Health Benefits of the DASH Diet
The DASH diet, also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed in aim to reduce high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Due to its healthful composition, the diet surfaced additional benefits. But with so many diets and fads out there, does the DASH diet work and is it healthy?
The DASH Diet Explained
The DASH diet is filled with key nutrients from healthful, whole foods. Although prepackaged, processed food items are limited on the list, the DASH diet allows some sort of flexibility for sweets and fats. Specifically, the DASH dietary pattern consists of:
• Grains and grain products: 6 to 8 servings, include at least 3 whole grain foods
• Fruits: 4 to 5 servings
• Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings
• Low- or non-fat dairy foods: 2 to 3 servings
• Lean meats, fish, poultry: 6 or less
• Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week
• Fats and sweets: limited
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Following the DASH Diet will naturally reduce the consumption of salt. On DASH, sodium intake is recommended to 2,300 or 1,500 milligrams per day, depending on other factors such as current and past health conditions, age, and race. Despite the absence of sodium in the foods stressed above, you can further limit sodium intake by removing the salt shaker from the dinner table, in cooking, choosing low- or no-sodium foods and condiments, and watching out for foods that are cured, smoked, or pickled.
Alcohol consumption should also be monitored. Men should limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day while women are limited to one. Keeping alcohol in check can aid in weight management and may reduce blood pressure.
In addition to diet, be active. Exercise can help manage and achieve an optimal, healthy weight. Overweight and obese individuals are at further risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Participating in aerobic exercises is also extremely important in the promotion of heart health. Exercising regularly can also reduce blood pressure. Aim for at least 60 minutes per day on most days, or 150 minutes per week.
Health Benefits of the DASH Diet
Reduce Blood Pressure
The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure related to its composition of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Each key nutrient plays a role in the lowering of blood pressure. Since the DASH diet innately limits salt and sodium intake, some individuals may see further reductions. Although sodium is needed for critical body functions, too much can cause fluid build-up. Additional fluid can put extra strain and pressure on the heart, thus increasing blood pressure.
With the inclusion of whole grains, comes the natural addition of fiber. Whole wheat products, brown rice, and oats are excellent fiber sources. Adequate fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Men should aim for 38 grams per day while women should obtain 25 grams per day.
Interestingly enough, new research found the addition of higher fat dairy products actually reduced triglyceride and "bad" cholesterol levels in comparison to individuals consuming the standard low-fat DASH plan. Additionally, blood pressure levels were reduced similarly following both diet plans. The compelling new findings offer DASH with additional flexibility.
Weight loss comes with a calorie deficit. Although the DASH diet does not stress calorie reduction, filling the diet with nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-rich foods can shed off pounds in a sustaining manner. Diets rich in fiber have also been shown to contribute to weight loss.
Again, the DASH diet is a well-balanced diet filled with nutrients, an important key in the optimization of health. It provides success and sustainability due to its flexibility and its semi-unrestrictive nature. Even if blood pressure levels are normal and healthy, the DASH diet is worth embracing. Reducing processed fats and sweets with rising amounts of fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy products can ultimately provide the body with abundant nutrients without feeling deprived or hungry.
The DASH Diet Eating Plan. Available at: http://www.dashdiet.org.
Higher fat variation of DASH diet lowers blood pressure, triglycerides, study shows. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160111092407.htm