Fitness Facts: The DASH diet
By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
Since February is National Heart Month, let’s discuss a natural way to lower blood pressure. It is called the DASH diet, aka Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
This diet has been proved to not only treat or prevent high blood pressure but improve overall health. It can be helpful for weight loss, lowering cholesterol and managing and preventing diabetes.
The DASH diet utilizes food to control blood pressure and other health measurements such as cholesterol. The food plan works in two ways: by adding foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, and by limiting foods high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugar. High sodium content is one of the greatest links to high blood pressure.
Studies have shown that people who started and stuck to the DASH diet lowered their blood pressure within two weeks!
The starting point for the DASH diet is simple. Simply lower your salt intake and add food rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
The DASH diet is lower in sodium than a typical American diet, which can include 3,400 milligrams (mg) or more of sodium a day. That’s a lot of salt!
The standard DASH diet meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. That’s roughly the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt.
A lower sodium version of DASH restricts sodium to 1,500 mg a day. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs. If you aren’t sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor or visit Mayoclinic.org.
A few more tips:
- Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and at dinner.
- Add a serving of fruit to your meals or as a snack. Canned and dried fruits are easy to use, but check that they do not have added sugar.
- Use only half your typical serving of butter, margarine or salad dressing.
- Drink low-fat or skim dairy products anytime you normally would use full-fat or cream.
- Limit meat to 6 ounces a day. Make some meals vegetarian.
- Add more vegetables and dry beans to your diet.
- Instead of snacking on chips or sweets, eat unsalted pretzels or nuts, raisins, low-fat and fat-free yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted plain popcorn with no butter, and raw vegetables.
- Read food labels to choose products that are lower in sodium.
- Using sodium-free spices or flavorings instead of salt.
- Don’t add salt when cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal.
- Choose plain fresh, frozen or canned vegetables.
- Choose fresh or frozen skinless poultry, fish and lean cuts of meat.
- Read food labels and choose the low-sodium or no-salt-added option.
It may be a slight transition and learning curve to adopt this plan, but in the long run it will help you to have a healthier heart.
For more detail and meal planning, visit: