DASH Diet – A Starters Guide
There are so many different diets out there. How can you know which is best for your blood pressure? The DASH diet is one of the top 5 recommended diets by physicians in the US. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The National Institute of Health (NIH) created this diet to lower blood pressure. It may lower blood pressure even without medication.
DASH is backed by years of research documenting its proven results. And DASH has some added benefits. It is effective for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and managing diabetes. The DASH diet has been found to reduce the risk of heart failure by fifty percent. DASH can even help your mood. Research shows DASH is associated with reduced risk of depression as well!
DASH starts with sodium
Different people need to reduce their sodium (salt) to different levels. DASH has two plans depending on what is right for you.
- Standard DASH diet – Daily sodium content is under 2300 mg or about 1 tsp salt.
- Lower sodium DASH diet – Daily sodium content is under 1500 mg or about 2/3 a tsp salt.
Not sure which is for you? The American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium to under 1500mg per day. 2
Beware of hidden salts
Salt adds flavor to food. Many foods you buy at the grocery store have surprisingly high levels of salt. Look at the list of foods below that are quite high in salt content. Are any surprising?
- Processed/frozen foods. Frozen meals may be handy. They also tend to have a lot of salt.
- Highly processed meats. Pepperoni, sausage, and hotdogs, just to name a few, all are high in salt.
- Breakfast cereals. This surprises many people. Many cereals not only add sugar but also sodium.
- Nuts. Look for unsalted varieties. Switching to unsalted nuts makes a big difference.
Quick tip: Be sure to look at serving sizes and servings per package when reading labels. This way you will know how much sodium you are getting in one package.
What should I eat on a DASH eating plan?
DASH is about more than cutting back on salt. It’s essential to eat a well-rounded diet. Lots of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits make up most of the daily meal plan.
4-5 servings daily. A serving size is one cup of cooked or 1/2c raw veggies such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and greens. Canned veggies can hide sodium. Be careful with these.
6-8 servings a day. Not all grains are equal. DASH emphasizes only eating whole grains. A half cup of cooked brown rice, whole wheat pasta, beans, or quinoa are all one serving. So is 1 slice of whole-wheat bread.
4-5 servings a day. Each medium-sized fruit is its own serving. So is 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 4 ounces of juice.
Lean meat, poultry and fish:
6 one-ounce servings or fewer a day. Examples of one serving include 1 egg, 1 ounce of cooked meat, poultry, or fish. An ounce of meat, chicken, or fish is about the size of a matchbox. A three ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.
2 to 3 servings a day. Examples of one serving include 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk, 1 cup low-fat yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces part-skim cheese.
Fats and oils:
2-3 Servings a day. One serving of fat or oil is surprisingly small. 1 Tbsp of salad dressing, 1 tsp of oil or butter or soft margarine is a whole serving. Olive oil, avocado, and almonds all contain fats but are healthy, unsaturated fats. So pick these if you can.
It can take a bit to get the hand of meal-planning for DASH. At the same time, the results will be worth it!
For personalized advice please consult your provider.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.