DASH DIET: True Answer To Hypertension Or Just A Fad?
The ‘DASH’ in DASH Diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension … hypertension is a condition where your blood vessel walls harden and become less supple. In that circumstance, your blood finds it difficult to flow through your blood vessels, and your heart needs to beat harder. This is translated as higher blood pressure or hypertension. In the long run, this can be severely harmful for your heart, blood vessels as well as organs! But here is where the DASH diet comes in…
This diet is a natural way to lower blood pressure. It is generally seen that people with high blood pressure also have a high level of sodium in their blood. And low sodium diets are prescribed for them. The DASH Diet works on this principle. It not only decreases sodium intake, but works to lower its level in the blood further.
Now a word on the diet. This diet has actually been rated pretty high. And not only for blood pressure, but also for a number of other reasons!
|The position of the DASH Diet in the U.S. News & World Report’s “best diets” list:|
Source: WebMD Health News
So, that was a general idea about this diet, let’s then move on to…
Now what does the Dash diet generally do – what limitations does it put on a person?
The goal of this diet is basically to lower the levels of sodium in your blood. This is going to help to lower your blood pressure in the long run. This is because, across a number of different studies, it was observed that people with lower levels of sodium in their blood had lower blood pressure. In fact, high levels of sodium in the blood was actually linked with high risk of death as well!
Check this presentation of a study as it was presented in the New York Times website:
Chart of Low and High Salt Intake
And the DASH diet in this aim, has a few basic guideline – you are required to focus more on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy – and generally low fat food. This means that all fast food is off the table, especially in a regular context. In addition, you need to cut back on poultry and fish, and try and stay off fats, fatty foods, sweets and red meat.
As a general overview, that is what proponents of the diet would give you. But…
Now we take a look at what is the general outline of the Dash Diet…
To start off, one integral part of this diet is regular exercise. Exercise helps to keep your heart and your entire cardiovascular system healthy, it helps your body to deal with stress better. And of course, it helps your body to burn calories, and keep off excess weight – which is a major cause of high blood pressure.
Besides these too, there are a few particular rules laid down by those who have formulated the diet. We have tried to note them here for you in brief.
To start with here’s what to include in your diet and why:
- At least 4 servings of fruit a day. Not only will this provide your body with vitamins and nutrients, they are a good source of roughage that keeps your digestive system in good shape.
- At least 4 servings of vegetables – this serves the same purpose, specifically leafy green which are very high in the essential minerals and vitamins you need. Also make sure you include colored vegetables like sweet potato, carrots and tomatoes, etc.
- About 6 to 8 servings of whole grain foods like bread, pasta, rice, or cereals – and mind you these need to be whole grains – with the germ and all the other edible parts of the grain.
- About 2 to 3 servings of dairy – though only low fat/skim/no-fat versions. These will give your body the essential Calcium, protein and Vitamin D it needs, but without putting in fat.
And now for what not to eat – fast foods, and soda and all that stuff are filled with a whole lot of sodium. So these should be avoided at all costs. Besides these:
- No more than 6 ounces of lean proteins which includes fish and poultry. These can be fresh (though skin less) or canned (but not in oil). Also do not cook them with too much of oil, oil free cooking is your best bet.
- No more than 2, a maximum of 3 servings of fats or oils in a day. And by a serving of fat we mean 1 tsp of margarine or 1 tbsp. of low-fat mayo. Also steer clear of trans or saturated fats.
- Less than 1 serving of sweet a day – in fact, you are only allowed a max of 5 servings in a week! A serving, typically, would be a tbsp. of sugar or a cup of lemonade etc. Again, always go for low sugar, low fat options.
- And since you should ideally stay off meat, you can replace that with legumes or seeds like lentils, kidney beans, almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, etc. – but not more than 5 servings in a week, again.
So – these are the general guidelines laid down. Well, by themselves they mean not much to you – but when you use these to work out your diet chart – that’s’ when they start to take on meaning. And we have got those for you too – the sample diet plans – but before we get to that, let’s answer another important question…
Through this food intake, what is the diet actually doing for you?
Firstly, it is obviously helping your body to retain less sodium, without actually cutting down on your sodium intake. Because as you can see – none of the foods that you are asked to have are ‘low-salt’. So salt or taste is not being sacrificed.
But what is being done is that – your body’s calorific needs are being met – and along with that it is being given only the necessary amounts of sodium. In fact, this table should make things a little clearer:
In other words, you are eating healthy – and you are eating what your body needs to counter the harm that high blood pressure and its contributing conditions have caused in your body. And at the same time you are also learning to:
- Think about your meals realistically – and learn to adjust them on a daily basis
- Learn to read food labels to be absolutely sure, and
- Learn the use of pure spices to replace extra sugar, fat and other high sodium seasonings.
Overall – health is the first goal of this diet. And now that we know that nutrition wise AND health wise – the diet is healthy for you… time to check out…
What you need to DO on the diet
We have explained the general guidelines to you already. But how does one incorporate these into their diet? We have a few tips lined up for you:
- Take some vegetables and make them a part of your regular lunch or dinner.
- Snack on fruits instead of other things that are full of fat and salt.
- Try and have a serving of fruit before your meal – it can be a nice start, and it is the best way to have fruits.
- For a few meals a week, go all vegetarian.
- After exercising, if you feel hungry, snack on a fruit.
- Learn to cut down on butter and other fats – as well as jams and other sweets. Start out by using less – and work up to using only as much as is allowed!
If you do it right – studies show that this diet, on its own, can lower your blood pressure in 14 days!
Here are the sample diet plans
But, yes, for that you have to be completely honest with the diet. For instance…
There are three plans here – but these are completely sample plans. You can follow this if you like, but keep in mind that no added salt is allowed. Additionally, you need to ensure that you are not making departures from the plan you choose. But that is if you choose to use these.
On the other hand, you can always go ahead and speak to your nutritionist and ask them to make out your tailor-made DASH Diet plan.
Now for the sample plans:
And now that you know all these details, time to focus on another very pertinent question –
Is the DASH diet safe for me?
The DASH Diet has been featured in the U.S. News & World Report’s “best diets” list. It has been recommended by none less than Dr. Oz, and even by the USDA. When you have such names of authority backing it up, questions of safety shouldn’t arise.
In fact, if that isn’t all, there are a number of success stories from across USA who bear testimony to the effects of this diet. However, there is just one small catch. The diet by itself may be good, but it is no use without the requisite exercise. The diet can only work when it goes hand in hand with the physical activity.
In fact, Dr. Oz, even as he upholds the diet, also makes certain that exercising is a must. And here we bring you the plan that he himself suggests – the Donovan Green No Excuse Workout.
And that’s not all – you can check out the 3 part regimen here:
Doesn’t seem all that difficult, does it? Are you starting to think that you can do it? Well, if Dr. Oz. and all these figures of authority have a say – then you will very well be able to do it! And with success too!
But on a final note –
Is the diet the same for Men and Women?
Well, we went looking through how the diet was viewed by popular health magazines specially written for men and women. And here is what we found –
There really is no difference –except maybe in the calorific needs. And this is where the dietician or nutritionist becomes important. Depending on your age, body weight and gender, as well as your line of work and lifestyle – the diet will differ. Portions will change, amount of exercise required may be more and the basics dynamics will vary. But then that isn’t really a gender specific thing – just as hypertension isn’t.
And so – to conclude, the studies and the proof all conclusively point towards the fact that success in the war against hypertension can be secured through the DASH Diet – provided you follow it right. So, are you ready for it?