The DASH diet is a health program that is designed to reduce hypertension in people. This diet plan was first started in 1993 by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in conjunction with other medical research organizations. The NIH was prompted take action during the early 90s after it discovered that millions of Americans had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. At the time, close to 50 million people suffered from this medical condition. Currently, 67 million people are dealing with hypertension. This means that 1 in 6 Americans are expected to deal with hypertension and this number is expected to rise for the overall population unless changes can be made.
The American diet is a big contributor to the phenomena of high blood pressure. Many Americans eat food that is high in fat, cholesterol and sodium. These three nutrients are important for the body but in moderate or low doses. However, many Americans consume a high number of these nutrients and it is creating a lot of medical issues for their body. The DASH plan helps to mitigate the effects of the poor American diet by helping people to change how they eat. The DASH plan can not only reduce hypertension it can also help to lower a person’s weight and improve their overall health.
The Problems with the American Diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet plan first began in 1997 after the NIH conducted a series of medical tests to determine why so many people were being diagnosed with hypertension. The NIH and other organizations such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute determined that certain foods could help a person to lead a healthy lifestyle.
When the NIH was conducting its initial study into hypertension; the organization discovered that the American diet critically declines a person’s health over time. Fast and processed foods are typically loaded with nutrients that are not good for a person’s health. Since many people like to eat convenient, processed and packaged foods; they run a high risk of creating all types of health problems. The DASH diet is not designed to eliminate the American diet but to alter it so that people will make better choices with their food consumption.
The DASH diet Lowers Weight
DASH diet participants can not only lower their blood pressure they will also be able to lower their weight with this diet. Since the DASH diet uses healthy foods to achieve its goals; an added benefit is fewer calories. Foods such as fruits and vegetables play a big role in the DASH diet. These foods are not only low in sodium and cholesterol they also have very little fat and few calories.
These foods are typically consumed as a part of the DASH program:
- brown rice
- whole grain breads
- whole grain noodles
- low fat milk
People who make it a point to eat these foods as a part of their DASH Diet plan will naturally lose weight during the process.
Nutrition Content for the DASH Diet
Certain nutrients are needed to get healthy and to drop pounds. The DASH Diet has foods that provide important nutrients for a person’s body. Nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein are all important to the body. These nutrients are commonly found in the foods that are associated with the DASH Diet.
Potassium is great for the heart and cardiovascular health, calcium strengthens the bones, magnesium is good for blood health, fiber is great for cleansing the system and protein is good for keeping muscles strong. Each of these nutrients offer more benefits to a person’s body besides the ones that were just described. The DASH Diet also includes other nutrients such as fat, carbohydrates, vitamin C, D and riboflavin.
The DASH Diet plan also has a nutrition chart that should be used on a daily basis by people who are involved in this diet. The following nutrients are located on the chart.
- Total Fat 27%
- Saturated Fat 6%
- Protein 18%
- Carbohydrate 55%
- Cholesterol 150 mg
- Sodium 2,300 mg
- Potassium 4,700
- Calcium 1,250
- Magnesium 500 mg
- Fiber 30 g
Fat-free and Low Fat Diary Products
Fat-free and low fat dairy products are also a part of the DASH Diet plan. The nutrients in dairy products are important for a person’s body and these foods can also lower blood pressure as well. People should use low fat diary products in place of regular dairy products.
Meats and the DASH Diet Plan
The DASH Diet plan discourages people from eating a lot of meat. They really want people to restrict their red meat consumption. Meat should not be consumed with every meal. It should only be consumed on a limited basis. People are encouraged to eat meats such as chicken and fish.
DASH Diet Tips
The following tips can help people to use the DASH Diet plan more effectively.
- Eat a serving of fruit with your meals. Fruits are relatively cheap and will also make a great snack. Canned or dried fruits can also be used as a part of the DASH plan, but make sure that they do not have a bunch of added sugar.
- Continue to use ingredients such as butter, margarine and salad dressing but cut the serving amount in half. Make sure to use low-fat or fat-free condiments.
- You should eat meat but limit the intake to just 6 ounces a day. As a rule of thumb make some of your meals vegetarian.
- Eat more beans in your diet.
- Snacks should consist of unsalted pretzels or nuts, raisins, low-fat and fat-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted plain popcorn without butter and raw vegetables.
- Examine food labels for products that are low in sodium.
List of other Medical Benefits Provided by the Dash Diet Plan
The DASH diet highlights the variety of foods available in this diet plan, rather than focusing on all of the restrictions. DASH diet advocates believe that diets which focus on restriction rather than abundance may deter individuals from choosing to follow the DASH diet. Also, participants should not stop eating fast or junk foods altogether. However, they should be limited to only once a week or a few times a month.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid is used by the DASH diet plan since it is a practical way for people to eat healthy. This pyramid was updated in 2005.
Many medical professionals support and endorse the DASH diet. They recommend it to patients and to the pubic as well. The DASH diet has even been proven by experts to reduce a person’s blood pressure more effectively than medication. Currently, many people are using food as a healing ailment for their body. The DASH diet falls in line with this current trend. Many medical professionals are now recommending this diet instead of prescription drugs. However, the DASH plan will not be prescribed when there is an immediate risk for heart attack or stroke.
Heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure usually takes many years to develop. Since it takes a while for these changes to show up and the symptoms are not obvious people are usually not aware of how dangerous this condition can be to their health. It usually takes a medical emergency to arise before people are willing to change. Individuals who are serious about their health should talk to their doctor about the dash diet plan.
DASH Diet for Weight Loss
The DASH Diet can be used with an exercise program to achieve maximum weight loss results. Since this diet is naturally low in calories it would practical for helping a person to shed more pounds. The DASH diet should be implemented as a long term weight loss plan if it is used in this manner.
People should focus on eating the types of foods that they enjoy with the DASH plan as opposed to worrying about what they cannot have. Changing the focus to good foods over time will help people to stick with the diet over the long term.
Vegetarians were closely monitored during the DASH diet trails that were conducted back in the 90s. What researchers realized is that vegetarians suffered lower incidences of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure because of high blood pressure. While the DASH dietary plan is not a vegetarian diet plan, people can mimic some of their eating habits to help improve their own health.
Researchers have found that taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements without reducing the amount of processed food in the diet does not help lower blood pressure or reduce the likelihood of heart attack or stroke. What this means is that people cannot eat a poor diet and then take some calcium and potassium pills thinking that their health will be okay. A person usually has to make lifestyle and diet modifications to improve their overall health.
Using the DASH diet for weight loss or for health reasons is a great way for people to stay fit. People who want to boost metabolism function can also use this diet. This program provides people with a medically approved way to live a good lifestyle.