The DASH Diet
The DASH diet is a great way to help manage hypertension while promoting overall wellness and can even help you lose weight.
If you're looking to manage your hypertension symptoms and increase your overall wellness, the DASH diet might be for you. Check out everything you need to know about this relatively simple, wellness-forward diet below.
What is the DASH Diet?
At its core, the DASH Diet is more about lowering blood pressure and increasing cardiovascular health than it is about losing weight. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and was originally developed as an eating regimen to help people lower blood pressure instead of taking medication. It cuts out sodium and relies on a diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat yogurt, cheese and other dairy products. And while the diet won’t inherently make you lose weight in the way a low-carb or particularly restrictive diet like Atkins would, if you stick to the eating regimen and keep your calories within a healthy range, studies have indicated that the DASH diet can definitely help you lose weight. What’s more, it should help lower you cholesterol levels a few points within just a few months. The versatile ingredients and focus on heart-health which is at the foundation of the DASH diet has made it a favorite among doctors, and it’s even endorsed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
What Can I Eat?
The DASH Diet includes a lot of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits. While DASH isn’t incredibly regimented, the guidelines do call for these specific amounts of servings of each food group each day:
Grains: 6-8 servings daily
Look out for whole grains, which will keep you fuller for longer, and low-fat grains, as fat can increase cholesterol.
Vegetables: 4-5 servings daily
High-fiber vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes and carrots are ideal.
Fruit: 4-5 servings daily
Again, make sure to choose high-fiber, low-fat and low-sugar fruits like apples, pomegranates, and citrus fruits.
Dairy: 2-3 servings daily
It’s particularly important to choose low-fat products here, such as low or non-fat yogurt and milk.
Fats and oils: 2-3 servings daily
Too much fat can increase your blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular issues. However the DASH diet doesn’t do away with fat altogether. Instead, guidelines suggest limiting your fat intake to about 30% of your total calories, and to opt for healthier monounsaturated fats such as olive oil.
Poultry, Fish or Lean Meat: No more than one 6 oz. serving daily
Choose lean varieties of cuts of meat, and limit your meat intake to once daily. If you want, you can eat meat only every other or every few days.
Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4-5 servings weekly
Beans, almonds, lentils, and other kinds of nuts, seeds and legumes are packed with heart-healthy vitamins and minerals.
What Can’t I Eat?
While salt isn’t completely forbidden on the DASH diet, guidelines call for limiting your salt intake considerably, as salt can lead to a host of cardiovascular issues. The diet largely includes low-sodium ingredients which will naturally cut down on your sodium intake. Beyond that, the DASH diet calls for replacing salt with other low-sodium seasonings and herbs to help add flavor to food without imbuing it with unhealthy sodium.
Packaged and Diet Foods
Mass-produced and refined foods tend to have tons of added sodium, so on DASH, it’s best to stay away from them. This extends to frozen and diet foods as well, many of which compensate for a lack of flavor with tons of added salt.
Again, alcohol consumption isn’t completely limited under the DASH diet. However alcohol can increase your blood pressure, so guidelines call for limiting your drinking to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
DASH Diet Advantages
The DASH Diet includes an array of different ingredients and isn’t incredibly structured or restrictive, making it a perfect diet for those looking for a long term lifestyle change instead of a rapid weight loss program. In addition to potential weight loss effects, the DASH diet will also include benefits overall health, including lower blood pressure and increased cardiovascular health for many.
DASH Diet Drawbacks
If you’re looking to drop weight quickly, this isn’t the diet for you. Only by restricting your calories a bit can you start to lose weight on DASH. It’s also not extremely regimented, so if you need a diet that’s going to micromanage you, you should probably skip DASH.
The Low Down
If you’re OK with gradual weight loss and are looking to improve overall health more than you’re hoping to look good in a bathing suit, the DASH Diet is for you. It’s widely endorsed by health professionals a great way to start eating healthy.