Ease of Following
The DASH Diet Promise
Deflate your high blood pressure within 2 weeks with the DASH diet. A “lifetime” diet that not only helps you shed pounds but also makes you healthier!
About the DASH Diet
Named as the “Best Overall Diet”, “The Healthiest Diet” and “Best Diet for Diabetes” for six years consecutively by the US News and World Report, the DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is not a fad diet. If these heavy achievements haven’t impressed you already, maybe the fact that it is a dietary plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US, a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) with the objective of preventing and controlling hypertension and lowering blood pressure through diet without medication, will.
Originally developed as a diet plan to help lower blood pressure, the DASH diet has also been found to be a fantastic diet plan for weight loss too. You know, like when Bruce Wayne isn’t just a handsome billionaire, but also turns out to be the caped crusader? Yeah, just like that. Based on the DASH research, the DASH weight loss plan was created by dietitian and leading nutrition expert, Marla Heller, MS, RD who wrote the books “The DASH Diet Action Plan” and “The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution”.
The DASH diet is a way to healthy and well-balanced eating and the diet plan recommends consuming healthy foods including whole grains, veggies, fruits and low-fat dairy products. The diet also includes foods such as poultry, meat, fish, beans and nuts and shuns sugary foods and beverages, red meats and unhealthy fats.
What’s more? Well, for once the supporting actors may be a bigger hit than the main cast, because the diet not only promises to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, it promises to give you a svelte figure too!
How Does the DASH Diet Work?
The DASH diet rests on the premise that by eating “healthy” foods such as veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and avoiding high-calorie and high-fat sweets and red meat and cutting back on salt, you not only reduce blood pressure1 and cholesterol2, but also end up with a perfect weight loss solution. Since the DASH diet plan is healthy, filling and satiating, you can follow it for a lifetime.
Too much of salt in your food can contribute to high blood pressure or hypertension, as mentioned earlier. Some foods are naturally salty, while salt is also added to some foods when they are prepared or processed. Following the DASH diet can help to reduce the sodium in your diet to less than 2,300 mg per day and thereby lower high blood pressure or prevent it. The DASH diet also helps to lower blood pressure by providing a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber and protein.
The fruits, vegetables and whole grains recommended by the DASH diet are rich in beta-carotene3, isoflavones4 and lycopene5 that help to protect the body from diseases including osteoporosis, stroke, diabetes and cancer. The DASH diet can also keep heart disease away by reducing your “bad” or LDL cholesterol level6.
Depending on your weight loss goals, you can choose a DASH diet plan that provides 1,200, 1,600, 2,000, 2,600, or 3,100 calories per day.
As we all know (and if you don’t, you should!), exercise can elevate the effectiveness of any diet. As such, the DASH diet also recommends that following a regular exercise schedule along with the diet plan will help to keep you agile and fit and also accelerate your weight loss efforts. You can begin by going for a 15-minute walk in the morning and night and slowly increase the intensity and duration. You can find other activities that interest you such as swimming, gardening or cycling to keep physically active and fit.
What’s on the Menu?
- Non-Starchy Vegetables: Beans, radishes, seaweed, shallots, cauliflower, celery, spinach, sugar snap peas, summer squash, cucumber, beets, beet greens, mushrooms, jicama, kale, lettuces, bok choy, broccoli, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, okra, garlic, haricots verts, greens, onions (red, white, yellow or green), peas, peppers, snow peas, spaghetti squash, jalapeño peppers and other hot peppers, cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoot, water chestnuts, zucchini, and bell peppers
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, pears, pineapple, raisins, oranges, apricots, dates, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, tangerines, kiwifruit, mango, melon, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, papaya, plums, prunes
- Bread and Grains: Whole wheat bread, barley, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oats (some), whole wheat tortillas, whole grain cereal, bagels, pita bread, bulgur, whole wheat couscous, Kasha (buckwheat), quinoa, millet, amaranth, spelt, and bran cereal
- Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, nut butters (peanut, almond), and pecans
- Meat and Seafood: Beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, salmon, fish, and shrimp
- Dairy: Cottage cheese, fat-free milk, margarine, sour cream, fat-free yogurt, reduced fat cheeses, low-fat buttermilk, kefir
- Legumes: Kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Condiments and Seasonings: Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, cider, rice wine), salsas, bean dip, chili sauce, hot sauce, hummus, marinara sauce, mayonnaise (low-fat), pesto, salsa, low-fat salad dressing, vinaigrette, soy sauce, and sun dried tomatoes
- Oils: Olive, canola, sesame, and mustard
- Soy Products: Tempeh and tofu
- Herbs and Spices: Cumin, nutmeg, oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, mint, chili flakes, chili powder, cloves, coriander, paprika, rosemary, sage, sesame seeds, chives, allspice, basil, bay leaf, curry powder, dill, mustard, cinnamon, parsley, pepper(white or black), tarragon, and thyme
- Frozen Foods: Fruit (no added sugar), plain fish fillets, waffles (whole grain), chicken breast (skinless), shellfish, French toast (whole grain), 100% fruit juice bars, pancakes (whole grain), 100% fruit juice, and plain vegetables
- Packaged Snacks: Whole grain crackers, air popped popcorn, pretzels (light, whole grain), and dried fruit
- Dairy: Low-fat or nonfat cheeses, cottage cheese, string cheese, mozzarella, and yogurt (unsweetened or artificially flavoured),
- Nuts (unsalted, unroasted): Cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts
- Seeds: Sesame seeds
- Legumes: Black beans, kidney beans, and lentils
- Lean Proteins: Lean beef (broiled or roasted – top round, tenderloin, T-bone, tri-tip, NY strip steak, top sirloin steak, bottom round, eye round, ground beef 90% or 95% lean, round tip roast, shoulder steak, top loin steak), pork (broiled or roasted – pork tenderloin, pork sirloin, shoulder pot roast, pork sirloin roast, Canadian bacon, pork top loin roast, pork loin chop, pork center loin, lean ham, lean ground pork), lean poultry – chicken (roasted and skinless thigh and breast), turkey (skinless breast, whole, ground turkey (only white meat), and deli meats (low-sodium, low-fat)
- Fish: Anchovies, bluefish, catfish, cod, rainbow trout, rockfish, salmon, cod liver oil, flounder, haddock, orange roughy, oysters, pollock, halibut, herring, mackerel, ocean perch, sole, swordfish, tilapia, tuna (canned in water), and white fish
- Shellfish: Lobster, scallops, shrimp, blue crab, and clams
- Healthy Fats: Avocados, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and other nut oils, salad dressing (healthy oil based), and mayonnaise (healthy oil based)
- Beverages: Diet cranberry juice
- Non-Nutritive Sweeteners: Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol), Stevia, and artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Truvia)
- Pantry Items: Worcestershire sauce, guacamole, bouillon or broth (low-sodium), cumin, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, mustard, tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar, fresh herbs including basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, cilantro, marjoram, sage, thyme, spices including allspice, cinnamon, onion powder, paprika, poultry seasoning, salt substitutes, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, lemon juice, and lime juice
What’s off the Menu?
- Unhealthy Fats: Flaxseed oil, coconut oil, palm oil, hydrogenated fats, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and butter
- Baked Foods (containing trans fats and sugar): Pastries, cookies, and crackers
- Sugary Foods: Sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses, sugary soda, candies, energy bars, and sugary beverages
- Salty Foods: Chips, salted nuts, and snacks
- Caffeinated beverages
- Pre-packaged pasta and rice dishes
- Other Foods: Meat dishes, pizza, soups, salad dressings, cold cuts and cured meats, white breads and rolls, sauces and gravies, and fatty meats
- Full-fat dairy products
Advantages of the DASH Diet
- Diet Endorsed: The DASH diet has been endorsed by several credible medical institutions including:
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- The American Heart Association (AHA)
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- The 2011 AHA Treatment Guidelines for Women
- The Mayo Clinic
- US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure
- Health Benefits: The DASH diet is recommended for people who suffer with problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. It is in fact a great option for anyone who wants a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle.
- Easy to Follow: The DASH diet offers variety of foods that can be eaten and it is quite easy to follow as a lifelong diet plan.
- Nutritious Diet: The DASH diet is a healthy and nutritious diet as it recommends eating whole and fresh foods- fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eliminates packaged and processed foods that contain more salt.
- Reduced Blood Pressure: The foods recommended by the DASH diet are rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium and the diet also limits sodium and salt intake. This helps to lower blood pressure7. Though sodium is necessary for the body, too much sodium causes fluid build-up that puts extra pressure and strain on the heart, thereby increasing blood pressure.
- Lowered Cholesterol Levels: The DASH diet recommends the consumption of whole grains which is a natural source of fiber. Brown rice, whole wheat and whole wheat products, and oats are excellent sources of fiber. Inclusion of fiber in the diet has shown reduced cholesterol levels8. Surprisingly, addition of high fat dairy products has actually shown reduction in triglyceride and “bad” cholesterol levels9.
- Weight Loss: The DASH diet is not a short term, crash diet, but a healthy eating program for life. Although the DASH diet does not stress on reduction of calories, filling up with nutrient-dense foods rather than foods that are calorie-rich can help to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off. A diet that is rich in fiber also contributes to weight loss10.
- Flexible Diet: The DASH diet is a well-balanced and healthy diet and most importantly it can be sustained long-term due to its unrestricted and flexible nature.
- Exercise Encouraged: the DASH diet encourages you to follow an active lifestyle and a regular exercise routine along with the diet plan.
Disadvantages of the DASH Diet
- Not Specific for Weight Loss: The DASH diet was not originally designed for weight loss, so it does not have a specific way to lose weight. However, the diet plan does recommend a different number of servings for different food groups for different calorie levels. So this diet plan can be customized according to your weight loss goals.
- Difficult to Eat So Much Fiber: You may find it difficult to eat as much fiber as recommended by the DASH diet. It is a good idea to add high-fiber foods to your eating plan progressively to avoid bloating and discomfort.
- Time Consuming: For those of who just about manage to get out of bed and get to work on time, the DASH diet can be time consuming. Preparing foods with vegetables, fruits and whole grains can take more time and effort.
- Expensive to Follow: The DASH diet can be quite pricey as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and whole grain products can be more expensive than processed, ready-to-eat packaged foods, so you could end up burning quite a big hole in your pocket.
- Difficult to Keep Track: You must carefully monitor the portion sizes that you are consuming and keeping track of your sodium consumption to the less than 1,500 mg per day can be challenging. For those of us who can’t even keep a track of our lives, this one’s going to our Mt. Olympus.
- Since the DASH diet recommends including foods that are very high in fiber, such foods should be included gradually as you could have problems such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.
- Fiber draws water into the bowel and high-fiber foods with inadequate fluid can cause constipation11. It is important to increase your fluid intake when following a high-fiber diet.
- Consuming increased amounts of fruits and vegetables increases the potassium content of the diet. If you do not suffer from any kidney problems, higher potassium intake does not pose a risk as the excess potassium is excreted in the urine. However, if you have impaired urinary function or suffer from renal disease, adrenal insufficiency or severe heart failure, you may be at a risk of hyperkalaemia which may cause cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), which can be harmful12.
The DASH diet has been used in the treatment for hypertension, kidney disease and heart disease and can slow the progression of both heart disease and kidney disease.
The DASH diet has several health benefits. It can reduce the risk of problems such as:
- Brain fog
- Coronary heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Some types of cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gallbladder diseases
- High blood pressure/hypertension
- Gastric reflux
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- High blood sugar
- High cholesterol
- Kidney stones
- Liver diseases
- High triglycerides
- Metabolic syndrome
Phases of the DASH Diet
The DASH Diet is followed in two phases. The first phase aids to reset your metabolism and the next phase helps with continuation and maintenance of the weight loss.
The first phase is meant to reset your metabolism and is a 2-week transition phase. In this phase, it is recommended that you follow a low-carb diet with no whole grains and fruits and eat protein-rich foods that keep you full for longer13. This phase helps to catalyze your weight loss. By not including starchy and sugary foods in your diet, you will not experience fluctuations in the blood sugar levels that cause hunger pangs14. Your liver, pancreas and digestive hormones also get a break from your usual way of eating.
In Phase 1, you will find that your appetite starts decreasing. With this phase of low carb, protein-rich and no sugar diet, you will see immediate and visible weight loss.
In Phase 2 of the DASH diet, you will be consuming fruits, whole grains, plenty of non-starchy veggies, lean proteins and dairy. The goal is to continue with the weight loss, though the weight loss will be slower than in Phase 1. This phase also improves the body’s response to high blood pressure.
In this phase, you will follow the same eating pattern as in Phase 2. In the maintenance phase, you can include more starchy foods such as whole grains and some starchy vegetables to your eating plan. However, you must keep these starchy foods to a minimum unless you are physically very active.
Variants of the DASH Diet
Whoever said that they don’t like choice? The DASH diet has been extremely successful and many new versions of the diet have been created to meet varied health requirements, such as:
- The Original DASH Diet: In the original version of the DASH diet, you can eat 2,000 calories per day and the sodium allowance is restricted to 2,300 mg per day.
- The DASH Diet for Weight Loss: In this diet plan, you follow the same eating plan as the Original DASH diet. However, in this version of the diet, the calorie consumption is reduced to around 1,600 per day.
- The DASH Diet for a Younger You: This variant of the DASH Diet emphasizes more on consumption of natural, plant-based foods.
- The Lower Sodium DASH Diet: In this version of the DASH diet, a reduced intake of sodium is recommended and the sodium allowance is limited to 1,500 mg per day. The American Heart Association states that eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day can help to reduce blood pressure.
- The Vegetarian DASH Diet: Most diets tend to forget the current minority of vegetarians and vegans. Luckily, the vegetarian version of the DASH diet essentially follows the same criteria of the Original DASH diet except that in this variant of the diet no meat is consumed. Full points for being inclusive!
Who Is It For?
If you want to follow a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease, then the DASH diet is for you. The DASH diet has been recommended as a “healthy eating plan for everyone”, by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The DASH diet is specifically suitable for:
- Physically Very Active People and Athletes: Since the DASH diet has a greater carbohydrate content, it is a great way of eating if you are physically very active or an athlete, as you can gain extra glucose on a diet plan that is calorie controlled and nutrient rich.
- Losing Weight: The DASH diet is especially beneficial for people who have excess weight around their midsection or have weight gain due to problems such as PCOS, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes15 or are postmenopausal16.
- Those at a Risk of Chronic Disease: There may be some family history or proclivity towards cardiovascular disease, cancer or hypertension. Following the DASH diet may help to prevent these problems from occurring in the future.
- Hypertensive: As the DASH diet was originally developed for people suffering from chronic high blood pressure (hypertension), the diet can be followed as an substitute to medication or along with medication if the blood pressure cannot be controlled only by dieting.
- Delaying Ageing: Since the DASH diet is rich in fruits and vegetables; it is an antioxidant-rich diet which prevents ageing17. Hence the DASH diet is considered to be a very good anti-ageing diet plan.
- Families: As the DASH diet does not restrict any food groups and is a sensible and balanced diet plan, it is suitable for the entire family. Preparing meals the DASH way ensures that children begin eating the right way and learn to eat healthy.
Who is it Not For?
- If you are suffering from chronic kidney disease, then the DASH diet may not suitable for you. It is a good idea to consult your doctor or dietician before beginning a diet as you may have to follow some specific dietary restrictions to follow.
- The DASH diet should not be used by people who are on dialysis.
The DASH diet is indeed a wonderful diet to follow. Backed by credible research, it has proven to help people suffering from hypertension and claims to keep many chronic diseases at bay while promising a healthy life in the long run.
The DASH diet is a sensible and sustainable diet and the best part of the diet plan is that it does not cut out whole food groups and no food is entirely forbidden. The nutrient-rich diet plan eliminates processed sweet foods and fats from the diet and recommends consumption of plenty of fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy products that provides the body with plenty of nutrition without allowing you to feel hungry or deprived, something very few other diets can claim to do! The DASH diet is very easy to follow and the calorie consumption can be adjusted as per your weight loss goals.
A word of caution, though! the DASH diet is not a short-term, crash diet for weight loss. The diet will work effectively only if you adopt the principles and make it your way of life permanently. Remember, good things to those who wait. So what are you waiting for? “Dash to health and well-being with the DASH Diet”