The DASH diet is considered one of the healthiest diet for lowering blood pressure. All you have to do to follow this diet is reduce your unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and sodium. There are not that many restrictions aside from that. However, the options you can enjoy are vast, emphasizing whole foods like vegetables and fruit, fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and whole grains. It also eliminates processed foods, simple sugars, and packaged snacks. It is highly recommended that you limit red meats as well.
Processed foods do not taste that great anyway. You think they do now because your palate is out of balance. Once you clean up your eating habits, you’ll wonder why you ever ate those trashy junk foods in the first place! The DASH diet is known to limit sodium intake, which can give you an edge over hypertension and also help you lose weight. This is a beautiful consideration for people with a family history of heart disease or those at risk for type-2 diabetes.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE DASH DIET?
DASH, or “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” is a dieting approach recommended to individuals looking to reduce their blood pressure. DASH dieting puts your focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Experts searched for answers once high blood pressure started becoming a huge problem. Finding the reason for the sudden spike in numbers was easy. We have become too reliant on fast and processed foods – both detrimental to our health. As a result, we have shifted away from whole foods in favor of convenience. The DASH diet is designed to help us return to healthier whole foods.
DASH dieting puts our focus back onto fruits and vegetables while eliminating those nasty processed foods from our lifestyle. It also focuses on healthier proteins like fish, poultry, and beans. One of the most significant contributors to low blood pressure is that this diet naturally reduces the amount of sodium put into your body. Processed foods are loaded with sodium, so avoiding them will make a huge difference.
There are two types of the DASH diet that people can choose to follow depending on how out of balance their blood pressure is:
- The Standard DASH Diet encourages you to limit yourself to 2,300mg of sodium daily.
- The Lower-Sodium DASH Diet encourages you to limit yourself to 1,500mg of sodium daily.
People can choose to follow two types of the DASH diet depending on how out of balance their blood pressure is. The Standard DASH Diet encourages you to limit yourself to 2,300mg of sodium daily. The Lower-Sodium DASH Diet restricts you to no more than 1,500mg of sodium per day. This takes a while to get used to since your taste buds are accustomed to getting bombarded with salty foods daily. However, adapting to the lessened salt only takes a week or two.
So now, let’s look at the benefits of DASH dieting. Blood pressure measures how much force is put on organs and blood vessels as your blood pumps through them. There are two different numbers used:
- Systolic Pressure: This is the pressure put on blood vessels every time your heart beats.
- Diastolic Pressure: This is the pressure on your blood vessels between heartbeats.
Normal blood pressure has a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80. It’s usually written as 120/80. Individuals whose blood pressure measures 140/90 or above are considered to have high blood pressure.
Interestingly, the DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure for healthy people and those with already high blood pressure. This has also been achieved in people who did not lose weight due to the diet, although most people who follow the DASH diet will experience weight loss. There is a direct correlation between people who consume a lower amount of sodium and those who share the highest reduction in blood pressure. My point is that the DASH diet is one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure. That’s always going to be your primary goal.
CAN THE DASH DIET LEAD TO WEIGHT LOSS?
So we know that the DASH diet was designed with blood pressure in mind, but where does it stand on weight loss? For starters, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, chances are you have been told you need to lose weight. That’s because weight has a direct impact on blood pressure. When we gain weight, our blood pressure rises, and when we lose weight, it goes down.
My point is that weight loss can be a side-effect of DASH dieting, but you should never forget that it’s different from what the dieting plan was designed to do. With that in mind, reducing calorie intake is another essential part of lowering your blood pressure.
The DASH diet is designed to do that because it promotes whole foods over processed ones. A decline in the intake of calories will give you a much greater chance of losing weight. As you move forward with this new lifestyle, you might have to consciously start making adjustments that ensure you remain at a calorie deficit.
If you are looking to lose weight, eating the foods listed on the DASH Diet will make it much easier to restrict your calorie intake. Eventually, you will need to start tracking your calories to ensure that you are at a calorie deficit. In short, the DASH Diet can be a fantastic tool to help you lose weight, but you will still have to ensure you remain at a calorie deficit.
Potential Health Benefits of the DASH Diet By this point, we know that the DASH Diet was designed to lower blood pressure, so we already see that benefit. How the DASH diet is different from other dietary approaches? The answer lies in the significance of this plan in controlling various health issues. Besides that, there are many other known benefits of the DASH Diet, and they are as follows:
Say No to Hypertension: One of the primary reasons that the DASH diet rose to popularity is its effectiveness in reducing the food’s sodium content, which indirectly controls the problem of hypertension. Sodium is the agency that maintains the fluid balance in the body. A high amount of sodium means more hypertension.
Reduces Obesity: A balanced and healthy diet always affects the body in two known ways; firstly, it activates the metabolism at a sharp rate, which decomposes all the stored fat deposits in the body. Thus, DASH, a diet rich in fiber and low in fat, can help you lose a few pounds if followed regularly with strict checks and balances. Exercise is also a must.
Improved Heart Condition: Most heat conditions arise out of the deposition of fats in the arteries and veins or heart valves. This not only obstructs the blood flow but also pressurizes the heart, which, in the long run, causes various cardiovascular diseases. Since the DASH diet deals with the root cause and eradicates it by reducing fat intake, it also helps prevent heart diseases.
Better Kidney Functioning: Kidneys maintain the delicate fluid balance in the body with the help of potassium and sodium. When this critical balance is disturbed, it causes hypertension. High sodium means more fluid retention and, consequently, high blood pressure. The DASH diet is miraculous in dealing with such a problem as it prescribes low sodium intake.
Anti-Diabetes: A diet low on empty carbohydrates can also decrease the amount of simple sugars in the blood; consequently, it can help evade the risk of diabetes. People with type II diabetes experience a lack of insulin, the hormone that limits the amount of blood sugar. This diet, therefore, helps such patients, as it is low in sugars.
Fights Against Osteoporosis: Since the DASH diet is full of potassium, calcium, and proteins, it prevents the onset of osteoporosis, and the loss of bone strength and form. Unfortunately, This disease is quite prevalent among middle-aged and older women. With this diet plan’s constant use, calcium and potassium balance remains in control.
Cancer Prevention: Antioxidants can actively evade the dangers of cancer. As the “DASH” diet is rich in vitamins, fibers, and antioxidants, it greatly helps to prevent the spread of cancer in the body.
Lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome: This dieting plan can reduce your chances of developing a metabolic syndrome.
DASH Dieting is one of the easiest diets to follow. Since the only requirements are that you eat more whole foods and avoid processed choices, you will find many options for meal selection. This makes it one of the easiest long-term diets to follow through with.
Low cholesterol levels: One of the major causes of high blood pressure is the consumption of too much bad cholesterol. Whole foods are softer in lousy cholesterol and naturally lower cholesterol levels.
DASH Dieting can potentially lead to weight loss: This is the goal that many of us have, so it’s important to note that this diet can help you lose weight since it focuses on foods that are high in fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients.
FOODS TO EAT AND AVOID
What to have: Practically, you can enjoy any food on a DASH diet if you maintain the balance. On a broad scale, this diet plan doesn’t prohibit using most edibles but restricts their amount to some level. Following is the list of food items that can be taken on a DASH Diet as the given description of the serving size.
- Beef and pork
- Low-fat or no-fat dairy products
Foods to Avoid:
Food items high in sodium, sugar, and fat are strictly forbidden on a DASH
Diet. Following are all the items you must avoid while following this diet plan.
- High-fat dairy products
- Salted Nuts
- Sugary beverages
- Processed food
- Excessive animal-based fat
DOES IT WORK FOR EVERYONE?
One of the key factors with any dieting plan is consistency. Following a healthy diet that you can stick with is essential. There is no dieting plan in the world that will work for everyone since all of us are unique. With that in mind, it was designed to reduce blood pressure, and it can accomplish that goal. But that will only do you good if you follow through.
The most significant reduction in blood pressure is experienced by those who follow the low sodium version, which is no surprise since the decrease in salt intake has been shown to reduce blood pressure significantly. My point here is that lowering your salt intake while swapping over to whole foods is a much healthier choice, but you have to ensure that any dieting plan suits your taste.
28-Day DASH Diet Plan
|Breakfast||Oatmeal with mixed berries and almonds|
|Snack||Greek yogurt with honey|
|Lunch||Grilled chicken breast with a side salad|
|Snack||Carrot sticks with hummus|
|Dinner||Baked salmon with quinoa and steamed broccoli|
|Breakfast||Whole grain toast with avocado and poached eggs|
|Lunch||Lentil soup and a side of raw vegetables|
|Snack||Sliced bell peppers with guacamole|
|Dinner||Turkey stir-fry with brown rice and stir-fried vegetables|
|Breakfast||Greek yogurt parfait with fresh fruits and granola|
|Snack||Cottage cheese with pineapple|
|Lunch||Spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast|
|Snack||Apple slices with almond butter|
|Dinner||Grilled shrimp with quinoa and asparagus|
|Breakfast||Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes|
|Snack||Celery sticks with peanut butter|
|Lunch||Black bean and vegetable quesadilla|
|Dinner||Baked cod with brown rice and green beans|
|Breakfast||Smoothie with spinach, banana, and almond milk|
|Snack||Cherry tomatoes with mozzarella|
|Lunch||Quinoa and black bean salad|
|Snack||Sliced cucumber with tzatziki sauce|
|Dinner||Grilled chicken breast with sweet potato and steamed broccoli|
|Breakfast||Whole grain waffles with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey|
|Lunch||Tuna salad sandwich with whole grain bread|
|Snack||Sliced bell peppers with hummus|
|Dinner||Baked trout with quinoa and sautéed spinach|
|Breakfast||Greek yogurt with sliced peaches and a sprinkle of granola|
|Snack||Baby carrots with Greek tzatziki|
|Lunch||Turkey and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice|
|Snack||Strawberries with a dollop of cottage cheese|
|Dinner||Grilled vegetable platter with chickpea salad|
Continue this pattern for the remaining 21 days, varying protein sources, vegetables, and fruits to keep the diet diverse and balanced. Remember to stay hydrated and control your sodium intake as the DASH diet guidelines recommend. Adjust portion sizes and food choices to meet your dietary requirements. Consulting a healthcare professional or dietitian before starting any new diet is always a good idea, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.