DASH is an abbreviation that stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Just as the name suggests, it’s a strategy developed for people who suffer from hypertension to adopt healthier eating habits. DASH diets are looking to help people who have elevated blood pressure keep this condition under control, without having to turn to medical treatment.
Benefits of a DASH diet
By following a DASH diet, a person diagnosed with hypertension can reduce their blood pressure significantly in a couple of weeks. The systolic pressure, which is the first number resulted in a blood pressure reading, can drop anywhere in between 8 and 14 points, reducing the risks that come along with elevated blood pressure.
But DASH diets bring benefits on multiple levels, and not just for keeping blood pressure under control. The meal plans are designed in such a way as to help people lose weight, reduce the risks of stroke and diabetes, as well as prevent osteoporosis and different form of cancer.
DASH diets are generous when it comes to grain servings, because grains are rich in nutrients and fiber (provided that you consume whole grain instead of refined ones). You can have between six and eight serving of grains per day, but include the healthy variations, such as whole-wheat pasta or brown rice.
When shopping for grains, look for labels that specify “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain”. Since grains are naturally low in fat, it’s best to avoid mixing them with products like butter or cheese sauces.
You can consume about four to five fruit servings per day, as they are rich in magnesium and potassium. Most of them are also low in fat (provided you don’t consume products such as coconuts). There are many great suggestions when it comes to adding fruit to a daily diet:
- Fruits can be consumed as a daily snack. One great combination is low-fat yogurt combined with a bunch of fresh fruits.
- By eating edible fruit peels, you will add fiber and nutrients to your diets. This includes eating whole apples or pears.
- Avoid canned fruit as much as possible. Normally, these products contain a lot of sugar to make them tastier.
- Keep in mind that grapefruit is known to interact with blood pressure medication, so talk to your doctors about these interactions before consuming any grapefruit juice.
Just like fruit, you can allow yourself up to five servings of vegetables per day, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The biggest mistakes that turns off people when thinking about a vegetable-rich diet is the preconception that vegetables make a standalone meal.
You can mix up vegetables with brown rice or whole-wheat noodles, creating a mixture of interesting flavors. You can also combine vegetables with different kinds of meat, provided that you consume less meat and more vegetables. Frozen vegetables are also a good choice, if you choose products that are low in salt.
The thing with dairy servings when you are on a DASH diet is to make sure you opt for products that are low in fat (fat-free is ideal). Otherwise, dairy products are very rich in protein, vitamin D, and calcium. You are allowed to have a maximum of three dairy servings per day.
Purchasing low-fat yogurt can make a great sweet treat when combined with a cup of healthy and fresh fruits. Keep in mind that fat free cheese can have a lot of sodium added.
Eliminating meat completely from a diet is not necessarily something a lot of doctors would recommend. By consuming the right type and quantity of meat, your diet can be rich in zinc, iron, and protein. Lean meat, fish, and poultry are your best options.
If you consume poultry, remove the skin and cook it any way you like, as long as you avoid frying it in deep oil. As far as fish is concerned, go for the healthy varieties, such as salmon, tuna, or herring. Their omega-3 fatty acid composition is good for the heart.
Nuts and seeds
This particular category of foods is very rich in protein, but also provides your body with magnesium and potassium. You can have up to five servings per week, which may include lentils, nuts, peas, kidney beans, and even almonds.
While they are very wholesome, these foods also contain a lot of calories, and since watching your weight is important, don’t exceed the recommended weekly servings. Nuts, for example, are known for being highly caloric, but they also contain a lot of fats that are good for your body, such as monounsaturated fats.
Sweets are normally very high in sugar, and while they don’t have to be completely eliminated from your DASH diet, it’s important to consume them in lower quantities. Products that have added sugar will boost the number of daily calories by a lot, and they don’t have any nutritional value to balance this disadvantage.
Unless you suffer from a severe form of hypertension which requires immediate measures to be taken, you can try switching to the DASH diet gradually. Start off by cutting back on tomorrow’s lunch meat and add some vegetable to compensate. Replace a can of coke with a diet one, which doesn’t contain any sugar. Don’t be afraid to exercise: burning some calories will always be a step towards improving hypertension.