- DASH diet is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension that helps in controlling blood pressure and helps in preventing and decreasing the blood pressure.
- DASH diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products that are low in saturated fats and total fat.
- This diet encourages you to eat more of vegetables, fruits and natural foods and limit the intake of salt.
- Apart from lowering the blood pressure, DASH eating plan helps in lowering the body weight and maintain a healthier body.
“Variety is always the spice of life”, we have been familiar with this term since long, this idea also applies in our health wherein incorporating variety in foods, taking care of the portion size and including different nutrients in balanced proportion help in lowering the blood pressure.
DASH stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension”. It is a lifelong approach which is designed to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) by encouraging healthy eating. The diet will allow you to have a variety of nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium and reduce the sodium in your diet. When we judiciously follow the DASH diet, we are lowering the blood pressure by few points within two weeks. Since it is the healthier way of eating, this diet is also recommended for people with other health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
DASH diet is a flexible and balanced diet consisting of heart healthy foods eligible for life. The main point of this diet is that it consists of foods that are easily available and not any special foods that provides daily and weekly goals. The foods that are included in this diet are:
- Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Including fat free or low fat products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils.
- Limiting high fat foods like foods are high in saturated fats like fatty meats and full fat dairy products.
- Limiting sugary foods, beverages and sweets.
DASH diets consist of two versions, the standard DASH diet and low sodium diet. Both the versions of diet aim at reducing the sodium in the diet as compared to the typical diet.
- Standard DASH diet: We can consume up to 2,300 mgs of sodium per day.
- Lower sodium DASH diet: We can consume up to 1500 mgs of sodium per day.
However, if you aren’t sure about how much sodium you should have, you can consult the doctor.
Both the versions of DASH diet include lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products. It also consists of fish, poultry and legumes with few servings of nuts and seeds few times a week. However, sweets, fats and red meat needs to be consumed in very small amounts thus suggesting lowering the saturated fats, cholesterol and fats in the diet.
What Do U Need To Eat In DASH Diet
Let us have a look on what do u need to eat:
1. Grains (6 Servings A Day)
Grains include bread, cereals and grains. For 1 serving it involves 1 whole wheat bread, ½ cup cooked rice and pasta. It is essential to have whole grain due to high fibre and nutrient than the refined counterparts. Prefer brown rice rather than white rice, whole wheat pasta rather than regular pasta.These grains are low in fat; hence do not increase the fat percentage by adding creamy and cheesy sauces.
2. Vegetables (5 Servings A Day)
Vegetables as in red, green and yellow vegetables are rich in fibre and consists of minerals like potassium and magnesium. Take a heartful serving of vegetables over brown rice or wheat breads and not just as any side dish. If planning to have frozen foods then prefer canned vegetable that consists of low sodium and no added salt. However it is preferable to select fresh vegetables. Bring in variety of vegetables in a stir fry. You can cut down the meat servings a little and increase the serving of vegetables.
3. Fruits (5 Servings A Day)
Fruits become a part of the healthy meal which requires little or no preparation. Packed with fibre, potassium and magnesium and low in fat. One serving includes one medium fruit. Top fresh fruits with low fat yogurt, have a fruit with snack or with a meal. Whenever possible, have fruits with edible peels. Peels of most fruits consists of nutrients and add to the color and texture. Citrus fruits like grapefruit can interact with certain medications, hence consult with the doctor if it is fine for you. Prefer fresh fruits rather than canned or frozen fruits.
4. Dairy (2 Servings A Day)
Milk, cheese and yogurt are good source of Calcium, Vitamin D and protein but make sure that dairy and dairy products are fat free or low fat as they are also good source of saturated fats too. One serving includes 1 cup of skimmed milk or 1 cup low fat yogurt. If you have trouble in digesting dairy products, then prefer lactose free products. Reduce the intake of cheese even if it is fat free as it is rich in sodium.
5. Lean Meat, Poultry And Fish (6 Servings A Day)
Meat is the richest source of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. You can cut down the servings of meat and increase the portion of vegetables. Prefer baking, grilling, broiling of meat rather than frying in fat. Trim down the skin and fat of the poultry and meat. Prefer fishes like salmon, herring and tuna that are healthy for heart and rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
6. Nuts, Seeds And Legumes (4 Servings A Day)
Almonds, lentils, kidney beans and sunflower seeds are the rich source of protein, potassium, fibre and phytochemical. These seeds or beans need to be consumed in moderation, only few times a week as they are high in calories. If it is one serving, then it is 1/3 cup nuts or 2 tablespoon seeds or ½ cup cooked beans. Nuts need to be eaten in moderation as they are high in fat though healthy fat like monounsaturated fats and Omega 3 fats. You can add nuts into salads, stir fries and cereals.
7. Fats And Oils (2 Servings A Day)
DASH diet focuses on having a balance in fat intake and emphasis given on healthier unsaturated fats. Limit the intake of saturated fats to less than 6 percent of total calories thus limiting the intake of butter, cheese, lard and solid shortenings. Avoid the intake on trans fats found in crackers, baked goods. Read the labels for the amount of saturated fats present and prefer foods that are free of trans fats.
8. Sweets (4 Servings A Week)
You don’t need to totally avoid the sweets; you can have sweets but of course in a restricted manner. One serving means 1 tablespoon sugar, jam or jelly or 1 cup lemonade. Water-based sweets or fat-free sweets like sorbet, fruit ices and hard candy are preferred. Using artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose are good as it spares the sugar but does not use for long periods. You can substitute regular cola with diet coke but not low fat milk or detox water with diet colas.
This diet also helps in cutting down on the excess weight as the main crux of this diet is having more of whole some foods. However this diet consists of 2000 calories a day which is quite high for weight loss diet. Hence you need to cut down on calories as well as servings if you want to lose weight. Your dietician can help you in customizing the plan accordingly.
The sodium content gets reduced automatically when you go through the DASH diet. Using sodium-free spices or flavorings instead of salt, washing the canned foods well to remove the salt and checking the label for “sodium free”, “no sodium added”, “and very low sodium”.
However, introduction of any kind of diet will take time to adjust. You may initially find it difficult to cope but later will get used to the changed pattern. Certain strategies that can be taken to get the DASH diet started are:
- Start the diet gradually. Increase the serving size slowly and steadily so that you can adjust to the diet easily.
- You can give nonfood rewards in between during the plan. If you are succeeding in accomplishing the goal during the plan then you can treat yourself by nonfood reward like watch a movie, go out with your friends or read a book.
- Give importance to physical activity. Combine both the diet and physical activity to achieve lowering the blood pressure.
- Get help if you need. If you have doubts in the planning and sustaining the diet, you can ask help from doctor or your dietician.
Thus DASH diet helps in maintaining healthy eating with innumerable variety thus maintaining positive health and wellbeing.