ABCs of DASH Diet: The No. 1 Best Diet Overall

08 Dec 2019

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Wondering why young people around you are popping blood pressure pills? Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the top lifestyle diseases in India today. It affects, 207 million people yearly [1], and is responsible for 10.8% of all deaths in the country [2]. Not only is this disease critical, but it also impacts the heart, kidney, and brain [1]. To counter this, scientists and nutritionists have created the DASH diet, especially for hypertension. It is touted to be the Number 1 Best Diet Overall in the US currently. Let’s learn more about this [3].

Hypertension & Its Symptoms

Your blood has a certain force with which it flows through your arteries. This blood pressure is measured in two ways :

Systolic pressure, the pressure on your blood vessels when your heart beats.

Diastolic pressure, wherein the pressure on your blood pressure is checked when your heart is at rest or between beats.

These two pressures increase and decrease throughout the day. However, when you repeatedly have elevated blood pressure, measuring above 140 by 90 mmHg (normal is 120 by 80 mmHg) it is described as hypertension. Its symptoms include severe headache, fatigue, vision problems, difficulty breathing, chest pain and irregular heartbeat, and pounding in the chest, neck or ears.

What Is the DASH Diet?

DASH is a short form of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it is recommended for people who want to manage or prevent high blood pressure.

Researchers [4] who created this diet found that the percentage of hypertension people who followed a vegetarian or vegan diet was much lesser than that of non-vegetarians. Hence, the diet focuses on plant-based nutrition and adds fruits, whole grains, and vegetables to your meals. There is also an addition of lean meats like chicken, beans, and fish for certain meals. It is also low on salt, sugar, fat, and red meat, with only about one teaspoon of sodium (salt) per day.

Benefits of the DASH Diet

Hypertension: Studies [5] suggest that when salt or sodium and overall fat intake is reduced, your blood pressure is regularised. DASH works in the same way and is proven [6] to reduce blood pressure. In fact, even those who did not reduce salt but followed other aspects of the diet also found a significant change in blood pressure [6].

Heart Diseases: Now reduced blood pressure may not always mean that your heart is healthy and risk-free. Hence, DASH promotes clean eating aiding in the reduction of cholesterol in the long run. [7]

Weight Loss: Another key benefit of DASH is weight loss. You are likely to have high blood pressure if you are overweight. [8] This diet cuts down on sugar and heavy-fat meats, as well as fast foods, which in turn lead to healthy weight loss.

Lower Risk Of Diabetes: With your sugar and fat out of the picture, you can manage diabetes better as well as prevent it.

Improved Immunity: When you eat clean and healthy, you are sure to boost your immunity.

A Typical Day for DASH Diet

While the DASH diet cuts down your salt, sugar, and meat intake, it does boost nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium through the food you consume. Here’s what you can have in this diet plan in a day.

Whole grains and grain products: One serving a day, which includes bread, rice, cereal, etc.

Fruits: Have about two or three fruits such as apples, peaches, and apricots.

Vegetables: One or two vegetables like spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, etc.

Low-fat or non-fat dairy foods: One cup of milk or yogurt.

Lean meat: Stick to one egg or 30 grams of chicken in a day.

Nuts and seeds: Have about 3 to 4 nuts and about 20 grams of seeds.

Fats and oils: Only one teaspoon a day.

Sweets and chocolates: This is limited to two or three a week.

This is a safe and effective diet for hypertension, but if you wish you follow and reap the benefits of this diet, consult an expert and tailor it as per your body.

References:

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41371-018-0117-3

  2. https://www.icmr.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_realease_files/Hypertension.pdf

  3. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/dash-ranked-best-diet-overall-eighth-year-row-us-news-world-report

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10410299

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061468

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10410299

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25519688

  8. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.hyp.0000151325.83008.b4

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