The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was designed for those with hypertension or prehypertension; hypertension is the medical term for blood pressure. It is a low salt diet plan with additional benefits designed to reduce blood pressure. Not surprisingly, the concepts of this diet could be followed by anyone on a healthy eating plan because it includes a lot of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. The DASH diet plan is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, American Heart Association, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, US Guidelines for the treatment of blood pressure, and it is the basis of the USDA MyPyramid. This diet can provide benefits within 2 weeks after starting the plan; that’s a huge benefit for a lot of people. Many people are affected by hypertension, and many of those people don’t want to go on medication for it. Although some can’t avoid taking medication, following the diet plan can allow for them to really cut back on the amount that needs to be taken.
Eating Tips for the DASH Diet Plan
Make gradual changes
The slower you incorporate the changes, the more likely they will become habits and you will stick to them.
Limit sodium intake
Sodium intake should be between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day, preferably somewhere near the lower end.
Limit consumption of certain fats
Trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol should be eaten on a limited basis. These fats are bad for the heart and can clog arteries.
Increase servings of produce and dairy
This diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
Increase fiber and whole grain intakes
Fiber is great for the digestive system and has many other important functions; half of your grains should be whole grains.
Limit sugar intake
Refined sugar has become a big part of the American diet; try to reduce your consumption of added and refined sugars.
Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol is metabolized just like sugar.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes all at one time; it can be broken into 10 minute intervals or something along those lines. The exercise should be moderate intensity, meaning you shouldn’t be able to complete a whole sentence while you’re exercising. Exercising regularly can aid in weight loss and help reduce blood pressure.
Beware of empty calories
Foods that don’t provide any nutritional value are designated as empty calorie foods. Empty calories, however, can also come from beverages, such as sodas. Drink water, herbal teas, healthy juices, and skim milk.
Watch serving sizes
Learn how to recognize proper serving sizes and control your food intake.
Don’t deprive yourself
If you’re craving a sweet, go for it. Just make sure it’s not an everyday thing. If you completely deprive yourself, you’ll end up bingeing at some point…and regret it!
Increase calcium, magnesium, and potassium intake
Foods that are rich in these, respectively include milk, cheese, green vegetables, fortified juices, and soy products; green vegetables, potatoes, milk, shrimp, nuts, and whole grains; spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, cantaloupe, pears, and fish.
Servings for the DASH Diet
The following is the breakdown of where your daily calories should come from on this diet.
Total fat: 27% of calories
Saturated fat: 6% of calories
Protein: 18% of calories
Carbohydrate: 55% of calories
Cholesterol: 150 mg
Sodium: <2,300 mg
Calcium: 1,250 mg
Fiber: 30 g
Next is a list of the amount of servings you should get from each food group while on this diet.
Grains (at least ½ should be whole): 7-8 servings
Fruits: 4-5 servings
Vegetables: 4-5 servings
Dairy (low-fat or nonfat): 2-3 servings
Lean meats, fish, poultry: 2 or less
Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4-5 per week
Fats and sweets: 5 per week
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