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Dietary changes can play an important role in managing hypertension. Although a few diets show benefits for managing high blood pressure, this post will cover the most well-known diet for this condition: the DASH diet.
The typical modern North American diet is high in saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids (which promote inflammation), high glycemic load carbohydrates (which promote high blood sugar levels), and many artificial additives. More and more research suggests that the North American diet is unhealthy and has a negative impact on chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart diseases, and diabetes. It also increases the risk of obesity. Read more about the link between high blood pressure and diabetes in this article.
Principles Of The DASH Diet
Here we will review the basic ideas behind the DASH diet, a sample menu, what the research shows, and the diet’s many health benefits.
What Counts As “One Serving,” Anyway?
Use the following guidelines when preparing your meals:
- One serving of grains equals one slice of bread or ½ cup cooked rice or pasta. Grains provide fiber and are a major source of energy.
- One serving of vegetables equals one cup of raw, leafy vegetables, ½ cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables, or ½ cup of vegetable juice. Vegetables provide potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
- One serving of fruit equals one medium fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit, ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, or ½ cup of fruit juice. Like vegetables, fruit is a good source of potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
- One serving of dairy means one cup of milk or yogurt or 1 ½ oz cheese. Dairy is a great source of calcium and protein.
- One serving of meats, poultry, or fish means 1 oz cooked meats, poultry, or fish or 1 egg. This food group provides plenty of proteins and magnesium.
- One serving of nuts, seeds, or legumes equals ⅓ cup or 1½ oz nuts, 2 tbsp or ½ oz nut butter or seeds, or ½ cup cooked legumes (dried beans, peas). They are great sources of energy, magnesium, protein, and fiber.
- One serving of fats and oils means 1 tsp of vegetable oil, 1 tbsp of mayonnaise, or 2 tbsp of salad dressing.
- One serving of sugar means 1 tbsp of sugar (choose brown sugar) or 1 tbsp of jelly or jam.
The DASH Diet Explained
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This is a low-sodium diet. It is flexible, well balanced, and does not require special foods. You can find all foods in a regular grocery store. The core idea is to limit sodium, consume foods from all major groups (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and nuts and seeds) while limiting sugary foods and sweets.
The following list provides examples of daily and weekly servings according to the DASH plan for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
- Grains (8 servings daily)
- Meats, poultry, or fish (6 servings or less daily)
- Vegetables (4-5 servings daily)
- Fruits (4-5 servings daily)
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products (2-3 servings daily)
- Fats and oils (2-3 servings daily)
- Sodium (2300 mg daily, or a very low sodium version of DASH diet, which allows only 1,500 mg)
- Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas (4-5 servings weekly)
- Sweets (5 or fewer weekly)
DASH Diet Research
Researchers developed DASH over 20 years ago with support from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The US News & World Report ranked it at the top for “heart-healthy” and “healthy eating” in its 2021 Best Diets report.
Several well-designed studies found that the DASH diet helps lower blood glucose levels, triglycerides, LDL-C, and insulin resistance. Research also shows that the DASH diet may help reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer. It also benefits individuals with chronic liver disease, diverticular disease, and celiac disease as well. The DASH diet, over time, can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease as well as kidney stones. It also promotes healthy weight loss. Based on multiple studies, the DASH diet helps lower all-cause mortality in adults.
Sample Menu From DASH Diet
Are you ready to try the DASH diet? Here is a sample recipe for a dish from the DASH website. Check it out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes.
Pesto & Mozzarella Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps
Ingredients: 2 portobello mushroom caps
- 1 small tomato, diced
- 2 tbsp of pesto
- ¼ cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese (choose goat or sheep cheese if you have trouble with cow dairy)
- Clean mushrooms and dry them with a cloth. Remove the stems.
- Add pesto on the 2 mushroom caps.
- Top with tomato and shredded mozzarella.
- Place the mushrooms in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 °F.
You can add ½ cup of quinoa or rice to complete this dish.
Note: While older versions of the DASH diet included soft margarine and other processed oils, a 2020 update recommends healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and fatty fish. Regarding healthy carbs, this plan suggests consuming green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach, collards, mustards. It also suggests whole grains like cracked wheat, millets, oats, low glycemic index fruits, legumes, and beans.
Apps like DASH Diet Plan are available for Android and iPhone.