Putting DASH in your diet

DASH

No, it’s not about speeding up the eating process. -But that doesn’t mean it’ll slow you down, either! If you’re keen on changing your diet for 2013, DASH might be the best diet menu you ever looked at.

DASH is about eating healthier, especially for those folks that need to address hypertension. It’s also common sense for the rest of us. This diet is not only highly effective, but it also has buy-in from doctors and celebrities alike: even Oprah Winfrey and Doctor Oz agree: the DASH diet is great for your health.

DASH is the acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. As you might have guessed, it does attack hypertension primarily, but its benefits extend well beyond this purpose. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, this diet also helps shed weight, lowers the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more.

DASH in a nutshell

Ranked as the first among the diet plans by US News for a second year in a row, the DASH eating plan provides simple recommendations:

  • Increase your intake of vegetables and fruits (potassium, fiber, vitamins), of whole grains (fiber, some potassium and vitamins) and low-fat dairy products (calcium, protein, low-saturated fat)
  • Decrease sugar, salt, and red meat.

The DASH diet combines the elements that heart disease and cancer experts have been advocating for years. It is The DASH does not simply lower the sodium, known to be most strongly and directly connected with high blood pressure. It also helps to counteract the sodium by natural sources of potassium, such as fruits and vegetables. And yes, the keyword here is NATURAL.

How do we know it works?

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the DASH Diet is based on two studies, DASH and DASH-Sodium, that looked at ways of reducing blood pressure through changes in diet. In the DASH study, people were given one of three eating plans: a plan similar in nutrients to what most North Americans eat; the same plan but with extra vegetables and fruit; or the DASH diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods and low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol.

The results were compelling. The diet higher in vegetables and fruit and the DASH diet both reduced blood pressure. The DASH diet had the greatest effect on blood pressure, lowering levels within two weeks of starting the plan. Not only was blood pressure reduced, but total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” were lower, too.

In the DASH-Sodium study, participants were given one of three sodium plans: the DASH diet with 3,300 mg of salt (sodium) per day (a normal amount for many North Americans); 2,400 mg of salt (a moderately restricted amount); or 1,500 mg of salt (a more restricted amount, about 2/3 of a teaspoon). Blood pressure was lower for everyone on the DASH diet. However, the less salt people consumed, the greater the decrease in blood pressure. People who already had high blood pressure had the largest decrease in blood pressure.

Easy ways to get started on the DASH diet

Change gradually – If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add another serving at lunch and dinner. If you don’t eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving to your meals or have it as a snack.

Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the main focus – Limit meat and alternatives to about 6 oz (170 g) a day, over two meals (two servings). Each serving is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

Choose fruit or low-fat foods as desserts and snacks – Fruit and low-fat foods offer great taste and variety. Fresh fruit require little or no preparation. Dried fruit is easy to carry with you.

Want to dive into DASH? Download the 2010 guide HERE.

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