Updated: October 12, 2019
DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet focuses on portion size, and obtaining the proper amounts of nutrients by consuming a wide variety of foods.
The main aim of the DASH diet is to reduce blood pressure. However, it can also help people who want to lose weight, reduce cholesterol, and manage or prevent diabetes. It is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) for patients with hypertension to control their blood pressure. Also the National Kidney Foundation recommend it for people with kidney disease.
The DASH diet involves a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy foods, poultry, fish, meat, nuts, and beans. It also encourages the dieter to consume less sodium, or salt, and increase their intake of magnesium, calcium, and potassium which helps to lower blood pressure. Added fats, red meat, and sugary drinks and foods are limited.
High blood pressure is associated with a significantly greater risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. As the diet is meant for hypertension people it can also reduce the risk of developing conditions associated with it.
The DASH diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure. It is seen from some research that after following the DASH diet for 8 weeks, patients with pre-hypertension had an average drop of 6 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 3 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure, where as Patients with hypertension experienced reductions of 11 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 6 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.
Hypertension is the pressure in the arteries, which are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Your blood pressure will be high if you have narrow arteries and your heart pumps more blood.
We have two numbers in blood pressure reading. The top number called systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts.The bottom number called diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes.
Systolic Pressure is the blood pressure while the heart is pumping blood, while diastolic is the pressure when the heart is resting between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called "pre-hypertension," and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered high while a systolic blood pressure of about 90 to 100 is considered low blood pressure.
These reductions in blood pressure occurred without any changes in body weight as the diet is meant to keep your body weight stable.
Daily calorie intake on the DASH dietary pattern ranges from 1,699 to 3,100 calories. As the DASH diet is based on dietary patterns, rather than single nutrients, it can provide sufficient nutrients that can help reduce blood pressure. It also contains a high proportion of foods rich in antioxidants which help prevent or delay the development of several chronic health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Eating patterns can affect blood pressure patients with moderate to severe hypertension. Individuals with hypertension can experience a reduction in hypertension within two weeks of starting the diet.
As sodium can raise blood pressure in some people, DASH diet encourages the reduction in the amount of sodium intake.
There are two types of the DASH diet:
Normally, the consumption of sodium for many people is 3,500 mg of sodium or more each day. So in both types of the DASH diet it is aimed to reduce sodium consumption.
The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains, as well as some legumes, poultry and fish, small amounts of red meat, fats and sweets.
Based on on a typical 2,000 calorie per day DASH diet a person can eat the following:
Mixed vegetables served over brown rice or whole-wheat noodles can be the main dish for a meal. Both fresh and frozen vegetables are good choices. But while buying frozen and canned vegetables, choose those labeled as low sodium or without added salt. Be creative to increase the number of servings you fit in daily. For example, cut the amount of meat in half and double up on the vegetables in a stir-fry.
Up to six ounce servings of fish, poultry, or lean meat. Although meats are rich in proteins, B vitamins, zinc, and other nutrients, DASH dieters should limit their meat consumption and eat mostly fruits and vegetables. One serving may include 1 ounce of cooked, skinless poultry, lean meat or seafood, 1 egg. Trim away skin and fat from poultry and meat and then bake, broil, grill or roast instead of frying in fat.
Eat heart-healthy fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna. These types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your total cholesterol.
Saturated fat and trans fat are the main source of increasing your risk of coronary artery disease. DASH helps keep your daily saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total calories by limiting use of meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and eggs in your diet, along with foods made from lard, solid shortenings, and palm and coconut oils. Avoid trans fat, commonly found in such processed foods as crackers, baked goods and fried items. Read food labels on margarine and salad dressing so that you can choose those that are lowest in saturated fat and free of trans fat.
In addition, a person can eat up to 5 servings a week of sweets. The DASH diet does not cut out sweets altogether, but dieters should limit their intake. One serving could include 1 cup of lemonade, a half cup of sorbet, 1 tablespoon of sugar, jam or jelly. Choose sweets that are fat-free or low fat, such as sorbets, fruit ices, jelly beans, hard candy, graham crackers or low fat cookies.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose may help satisfy your sweet tooth while sparing the sugar. But remember that you still must use them moderately. A diet cola can be swapped for a regular cola once in a while, but not in place of a more nutritious beverage such as low-fat milk or even plain water.
Cut back on added sugar, which has no nutritional value but can pack on calories.
The DASH diet recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks for men and one for women each day.
The amount of food will also depend on whether the dieter is a man or woman, their age, and how much exercise they get. For example, a woman of 51 who is not very active, will need only 1,600 calories a day, while a highly active 25 year old man will need 3,000 calories.
1,500 mg of sodium in the low sodium DASH diet is usually recommended. In addition the Foods that you eat should be low in saturated and trans fats and rich in fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Saturated fats are found in fatty meat, full fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
For a person on a 2,000 calorie eating plan, the following daily goals are suitable.
Total fat 27% of calories
Saturated fat 6% of calories
Protein 18% of calories
Carbohydrate 55% of calories
Cholesterol 150 mg
Sodium 2,300 mg
Potassium 4,700 mg
Calcium 1,250 mg
Magnesium 500 mg
Fiber 30 g
Don't just go for recipes, but focus on the overall eating plan, as this will provide a balance.