The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes meat, fish, poultry, nuts and beans. The DASH diet is focused also on limiting the sugar-sweetened foods and beverages you take in. Red meat and added fats should also be restricted.
The DASH diet is not a trend diet, but a healthy eating plan that supports long-term lifestyle changes. It is low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and includes whole grains, poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, and nuts. It is also rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as protein and fibre.
The difficult part is reducing high fat, red meat, sugary sweets and soft drinks and other artificial juices. Apart from helping you shed those extra pounds, the DASH diet also helps people prevent or reduce and treat high blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol.
The DASH diet also recommends measuring food portions to balance your intake. The aim of this diet is to balance your nutrition in order to obtain a healthy lifestyle.
Here is a sample plan for 2,000 calories per day. Calorie intake depends on gender and also lifestyle. Your intake requirement will be higher if you live an active life.
Sample Meal Plan
- 6-8 servings of whole-grain foods
- 4-5 servings of fruits
- 4-5 servings of vegetables
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy foods
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils
- 2 or less servings of meat, fish or poultry
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds or dry beans
- sweets and food with added sugars limited to a maximum of 5
Hypertension or higher blood pressure
The effects of the DASH diet are greater in people with hypertension or who suffer from higher blood pressure. A healthy diet and lifestyle can therefore be as effective or more effective than antihypertensive medication in the long run.
The DASH eating plan is easy to follow because it uses common foods that are available in your supermarket.
The plan includes daily servings from various food groups, indicating the number of servings you should have depending on your daily calorie needs. Therefore, one must consider his/her physical activity level before planning daily servings.
Are you sedentary, moderately active, or active?
What does this mean? In a nutshell, sedentary means that you do only light physical activity as part of your typical daily routine.
Moderately active means that you do physical activities such as walking about 2 to 3 kilometres a day plus light, physical activity.
Active means that you do physical activity equal to walking for more than 3 kilometres per day plus light physical activity.
Controlling Salt and Calorie intake daily
To reap the benefits from the DASH diet, it is important to limit your salt and to consume the appropriate number of calories to sustain a healthy weight or lose weight when needed.
How to control your salt intake
You can start by making healthier food choices when shopping, cooking and eating out. Here are a few tips to guide you:
- Learn how to read food labels, this might need of patience and will take some time!
- Choose fresh meats instead of cured food such as bacon and ham
- Choose fresh or frozen instead of canned fruits and vegetables
- Avoid foods with added salt
- Avoid instant or flavoured rice, pasta and noodles
- Don’t add salt when cooking rice or pasta
- Flavour your foods with salt-free seasoning blends, fresh or dried herbs and spices, or fresh lemon or lime juice.
- Rinse canned foods or foods soaked in brine before using to remove the salt
- Make fruit or vegetables as a side dish to replace chips or fries.
Stay away from frozen dinners, pre-packed foods and tinned soups. Also avoid mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and salad dressings.
Most of our salt intake comes from bread, ham, pizza, poultry, soups and burgers. Salt can also be found in cheese, pasta and meat dishes, not to mention our favourite salty snacks. Therefore, healthier choices when shopping and eating out are VERY important.
Control those calories!
To benefit from the DASH diet, try and consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. Always read the nutrition and calorie labels found on food. There are also several apps that can help you plan your calorie intake to succeed with the DASH diet.
To lose weight in a healthy way, reduce your total daily calories gradually. Find out how many calories you need to reflect your life style. Also calculate your body’s BMI to great goals.
ALWAYS speak with your doctor before beginning any diet or eating plan.
Help to reduce your daily calories
- Eat smaller portions
- Eat more frequently throughout the day
- Reduce the amount of meat that you eat
- increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains or dry beans
- Snack on low-calorie foods e.g. fruits or vegetables instead of sweets and desserts
- Drink plenty of water instead of soda or juice
Increase your daily Potassium intake
Increase your daily Potassium intake to enhance the effects of reducing sodium on your blood pressure. The DASH diet is designed to be rich in potassium, here are examples of potassium-rich foods to include in your diet plan:
- Plain yogurt (non-fat or low-fat)
- Sweet potato
- Fresh orange juice
- Fresh Tomato sauce
- Stewed prunes
- Skimmed milk
- Pork tenderloin
- Kidney beans
- Roasted almonds
We really are what we eat
What you choose to eat will affect your chances of developing high blood pressure. High Blood pressure can be put your heart health at risk, even if it stays only slightly above the optimal level of less than 120/80 mmHg.
Therefore the more your blood pressure rises above normal, the greater the health risk. Scientists have conducted multiple scientific trials since the DASH diet was developed (more than 20 years ago.) The results of their studies showed that blood pressures were greatly reduced with an eating plan that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Fish, poultry, beans, nuts and healthy oils are also essential for healthy meal plans. Therefore, the DASH diet has shown benefits by limiting foods that are high in saturated fat. For a healthy living and to achieve long term weight loss one MUST reducing fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and oils. The DASH diet also promotes healthier living because it encourages low sodium intake in comparison to the conventional diet. To succeed one must also reduce sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
The DASH diet follows heart healthy guidelines to limit saturated fat and trans-fat. It focuses on eating more foods that are rich in nutrients that can help lower blood pressure. The regular intake of minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, together with protein and fibre help to achieve the best results including weight loss!
By including nutrient-rich foods, the DASH diet also meets other nutrient requirements as recommended by health institutes.
THE ORIGINAL DASH EATING PLAN – DAILY NUTRIENT LEVELS
- Fat 27% of calories
- Saturated Fat 6% of calories
- Protein 18% of calories
- Carbohydrate 55% of calories
- Sodium 2,300 mg*
- Potassium 4,700 mg
- Calcium 1,250 mg
- Magnesium 500 mg
- Cholesterol 150 mg
- Fibre 30 g
Blood pressure can be reduced further if one lowers their sodium level to 1,500 mg.
So if you are looking for ways to reduce your fat levels fast the DASH diet can be a very good option.