Dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet is a balanced and adaptable diet to control high blood pressure. It plays a vital role in developing meal plans that are heart-healthy. The dash meal plan focuses on incorporating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, meat, fish, poultry products into the diet. Processed foods, saturated fats, and sugary products are limited or completely avoided in the dash eating plan.
What is the DASH diet?
High blood pressure gives rise to plenty of unhealthy conditions in the body like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart problems. A diet rich in saturated fats, refined sugars, and a large amount of sodium gives rise to hypertension.
Researchers introduced DASH diet guidelines to manage elevated blood pressure. One reason why this diet is good for hypertension is due to the low intake of high salt foods. It is a balanced diet and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Properly following the dash diet not only controls blood pressure but also aids in weight loss and prevents heart problems.
The major aims of the DASH diet include:
- Consumption of healthy foods (grains, fibers, fruits, and vegetables)
- Decreasing sodium consumption
- Reducing high-fat foods
- Controlling portion size
- Meals rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium
What can you eat in the DASH diet?
This balanced diet offers a huge variety of food from different food groups. Carbohydrates are the most notable in the dash diet foods. The choice of carbohydrates mainly depends on the amount of fiber and nutrients present in the food.
Healthy carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains (barley, oats)
- Leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, kale)
- Legumes and beans
- Fruits with a low glycemic index
A low-carb DASH diet is not recommended as it affects daily calories and promotes the consumption of fats as a substitute.
Fats are overall considered bad for health. However, there is a type of fat known as ‘good fats’ that can improve health. For instance, they increase HDL and reduce LDL levels. Additionally, they provide essential fatty acids and reduce inflammation These fats could be taken in moderation in diet.
You can get good fats from:
- Seeds and Nuts
- Olive Oil
For the inclusion of proteins, this diet encourages the use of plant-based proteins such as legumes, beans, nuts, and soy products. Proteins from animal sources should be made up of lean meats, eggs, fish, and low dairy products.
What to avoid in the DASH diet?
In the DASH diet recommendations for food, certain groups are a no-go for consumption. These foods include:
- Bad fats (margarine, butter, shortenings)
- Processed and cured meat
- Full-fat dairy foods
- Sweet and sugary foods and beverages
- Salted snacks
DASH Diet meal plan
A DASH diet meal plan is easy to manage and can vary depending on the personal preferences or health condition of the person. The balanced diet plan includes food from all recommended groups. For instance, an effective per day meal plan should include:
- 7 servings from carbohydrates (including legumes and beans)
- 5 servings of vegetables
- 3-4 portions of fruits
- About 2 meals of low-fat dairy foods
- Fewer than 2 servings of lean meat products
- Nuts consumed only 2-3 times a week
DASH diet guidelines for beginners
In a typical DASH diet for beginners guide, the above-mentioned food groups and servings can be recommended. If you are new to the dash diet then these basic guidelines could help you get started.
A few of the key suggestions have been given by the experts for certain food components. These components should be consumed in a limited amount in a diet to maintain a healthy eating pattern.
- Calories consumption from refined sugar must be <10% per day.
- Calories from saturated fats <10% per day
- Sodium intake <2.3 mg per day
The USDA guidelines strongly support the DASH eating plan. As it encourages the use of healthy foods with a reduction of sugary, salty, and high-fat foods.
It should be remembered that daily calorie intake varies from person to person depending upon certain factors. These varying factors include age, gender, and daily activity.
The table below lists the number of calories you need according to the category you fall in.
The portion size is also controlled depending on how many calories you want to consume a day. For instance, a person who wants to consume 1200 calories a day will reduce the carbohydrates portion to 4-5 and fruits portion to 2-3. These servings will in more calorie intake slightly increase to meet the calorie count.
Sample menu for the DASH diet
Beginners could get confused at the start when it comes to choosing the menu for the day. However, the task is not much complex and gives you a broad food choice depending upon their serving size.
Different charts are available online to guide you to serving portions of foods you want to consume and add to your DASH diet eating plan. You can get creative and plan your own meals every day.
Following is an example of what you could consume in breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a day staying in DASH guidelines.
- Oatmeal – 1 Cup
- Whole wheat toast – 1
- Fat-free Milk – 1 cup
- Margarine (Trans free) – 1 tsp.
- Banana – 1
- A tuna salad with these ingredients
- Unsalted water drained tuna – ½ cup
- Celery (diced) – ¼ cups
- Grapes – 15
- Light Mayonnaise – 2 tbsp.
- Lettuce (To serve on) – 2 ½ tsp.
- Melba Toast Crackers – 8
- Fat-free Milk – 1 cup
- Beef and vegetable kebab with these ingredients
- Beef – 3 ounces
- Chopped vegetables (Onion, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms) – 1 cup
- Cooked rice – 1 Cup
- Pecans – 1/3 cup
- Pineapple chunks – 1 cup
- Cranberry-raspberry spritzer with these ingredients
- Cran-raspberry juice – 4 ounces
- Sparkling water – 4 to 8 ounces
- Peach – 1 medium
- Light Yogurt – 1 cup
The analysis shows that the calorie count would be 1868 for this exemplary day. You would be consuming 277 g of carbohydrates, 103 grams of proteins, and 45 g of fats.
The serving size would be as given in this table
|Dairy (Fat-free or Low fat)||3|
|Meat, Poultry, Fish||6|
|Nuts and Seeds||1|
|Fats and oils||3|
Health benefits of the DASH diet
DASH diet for hypertension
High blood pressure control is the main focus of the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet. Scientists suggested this approach for reducing blood pressure without using medications.
Studies indicate that people who consume more plant-based meals have low chances of developing hypertension. Therefore, in this diet intake of plant-based food is encouraged for hypertension patients.
Lower salt and saturated fat intake are emphasized in the diet. This results in a reduction of sodium and hypertension.
One collaborative trial was done on high blood pressure patients by giving them fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy for weeks. The reduction of systolic and diastolic blood pressure was 5.5 mmHg and 3.0 mmHg respectively.
Low salt intake combined with the DASH meal pattern resulted in further better results. A drop of 12 mmHg and 5 mmHg of systolic and diastolic blood pressure was observed in patients.
DASH diet for weight Loss
Even though this diet is not designed for weight loss, it may help in the reduction of weight by sticking to certain habits. In fact, losing weight can make this diet more effective since obesity could likely cause hypertension.
Looking at the nature of this diet, it cuts out the intake of weight-increasing foods (sugars and fats). Therefore, weight loss is possible through this dietary lifestyle.
Evidence suggests that people have lost weight through the DASH diet.
However, the major factor that helped in weight reduction was the development of calorie deficit. Some people also combined regular exercise with diet to effectively reduce weight.
The DASH diet for weight loss requires the intake of fewer calories. If you plan on losing weight then the suggested diet plan has lower calories.
Patients with diabetes usually suffer from elevated blood pressure. The DASH diet pattern is highly effective in type 2 diabetes patients to lower blood pressure.
The USDA has made guidelines for these patients to add fibers, grains, and micronutrients to their diet. Diabetic patients are suggested to <7% of saturated fats control their cholesterol. The sweet food is also restricted.
Since the DASH diet fulfills these patterns, chances are high that it can help in controlling diabetes.
When blood pressure increases, the heart has to work hard to supply oxygenated blood in the body. This happens because blood-supplying arteries become less elastic. This stiffening of arteries can result in permanent damage which could cause organ failure and strokes.
Using the DASH diet eating habits, patients suffering from a heart condition can control their blood pressure. Observations have shown that DASH eating habits lowered hospitalization and death of male heart patients.
In women, the incidence of heart disease was lowered to 20% and stroke was lowered to 29% by DASH meal plan.
More possible benefits of following this diet include
- Reduced cholesterol level
- Lower risk of cancer
- Decrease resistance to insulin
- Reduction of metabolic syndromes
The DASH diet has shown the best results when it comes to controlling hypertension. It is considered one of the best diets by experts. The dietary pattern in this diet strongly adheres to a balanced diet.
Normal people don’t have much need to follow this diet pattern. However, if you are suffering from high blood pressure then this diet is recommended for you.