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What is the DASH Diet?

DASH stands for: “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”. In other words, it’s a way to change your eating habits in order to bring your blood pressure into a healthy range.

The DASH diet is based on two scientific studies coordinated by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that revealed the importance of lowering your daily sodium intake. (1)

Did you know that the average American diet includes up to 7,000-10,000 mg of sodium a day?  And most of this sodium comes from processed foods and meals eaten on the go.

Believe it or not, but the salt shaker only supplies about 10% of the salt in your diet.

Why Does the DASH Diet Work?

Let’s be perfectly honest, the typical American diet is high in fat, sugar and salt and low in fiber and minerals associated with a healthy blood pressure.

That’s why most people don’t get nearly enough potassium, magnesium, and calcium to keep their hearts healthy.

To provide you with power minerals, the DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also enjoy beans, nuts and low-fat dairy to supply lean protein.

It’s Easy to Follow!

The DASH diet meal plan is designed to approximate 2,000 calories per day. The number of servings may vary according to your age, gender, weight, and activity level.

What are the Serving Sizes Like?

Here are common serving sizes:

  • Grains: 1/2 cup of cooked whole-grains, 1 slice of whole-wheat bread, or 1 ounce of dry cereal.
  • Fruits and Veggies: 1/2 cup of chopped fruits or veggies, 1 medium fruit, 1 cup of leafy greens, 3/4 of a cup of 100% fruit juice, or 1/4 cup dried fruit.
  • Dairy: 1 cup of low-fat milk or nonfat Greek yogurt.
  • Protein: 2-3 oz. of lean meat, 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup of dried beans, or 2 Tbsp. of nut butter (Almond or peanut).

How the DASH Diet Works on Blood Pressure

So what does this mean for you? If you are serious about battling hypertension, then with a few changes to your lifestyle, you could bring you blood pressure down.

Diet

– Drop those extra pounds: People who drop the extra weight, say 20 or 30 pounds, could be able to bring their blood pressure down.

– Eat a hearty breakfast: Eat a hearty breakfast. According to a recent Israeli study, compared to lighter breakfast eaters, people who polished off a 700-calorie breakfast (and lighter lunch and dinners) could had more success losing weight and had lower blood pressure levels. (2)

– Order like a vegetarian: Try swapping out that hamburger for a veggie burger. Plant foods are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium. Also, according to an analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine, sticking to a vegetarian diet could reduce your blood pressure. It’s about the same drop you would get if you lost eleven pounds and you didn’t even need to go to the gym. (3)

– Consume no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of sugar daily: Sugar isn’t just an obesity risk, it is also a high blood sugar risk. Research is finding that it could raise your blood pressure and your triglycerides. Many people consume triple the daily recommended amount of sugar with just one 12 ounce soda (8 tsp. per 12 ounces of soda).

Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium

Take the sodium out of your diet and you could be that much healthier for it. Research now shows that it is more important that you choose foods naturally low in the blood-pressure raising sodium and high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Choose at least two of those three blood-pressure lowering power minerals.

– Get 4.7 grams of potassium daily: Don’t forget to take care of your kidneys. Only ten percent of men and one percent of women get the proper amount of potassium needed to help their kidneys excrete sodium. Some of the top sources of potassium-rich produce include tomatoes, cantaloupe, orange juice, potatoes, bananas, peas, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, honeydew melons and dried fruits such as prunes and raisins.

– Take in 1,200 mg of calcium daily: Calcium just isn’t for your bones. It could also keep your blood pressure low. Salmon, broccoli, yogurt and milk are your best bets for getting calcium in your body naturally. However, stick with low or nonfat yogurt and milk.

Eat more whole grains

In recent studies (4), people who stayed away from refined carbohydrates and ate whole grain foods significantly lowered their risk.

Best Foods Linked to a Lower Blood Pressure

Top foods to eat (Click Here for the complete list)

  • Wild blueberries
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Purple potatoes
  • Dark chocolate
  • Decaf coffee
  • Hibiscus tea (Recipe)
  • Cinnamon
  • Beetroot juice (Recipe)
  • White beans
  • Fat-free plain yogurt
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Bananas
  • Cranberry juice
  • Pomegranates

Be Salt Smart

Be careful with the salt. In fact, just take it right off the table. For a lot of people, eating salt may not increase their risk of high blood pressure. However, it may affect others. Harvard Medical School authorities note that 75% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods such as deli meats, soups, cheese and cereals. Try to stay away from these. Click Here to read more ideas to reduce your salt (sodium) intake.

References

(1) Dash (pdf) – New_dash (pdf) – Dash_brief (pdf)
(2) Jakubowicz, Daniela, et al. “High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women.” Obesity 21.12 (2013): 2504-2512.
(3) Appel, Lawrence J., et al. “Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial.” Jama 294.19 (2005): 2455-2464.
(4) Jonnalagadda, Satya S., et al. “Putting the whole grain puzzle together: Health benefits associated with whole grains—summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” The Journal of nutrition 141.5 (2011): 1011S-1022S.
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