The DASH Diet Eating Plan Review
The DASH Diet is a popular diet sponsored by the United States National Institutes of Health. The diet is designed to lower blood pressure without the use of medication.
1 out of every 3 American adults suffer from high blood pressure. Only about half of those people are taking steps to control their high blood pressure. A further 30% of American adults have “prehypertension”, which means their blood pressure numbers are higher than normal, but they’re not yet in the high blood pressure range. (Source: CDC).
Clearly, high blood pressure is a serious problem in America. And it’s a problem that the DASH Diet wants to solve.
What Is the DASH Diet?
The “DASH” in DASH Diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. As the name suggests, the diet is exclusively designed to lower blood pressure by making smarter, healthier eating choices.
The diet does this by encouraging dieters to consume less sodium. Dieters consume moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts. Essentially, the DASH Diet is a healthier overall way of eating: instead of eliminating entire food groups, dieters simply reduce their consumption of unhealthy foods and increase their consumption of healthy foods. That’s it.
There are two versions of the diet:
— Standard Dash Diet: You Can Consume Up To 2,300 Milligrams Of Sodium Per Day.
— Lower Sodium Dash Diet: You Can Consume Up To 1,500mg Of Sodium Per Day
These sodium amounts weren’t chosen at random: they’re the standard guidelines recommended by most health agencies around the world.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example, recommends limiting sodium consumption to 2,300mg per day, or 1,500mg per day if you’re over the age of 51, are black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
Since the average American consumes about 3,500mg of sodium per day, the DASH Diet typically leads to some powerful health benefits.
Benefits of the DASH Diet
The DASH Diet comes with a number of health benefits, including:
How Does the DASH Diet Work?
Here are the main rules of the DASH Diet:
You Consume 6 to 8 Servings of Grains Per Day
Grains include pasta, bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. Ideally, you’ll choose whole grains because they contain higher levels of fiber and nutrients. Brown rice is better than white rice and whole-wheat pasta is better than regular pasta.
You Consume 4 to 5 Servings of Vegetables Per Day
Recommended vegetables include tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens, and any vegetables rich with fiber, vitamins, and minerals like potassium or magnesium. One serving of vegetables is one cup of raw leafy greens or 1/2 cup of raw, chopped up vegetables.
You Consume 4 to 5 Servings of Fruit Per Day
Fruits are loaded with fiber, potassium, and magnesium and contain small amounts of fat. It’s recommended that dieters have a piece of fruit with meals and a piece of fruit as a snack, as well as a dessert with fresh fruits and low-fat yogurt to round out your daily servings. It’s also important to limit consumption of avocados and coconuts, as these are the only two major fruits with high levels of fat.
You Consume 2 to 3 Servings of Dairy Per Day
On the DASH Diet, it’s recommended that you consume 2 to 3 servings of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. These dairy products are valuable sources of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Ideally, the dairy you choose will be low fat or fat-free. One serving of dairy could be one cup of skim milk or 1 cup of yogurt.
You Consume No More than 6 Servings of Lean Meat, Poultry or Fish Per Day
Meat should be consumed in moderate amounts. Eat no more than 6 servings of lean meat, poultry, or fish per day on the DASH Diet. Lean meats contain high levels of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and other nutrients. However, they are also rich with fat and cholesterol, which means dieters should avoid making them a mainstay of any diet plan. Heart-healthy fish like salmon and tuna are popular among DASH dieters, and some dieters will trim away the skin and fat from poultry and meat before cooking.
You Consume 4 to 5 Servings of Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes Per Week
Many diets revolve around healthy nuts and wild seeds. The DASH Diet, however, recommends limiting these foods to about 4 to 5 servings per week. Almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils, peas, and other foods in this group are rich with magnesium, potassium, protein, phytochemicals, and valuable plant compounds which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The only reason dieters should avoid limiting their consumption is because nuts and seeds are high in calories.
You Consume 2 to 3 Servings of Fats and Oils Per Day
Fats, contrary to what many people think, play an essential role in weight loss and overall physical health. Fats improve the absorption of essential vitamins and boost your body’s immune system. Popular fats and oils include low-fat margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. Limit consumption to 2 to 3 servings per day to reduce fat buildup.
You Consume Fewer than 5 Sweet Treats Per Week
The DASH Diet doesn’t require dieters to totally forget about sweets and desserts. However, it’s recommended that dieters have no more than 5 sweet treats per week. One serving of sweet treats could include one cup of lemonade, one tablespoon of sugar, or 1/2 cup of sorbet for dessert.
Two or Fewer Alcoholic Drinks Per Day
Men are advised to limit their consumption of alcoholic beverages to two or fewer drinks per day. Women are advised to limit consumption to one or fewer.
No Limit on Caffeine Consumption
According to the creators of the DASH Diet, the link between caffeine consumption and blood pressure is unclear. As a result, the DASH Diet doesn’t have any rules or restrictions involving caffeine. That doesn’t mean you should drink 12 cups of coffee per day, but it does mean you don’t have to stress out about having that second (or third) cup of coffee at work.
As you can see, the DASH Diet is less of a strict diet and more of a set of guidelines dieters are suggested to follow. The diet is very flexible in regards to the types of recipes and meals allowed – as long as you generally follow the guidelines listed above, you can still eat many of the foods you love.
How to Reduce Consumption of Sodium
One of the hardest parts of the DASH Diet is limiting your consumption of sodium: especially if you’re following the Lower Sodium DASH Diet (1,500mg per day). Here are some tips that will help you reduce your sodium consumption:
— Choose Spices And Flavorings That Are Sodium-free Instead Of Flavoring Foods With Salt
— Avoid Adding Salt When Cooking Rice, Pasta, Hot Cereal, Soups, And Other Meals
— Rinse Canned Foods To Remove Some Of The Sodium
— Choose Foods Which Have Labels Like “No Salt Added”, “Sodium Free”, “Llow Sodium”, And “Very Low Sodium”
— Above All, Avoid Fast Food And Snack Foods. A Big Mac has 960mg of sodium by itself, and a Big Mac with fries contains about 2,600mg of sodium. An average slice of pizza contains about 650mg of sodium. It only takes a few bites of fast food to reach your total daily recommended amount.
The DASH Diet is Based on Research
Every year, there’s a new fad diet making its ways across the internet. Yacon syrup, acai berry, Total 10, and Atkins are just a few examples of fad diets that have captured our attention over the years.
But the DASH Diet isn’t like any of those diets – seriously! It’s not a fad diet: it’s a set of nutritional guidelines recommended by the United States National Institutes of Health.
The DASH Diet has the added benefit of being based on research from a number of official government agencies. It’s been thoroughly researched by all of the following institutes:
— The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
— The American Heart Association
— The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
That’s why doctors will always recommend diets like the DASH Diet instead of fad diets which involve cutting out a certain food group.
Conclusion: Who Should Take the DASH Diet?
Calling the DASH Diet a “diet” is a bit misleading: it’s a set of nutritional guidelines which closely follow the daily amounts recommended by nutritional institutes around the world.
That being said, the DASH Diet is one of the world’s most effective diets for those who want to solve high blood pressure problems and lose weight. There are plenty of resources online, including DASH Diet recipes, action plans, and shopping lists.
Unlike with fad diets, the DASH Diet doesn’t advertise itself as a miracle weight loss program. You don’t have to buy meal plans online or subscribe to some shady-looking website: it’s just a wholesome, nutritious diet which has been scientifically proven to improve overall health and wellness.
If you’re looking for a diet that offers straightforward guidelines and doesn’t torture you with hunger pangs or missing foods, then consider trying the DASH Diet for 2 weeks.