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
DASH Diet Review
The DASH eating pattern is based on the studies conducted by the National Institute of Health.
This is a lifelong diet rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, beans, nuts, and fish. It is limited in red meat, fats, sweetened beverages and foods.
In general, it encourages reducing the content of sodium2 and eating more calcium3, magnesium4, potassium5, and other nutrients lowering the blood pressure. The daily calorie consumption ranges from 1700 to 3100 calories.
There are two versions of the DASH diet: the standard variant and the lower sodium one. Dieters who follow the standard DASH diet are allowed to eat up to 2300 mg sodium per day. For those who are on the lower sodium version, this limit is just 1500 mg per day.
The research conducted by the National Institute of Health showed that due to the DASH diet the diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 6 mm Hg and the systolic one by 11 mm Hg in persons with hypertension. The patients with pre-hypertension were able to lower the diastolic and systolic blood pressure by 3 and 6, respectively. The effect took place without any considerable changes in the patients’ body weights.
DASH Diet Plan
The DASH diet is a lifelong eating plan that helps people suffering from hypertension to lower the blood pressure by reducing the consumption of sodium and acquiring healthy eating habits. Thus, there is no specific plan for this diet.
But according to dietitian Marla Heller, the DASH diet can be divided into 2 stages. We are going to describe them briefly.
The First Fourteen Days
During the first fourteen days of the DASH diet you will have to learn how to handle your hunger. It will be easier to regulate the blood sugar level and to subdue the cravings if you avoid whole grains, alcohol, cheese and fruits in this period.
You should eat fish, poultry, lean meats, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, fresh nuts, and squash. You are also allowed a cup of nonfat yogurt or skim milk.
After the First Fourteen Days
After the first phase you may eat the same foods and add many other healthy products. You are allowed to eat whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy and even one or two drinks of alcohol per day. If you need to drop some pounds, do not forget to watch over your daily calorie intake. You should get no more than 1600 cals per day.
DASH Diet Benefits
In only a couple of weeks, DASH dieters can lower blood pressure by several points. Later their systolic blood pressure can drop by up to twelve points.
Being a healthy eating plan, the DASH diet offers numerous benefits besides reducing blood pressure. It helps to prevent cancer, kidney disease, osteoporosis6, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
The DASH eating pattern cannot be considered as a weight-loss program, but it may indeed help to drop some kilos, because dieters acquire healthy eating habits. If you want to lose weight you should eat no more than 1600 calories a day.
DASH Diet Health Risks
The DASH eating plan constitutes no dangers to the dieters’ health.
DASH Diet Foods
Both variants of the DASH diet suggest much fruit, whole grains, nonfat dairy products, and vegetables. They also include some poultry, legumes, and fish. Fats, red meat, and sweets are allowed in small amounts.
- Grains include cereal, pasta, rice, and bread. One should give preference to whole grains as they contain more nutrients and fiber than refined grains. Avoid adding cheese sauces, butter or cream.
- Carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, greens, broccoli, and many other vegetables have much fiber and are full of minerals and vitamins. Thus, you can serve them as main or side dishes.
- Most fruits are welcomed when you are on the DASH diet, except coconuts and avocados which contain much fat.
- Dairy products are rich in calcium, protein and vitamin D, but make sure that they are fat-free or low-fat.
- Meat, fish and poultry provide protein, iron, zinc7, and vitamin B, but you should not make them the main products of the DASH diet, because even if they are lean, they still contain cholesterol and fat. When you cook meat and poultry, always trim off fat and skin. Give preference to salmon, tuna and herring.
- Legumes, seeds and nuts are rich in potassium, protein and magnesium, but they are very high in calories so you should consume them weekly.
- When you are on the DASH diet you can eat sweets but consume them in moderation. Choose sweets that are low-fat or even fat-free.
Alcohol should be limited to no more than two drinks per day (better fewer).
DASH Diet Success Stories
Jody had been suffering from hypertension for many years but was able to control it with diuretics. Several years ago she found herself in the hospital. The nurse told her that she had “deadly” low blood pressure. Doctors pumped potassium into her body and let her go home. Jody made the decision to go on some diet in order to normalize her blood pressure.
She found out the DASH diet and since then she has stuck to this eating plan. Jody eats many vegetables and fruits. She reduces fats, sugar, and bread. In fact, she says that she is never really hungry. But the most important thing is that her blood pressure has got back to normal. Jody is sure that it is due to the DASH diet.
Izzy is a clerk from Petaluna who works in a medical clinic. She is over sixty. Her blood pressure problems started several years ago because of her excessive weight. Her tests showed about 140 over 90 and she realized that she was in danger. Izzy went on the DASH diet. It took her about two years to lose the excessive weight. Her blood pressure stabilized too. Now it is 105 over 55. Izzy feels just great. She eats many vegetables and regularly adds mozzarella, nonfat yogurts and fruit smoothies to her diet.
The DASH eating pattern was primarily developed as a diet for reducing high blood pressure. But it turned out to be a good plan for losing weight though it is not very effective in this respect. Anyway, the DASH diet will have beneficial influence on your health.
- Hypertension is a medical condition characterized by too high blood pressure.
- Sodium is a mineral element controlling the volume of fluid in the body and maintaining acid-base balance. Its excess can be the reason of hypernatraemia. Eating too much sodium can lead to hypertension.
- Calcium is a metallic element which is essential for functioning and development of the organism.
- Magnesium is a silvery-white light metallic element which is essential to life. It is concentrated in the bones, for the most part.
- Potassium is a silvery-white light metallic element which is very important for normal functioning of the nervous system and muscles. High concentrations of potassium can lead to arrhythmia. Its low values sometimes become the reason of muscle paralysis.
- Osteoporosis is a medical condition characterized by brittleness and porosity of bones which happens due to calcium loss.
- Zinc is a bluish-white metallic element which is a contractor of enzymes.