What Is a Dash Diet?
DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure within 2 weeks in people who follow the diet. Not only is it known to control blood pressure, it was designed to do so programs for weight losshelps prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Who Should Follow a DASH Meal Plan?
In fact, a DASH meal plan can be part of any healthy eating plan. Not only does it help lower blood pressure, but it also offers additional heart health benefits, including lowering LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
How does the DASH meal plan work?
The diet consists of low-sodium foods and a variety of foods high in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are known to help lower blood pressure. The diet is high in fiber which in turn helps lower blood pressure and shed the extra pounds which in turn help lower blood pressure.
What Should You Eat on a DASH Meal Plan?
- Grains like whole wheat, brown rice, barley, oats, and quinoa are packed with nutrients like protein, B vitamins and trace minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of several diseases. However, processed grains lack most of the nutrients and should be avoided.
- Include fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, Greek yogurt, paneer in your diet instead of full-fat options. In the case of lactose intolerance, lactose-free milk and milk products are ideal.
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc., beans, dals, and seeds like sunflower seeds, melon seeds, etc. are part of a healthy DASH diet. They are high in fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals like zinc and magnesium, etc. Although nuts contain the healthy fats, it would be wise to eat them in limited amounts as they are high in calories. Also, avoid salted or honey-roasted nuts because of their high sodium and sugar content.
- Eat lean meat, eggs, poultry and fish in moderation instead of meat high in saturated fat. Processed meats such as bacon, ham, sausages, salami, etc. contain a significant amount of sodium and therefore limit absorption. Occasional consumption of red meat is allowed.
- Fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in potassium, which plays an important role in lowering blood pressure. If you don’t like fruits and vegetables, switch gradually. Include an extra fruit or vegetable throughout the day in addition to what you have just to begin with. Prefer whole fruit over juices. Unsweetened dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, dried figs, etc. are good choices for travel. Make sure there is a vegetable with every meal.
- The diet should be low in saturated fats and total fats. A diet high in saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Fats are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and help build the body’s immune system. The use of oils like olive oil, rice bran oil, and mustard oil should be encouraged in every meal, and trans fats, which are commonly found in processed and fried foods, should be avoided.
To make this diet work even better, here are some additional tips:
- Reducing alcohol consumption can help lower blood pressure. Therefore, keep alcohol consumption under control.
- Aerobic exercise along with the DASH diet works faster in lowering blood pressure.
- Read food labels to choose products that are lower in sodium.
- Despite a healthy diet, stress can increase blood pressure. Therefore, stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc. help keep blood pressure under control.
- Poor sleep increases blood pressure. So, 7-8 hours of sound sleep helps keep blood pressure under control.
- If you are someone who smokes, then quitting would help lower blood pressure.
- Take your medication as directed.
- Limit salt intake to 1 teaspoon per day.
A lifestyle change is an effort. It’s a long-term commitment one must make for good health. Smaller changes yield faster results than making dramatic changes all at once and losing engagement in the process. Before beginning the DASH diet, consult a nutritionist who can help you create a customized program for yourself.
Thanks to Arati Shah