If you are suffering from hypertension, chances are you’ve already heard of the DASH diet. However, if you happen to be among a group of people who haven’t and would like to know what it is, we recommend that you read this article thoroughly.
Table of Contents
What is the Dash Diet?
As the name suggests, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed in an attempt to lower dangerous levels of blood pressure in the population without the administration of clinical medication. It was proven to be effective in battling the disease for those who were vulnerable to the condition of hypertension. However, the DASH diet not only helps people with hypertension, but also serves to control many other illnesses such as – stroke, heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, diabetes, and kidney stones.
The DASH diet need not be implemented only by people suffering from hypertension. Anyone looking to keep their weight in check and maintain good health can adopt this routine. The dash diet primarily consists of the goodness of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, and low-fat/non-fat dairy products.
Who is the Dash Diet Recommended For?
The DASH diet can be followed by anyone for significant health gains. Studies carried out to probe the advantages of the DASH diet have found that it can go a long way in preventing high blood pressure in children as well as adults. Moreover, its health benefits range from reducing cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, improving bone health, lowering the risk of gout, inflammation and even cancer. So, while the dash diet can be followed by your entire family, individuals at risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases profit most from following this dietary routine.
Do’s and Don’ts in a Dash Diet
Like any diet plan, the dash diet also prescribes foods that should be added and avoided. In the below section we will discuss the foods to add and avoid in detail. Read on to find out.
Foods to add in your Dash Diet
The dash diet’s objective is to make you lower your sodium intake and consume nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which will lower your blood pressure.
It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy product consumption along with moderate amounts of nuts, fish, poultry, and whole grains made permissible.
In a dash diet, you can eat sweets, fats, and red meat as well but in controlled portions. The eating plan in the discussion is low in trans fat, total fat, and saturated fat.
Ideal Serving Size
1. You can eat 6-8 servings of grains a day. So, you may choose from bread, pasta, cereal, or rice. Try eating whole grains instead of refined grains as they have more nutrient-rich contents and fibre value.
2. An intake of four to five servings of vegetables like broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and leafy greens is ideal when you are following the dash diet.
3. You can eat up to 4-5 servings of fruits as part of this diet too.
4. When it comes to dairy products, eat milk/yoghurt/cheese or other dairy products, but limited to a total of 2-3 servings a day.
5. You may have as many as six courses of lean meat, poultry, or fish, as long as the portion size does not exceed one meal.
6. Nuts, seeds, and legumes can be consumed four to five times per week.
7. Limit the consumption of fats and oils to 2-3 servings per day. Choose monounsaturated fats over unhealthy trans fats.
8. If you wish, you can still eat sweets while following the dash diet. Simply include less than five servings of sweets in a week into your eating plan.
Foods to Avoid in Dash Diet
The eatables to stay away from when on a dash diet include high-fat snacks, high-sugar items, and food preparations with high salt content.
High-sodium, high-sugar, and fat-dense food products have a detrimental effect on your blood pressure and put you at risk of developing high cholesterol and heart diseases. Some unhealthy food items to avoid while on this diet are –
- Salted nuts
- Sugary beverages
- Meat dishes
- Prepackaged rice and pasta dishes
- Salad dressings
- Cold cuts/cured meat
- Sauces and gravies
Do You Have to Leave Out Salt from your Diet?
Yes, it can be difficult at first for anybody conditioned to consume salt to leave it out from their diet altogether. We understand this. However, you don’t need to go cold-turkey on salt – how about using a substitute?
Salt substitutes made with potassium are readily available in the market and can be introduced into your diet. By using a healthier alternative instead of the real thing in your diet, you lessen the threat of a range of health complaints.
You can opt for options like using spices and herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, and even salt-alternatives like Kosher salt, pink salt, sea salt, and low-sodium salts. Also, a potassium-based salt substitute will work effectively as a cooking ingredient, replacing salt and also maintaining your blood pressure level.
Doctors, however, do not recommend the higher intake of potassium chloride owing to its negative health impact, if taken in large amounts. Such individuals may react adversely to potassium chloride in their diet. They can, however, benefit from consuming foods naturally rich in potassium instead, such as beans, yogurt, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach and so on.
As for alcohol and cigarettes, both increase blood pressure. While smoking is not at all advisable when on a dash diet, you may still enjoy a maximum of one alcoholic beverage a day. Drinking in a small, controlled portion should not negatively impact the benefits you take away from following this eating plan.
You may find it challenging to halt smoking entirely if you happen to be a regular smoker. Avail external help, such as medications or attending support groups, to help you quit.
Dash Diet Plan
Now, the DASH diet plan doesn’t specifically list what to eat in the diet. Instead, it specifies the serving sizes that you should adhere to. The serving sizes for each food group have already been discussed above. Here, we provide you with a sample one-day eating plan fashioned after the dash diet.
Pre- Breakfast– 1 Glass of methi water
Breakfast– Dal paratha (without oil) with groundnut chutney and a glass of buttermilk OR grilled paneer vegetable sandwich with a glass of skimmed milk
Mid-morning snack – 1 Medium apple with a cup of curd.
Lunch– 1 Cup boiled brown rice, 1 cup moong dal, 1 cup mixed vegetable, and 1 cup cucumber tomato salad.
Evening snack– 1 Cup Moong sprouts with a glass of coconut water
Dinner– 1 Bowl of oats upma with vegetables and paneer with a green salad and on the side OR 2 chapati, 1 cup palak paneer, and carrot raita
The dash diet plan should approximately follow the nutrient content of this one-day eating plan. You may choose to alter your choice of vegetarian options with animal-based options like fish, chicken, and eggs. You could similarly bring in a variety of fruits, such as peaches, pineapple, and pears, to play with the flavors of your dietary routine.
The nutrient intake should continue to be more or less the same throughout. You may also choose to switch from one meat type to another and include pork, beef, and bacon into your dash diet but in controlled portions.
Is Dash Diet Good for Weight Loss?
Many health and fitness enthusiasts are curious – is the dash diet suitable for weight loss? The answer is yes. While primarily designed for individuals vulnerable to high blood pressure, the dash diet is a healthy eating plan that promotes the consumption of whole foods and the reduction of sugar and unhealthy fats in your intake. Naturally, it helps reduce and/or maintain weight.
Unlike other fad diets, it doesn’t stipulate food group exclusions or extreme calorie cutbacks. As a result, it is easier to follow and stick to.
The dash diet promotes manageable dietary changes that are quite flexible, and the diet plan is founded on credible nutritional advice.
While you could also choose to get on a more targeted weight loss diet plan, the dash diet plan will help you lose that unwanted chubbiness while managing heart health and any adverse symptoms of blood pressure!
Health Benefits of the Dash Diet
In this section, we learn about the health benefits of the dash diet. The dash diet is famous for providing people with an array of proven merits. So what are these? Let’s find out.
- As already discussed, the dash diet has been designed and functions as a natural counter to hypertension.
- The dash diet also improves your bone strength. It can help prevent osteoporosis and maintain your overall bone strength. This trait is a result of the increased calcium intake recommended as part of the diet.
- The dash diet reduces the levels of uric acid in your body, especially if you happen to suffer from hyperuricemia. You are at a lowered risk of diseases, such as gout, if you follow this eating plan.
- Additionally, the dash diet prevents metabolic disorders. You are required to intake balanced nutrition as part of your dash diet and reduce fat consumption.
- You also tend to eat more complex carbohydrates than simple sugars in this diet. Naturally, the bad cholesterol in your body goes down.
- The high intake of fruits and vegetables in the dash diet has also been related to a lowered risk of cancer.
The dash diet was originally formulated to bring down blood pressure levels in the human population. It was found to be just as effective as the first line of medication administered to people at high risk of hypertension. As it promotes the consumption of whole foods and encourages you to cut down high-sugar, high-starch and high-fat, opting this diet is a healthy way to receive adequate nutrition and maintain the well-being.