DASH Diet: Sustainable. Healthy. Proven.
Continuously ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best diets in America, the DASH diet earns high marks from both consumers and scientists alike for its practicality and reliable results.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its origins are based solely in scientific research. Developed by the National Institutes of Health and administered to participants in a controlled research study, the DASH way of eating proved to have a positive impact on participants’ blood pressure and blood lipid levels, which can reduce one’s risk for developing hypertension.
Why hypertension is a silent killer
Hypertension has no outward symptoms, can occur at any age, affects one in three adults in the United States, and usually goes undetected for years until a fatal heart attack or stroke occurs. If left untreated, hypertension can cause major damage to blood vessels, which can lead to kidney failure, impaired vision and other heart-related diseases.
The only way to know if you’re at risk for hypertension is to have your blood pressure measured on a regular basis. Blood pressure is the force exerted on artery walls from blood flowing through the body. A blood pressure reading provides two measures, systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, which are expressed as millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Systolic pressure is measured as the heart pumps. Diastolic pressure is measured between beats, as blood flows back into the heart. One’s blood pressure is considered normal if it’s at or below 120/80 mm Hg.
DASH Diet takes the cake
But why is this darling of the diet world embraced by health professionals yet understood so little by the public? It is one of the few diets on the market that actually has scientific research backing its results.
The DASH diet can
- reduce high blood pressure,
- managing or prevent diabetes,
- improve heart health,
- help with weight loss, and
- improve overall health in general.
Health professionals love the DASH Diet not only because it’s effective but also because it’s manageable, does not exclude any food group, and does not require esoteric ingredients. In fact, everything needed to start consuming the DASH Diet is accessible and affordable.
Side note here: The DASH Diet places a heavy emphasis on consuming fruits and vegetables, which, if bought fresh, can be pricey. The options of canned and frozen produce IS a healthy option. An easy way to utilize canned and frozen options is to only buy fresh produce when you know you’re going to consume it raw. If you’re making soups, stews, casseroles, smoothies, etc., purchase the low sodium canned or frozen options. It’s more affordable and the nutrition loss, if any, is minuscule.
Diet and high blood pressure
Many control their high blood pressure with medication, but lifestyle changes can have a tremendous effect naturally on both preventing and reducing hypertension risks.
These behaviors include:
- maintaining a healthy weight,
- avoiding tobacco,
- limiting alcohol (no more than 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 drink per day for women),
- moderate physical activity for 30-45 minutes on most days, and
- enjoying a heart-healthy, nutrient-dense diet.
Here’s where the DASH diet comes into play.
The DASH diet is a specific but easy to follow eating plan that emphasizes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils while limiting intake of sodium, sweets, sugary beverages and red meats. It’s low in saturated and trans fats but rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein.
Based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the DASH diet has also been used to help individuals lose weight, manage diabetes and learn about healthy eating habits. But the nicest thing about the diet is it’s been proven safe and effective for all ages and stages, and does not require special purchases of tools, ingredients or supplements.
The K-State Extension office in Johnson County will host an information session illustrating the DASH diet, its eating plan and demonstrate some recipes from the diet. This class is scheduled for Thursday, March 21st from 6 – 8 PM at the Johnson County Extension Office in Olathe. The fee is $25 per participant and includes a recipe packet. To register, visit www.johnson.ksu.edu/classes or call 913-715-7000.
Meats, poultry, and fish
|6 or less|
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
Fats and oils
Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas
5 or less
*1,500 milligrams (mg) sodium lowers blood pressure even further than 2,300 mg sodium daily.
When following the DASH eating plan, it is important to choose foods that are:
• Low in saturated and trans fats
• Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
• Lower in sodium