What exactly is the DASH Diet?

If you have Hypertension, you surely must have heard about this diet pattern. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), as the name suggests, is specifically formulated to prevent or control hypertension. This is important because about 1 billion people in the world are affected by hypertension; out of those, 50 million are in the USA alone!

What to eat?

The eating pattern of this diet is such that daily calorie intake ranges between 1,600 to 3,100 calories, depending on individuals. The main emphasis is to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet and lets you focus more on foods rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

An ideal American diet has a whopping 3,400 mg of sodium, but in the standard DASH diet, the limit is 2,300 mg, and in the lower sodium DASH diet, it is only 1,500 mg of sodium. If you calculate an average of 2,000 calories per day, the suggested servings of each food are:

  • Eat vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. in 4-5 servings. You can have them fresh or frozen, they just aren’t side dishes.

  • In up to 6-8 servings have grains like pasta, cereals, bread, rice, etc. focus more on whole grains.

  • Limit the non-vegetarian foods like poultry, fish, and lean meat to less than 6 servings of one-ounce quantity. Remove fat and skin from these and avoid frying.

  • Have 4-5 servings of fruits as you get magnesium, potassium, and fiber from them.

  • You get calcium, proteins, and vitamins from the dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. take 2-3 servings of them per day.

  • Oils and fats should be limited to 2-3 servings even though they help your immune system and absorb essential vitamins.

  • Foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, peas, kidney beans, lentils, etc. have an abundance of phytochemicals and also have proteins, magnesium, and potassium. Consume these in 4-5- servings per week.

About weight loss and alcohol

The DASH Diet is not necessarily about weight-loss, but you will lose some unwanted fats as you lean more towards healthier eating. The more alcohol you will drink, the more will be the blood pressure. Hence, this diet suggests limiting alcohol to 2 drinks for men and 1 for women per day.

How to get started?

It is not easy to start following any Diet plan for anyone right from day 1. You have to start adjusting to it gradually, as you add one serving of each food per day. After a week or so, you should be completely adhering to it. Besides following the DASH diet to lower the blood pressure, add some physical activity that will supplement your efforts.

If you are succeeding in it, just reward yourself with small treats like going out with friends, watching the latest movie, purchasing something for yourself, etc. On the other hand, if you miss anything, slip-up; don’t be harsh on yourself, just forgive it and get on with the plan. Remember, it is a long-term process. You can always take the help of your dietician or doctor if you are finding trouble in practicing the DASH Diet.

Is it for everyone?

Though it is basically designed for those wanting to control their blood pressure, you still have to consider some aspects of it. Those with the lowest salt intakes get the maximum reduction in BP. But for people with a normal BP, reducing salt intake has little effect. Besides, eating too little salt has adverse effects on your health.

If you want to stay healthy, you have to eat healthy with a variety of foods. The DASH diet is good in that aspect, besides reducing the BP. Though it is similar to a regular low-fat diet, it is really good for those sensitive to salt or having a high BP. Not for nothing it was ranked as no. 1 for best diets, for healthy eating in the annual rankings of “U.S. News & World Report” in January 2018.

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