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DASH DIET OVERVIEW
Goal: Preventing and lowering high blood pressure (hypertension)
Resembles these U.S. News-rated diets: TLC Diet,Mediterranean Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Vegetarian Diet
As we all know, a healthy eating pattern is key to reducing high blood pressure
The theory behind this diet is that nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber are crucial to regulating blood pressure. These are found in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. A good idea in this diet is to stay away from sweets and red meats that are high in fat and calories as well as cutting back on your salt content.
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How does the DASH Diet work?
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which helped develop DASH, publishes free guides on the plan. You can download either one of these PDF’s the first one is 64 pages of in depth information while the 2nd one is only 6 pages which still gives a detail idea of the diet. The nice thing about either PDF is that it will help you determine how many calories you should eat for your age and activity level (PDF1 here – 64 pages; PDF2 here – 6 pages). Both take you through the same process of determining how many calories you should eat for your age and activity level. It will also tell you what you should eat which is a nice break from trying to guess. Between the 2 PDF’s I would suggest sticking with the 6 page one unless you really want to read.
“For a 2,000-calorie diet, you should shoot each day (unless otherwise noted) for 6-8 servings of grains; 4-5 each of veggies and fruit; 2-3 of fat-free or low-fat dairy; 6 or fewer of lean meat, poultry, and fish, with one serving being equivalent to an ounce; 4-5 (a week) of nuts, seeds, and legumes; 2-3 of fats and oils; and 5 or fewer (a week) of sweets. DASH suggests capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day and eventually working to stay under 1,500 mg.”
This is the point people for DASH Diet usually worry and start thinking “how am I supposed to remember all that and change everything”. Remember, don’t worry and take it easy. Start off slow by adding just one vegetable serving to a meal, and a fruit serving to another. Try some vegetarian dishes each week and by each week I don’t mean every day of the week, a couple of times a week should be plenty until you get the hang of it. With that added energy you will gain with fresh fruits and vegetables, who knows you might want to start running or hit the gym too.
Will you lose weight?
Likely, provided you follow the rules, and especially if you design your plan with a “calorie deficit.”
- “In one study, published in 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 144 overweight or obese adults with high blood pressure were assigned to one of three approaches: DASH, DASH plus exercise and classes on weight loss, and a control diet where participants maintained their usual eating habits. After four months, those in the beefed up DASH group lost on average 19 pounds – while the other groups either lost a little or gained weight.”
- “In another study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2006, researchers randomly assigned 810 adults with borderline or mild high blood pressure to three groups. The first received general advice on lifestyle changes to control blood pressure. The second had goals of staying under 2,300 mg. of sodium a day, losing weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol. The third mirrored the second but participants were also told to follow DASH’s dietary guidelines. After 18 months, the second group lost an average of about 8 pounds while the DASH group lost about 9½ – both significantly more than the first group’s 3 pounds.”
– Thank you Health section of U.S. News
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Are there health risks?
No. However, if you have a health condition, check with your doctor to be sure DASH is right for you.
How well does it conform to accepted dietary guidelines?
Fat. You’ll stay within the government’s recommendation that 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from total fat. As for saturated fat, you’ll stay well below the government’s 10 percent max.
Protein. DASH is within the acceptable range for protein consumption.
Carbohydrates. DASH provides the recommended amount of carbohydrates.
Salt. The majority of Americans eat too much salt (I know, but those McDonald fries are so good). The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 mg., but if you’re 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, that limit is 1,500 mg. DASH has specific meal plans for both sodium caps.
Fiber. Getting the recommended daily amount—22 to 34 grams for adults—helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. DASH provides more than enough.
Potassium. A sufficient amount of this important nutrient, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, counters salt’s ability to raise blood pressure, decreases bone loss, and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. It’s not that easy to get the recommended daily 4,700 mg. from food. (Bananas are high in potassium, yet you’d have to eat 11 a day.) Most Americans take in far too little. At about 4,900 mg., DASH more than meets the government’s recommendation—one of few diets that manages to do so.
Calcium. This mineral is essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Many Americans don’t get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s recommendation of 1,000 mg. to 1,300 mg. You shouldn’t have trouble on DASH.
Vitamin B-12. Adults should shoot for 2.4 micrograms of this nutrient, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. DASH provides more than enough.
Vitamin D. Adults who don’t get enough sunlight need to meet the government’s 15 microgram recommendation with food or a supplement to lower the risk of bone fractures. DASH comes up a little short, but choosing a vitamin-D fortified cereal can help. Also, just 3 ounces of sockeye salmon, which packs almost 20 micrograms of vitamin D, will satisfy the requirement.
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OK Then, Lets Recap…
- How easy is it to follow? While it may be difficult to give up your favorite fatty, sugary, and salty fare, DASH doesn’t restrict entire food groups, upping your chances of sticking with it long-term.
- Convenience? Although recipe options are boundless, alcohol is not part of the program (I know that may seem like a deal breaker but start off slow and you don’t have to completely abandon your favorite pastime. The DASH PDF is packed with tips to make it all easier.
- Recipes? Download the 64-page PDF. Otherwise, lots of reputable organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, provide long lists of DASH-friendly recipes.
- Eating out? Difficult, since restaurant meals are notoriously salty, oversized, and fatty. If you do dine out avoid salt by not getting anything pickled, cured, or smoked. Also, ask questions and let the server know what you can’t have (good restaurants are good at helping find alternative food choices if the chef can’t make some accommodations).
- Alcohol? Too much can elevate blood pressure and damage the liver, brain, and heart (I know, a tear drop from my eye when I read this too). If you drink, do so in moderation—that’s one drink a day for women, two a day for men. (A drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.)
- Taste? You may miss salty popcorn and potato chips but your taste buds should eventually adjust. Use different spices to substitute the taste of salt.
- How much does it cost? Fresh fruits, veggies, and whole-grain products are generally pricier than the processed, fatty, sugary foods most Americans consume.
Does the diet allow for restrictions and preferences?
Anyone can follow DASH—choose your preference for more information.
Vegetarian and vegan: DASH is well-suited for vegetarians and vegans. The PDFs don’t offer specific guidance or meal plans, though, so it’ll be up to you to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need without meat and/or dairy.
Gluten-free: Just choose gluten-free foods that are in line with DASH’s guidelines.
Low-salt: Yes. DASH provides a lot of guidance for those who need to stay under 1,500 mg. of daily sodium.
Kosher: Yes, you have the freedom to use only kosher ingredients.
Halal: Yes, but it’s up to you to ensure your food conforms.
***Exercise Recommended, especially if you want to lose weight.
- To get started, try a 15-minute walk around the block each morning and night, and then slowly ratchet up intensity and duration if you can. Just find activities you like (jazzercise, swimming, gardening), set goals, and stick to them.
I know you can do it and I’m counting on you!