In the dawn of so many new diets, the DASH eating plan probably sounds like another fad diet that will die out in a year or two. However, the DASH diet has been endorsed and promoted by many physicians as an effective and healthy eating pattern for the prevention of high blood pressure, heart attacks, heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular-related diseases.
What Is The DASH Diet?
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” and focuses on several general guidelines when choosing foods:
- Low sodium
- Little or no added sugars
- Fat free and/or low fat dairy products
- Colorful and diverse fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean meats, poultry, and fish
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
Publications applaud the DASH eating plan for its high adaptability for gluten-free or vegetarian recipes, as well as the variety of food choices it employs. There is no need to shop at specialty stores since all ingredients are easily accessible at the local market.
The DASH diet consists of certain number of daily servings from various food groups based on the individual’s needs. Usually, plans are grouped based on the number of calories and the amount of sodium allowed per day. The eating plan is also often employed in congruent with lifestyle changes to maximize its effects. Since each person’s health conditions and desired goals are different, it is best to consult a doctor on the most appropriate DASH eating plan.
The DASH diet has been recently named as one of the best overall diets by US News and World Report. Rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber, this eating plan has other powerful health benefits in addition to lowering blood pressure and warding off cardiovascular related diseases. Some additional benefits include:
- Preventing obesity (when combined with regular exercise)
- Preventing osteoporosis (due to increased calcium intake)
- Preventing cancer (due to increased antioxidant intake)
- Preventing diabetes (due to lowered sugar intake)
- Preventing constipation (due to increased fiber intake)
- Losing weight (due to a healthier and more nutritious eating plan)
Individuals who are not at risk of health complications may also partake in the DASH diet as an effective preventative measure, or to establish healthier eating habits for life. It is never too late to start being proactive about your health!
Tips To Incorporate DASH In Your Diet
While the DASH diet is best planned by your physician after consultation to fit your specific needs and body condition, it may be hard to constantly follow the plan exactly as it is. Here are some tips that can help you stay within the DASH guidelines when choosing your foods.
For low sodium and no added sugars:
- Opt for unprocessed foods over processed. Basically, try to avoid anything that comes in a pre-packaged box.
- Use fresh fruits to satisfy a sweet tooth instead of baked goods or sugary sweets.
- Add other spices in place of salt for the same “oomph” in flavor.
- For frozen or canned foods, always choose the low sodium varieties. When possible, discard the packaging liquids and rinse the food items to remove excess sodium or sugars.
- Cook more often instead of eating out. That way, you will have more control over the amount of sodium in the dishes.
- Combine self-squeezed fruit juices (no added sugars, of course) with carbonated water for a healthy soda substitute.
For diverse produce:
- Look for rich bursts of color when grocery shopping. For example, rather than choosing pale lettuce, opt for deep green spinach.
- Eat one item from each of the rainbow spectrum every day. Get creative! For example, apples (red), pumpkins (orange), bell peppers (yellow), kale (green), blueberry (blue), eggplant (purple).
- Don’t have time to constantly shop for fresh fruits and vegetables? Stock up on the frozen variety to save time.
- A vegetable or fruit smoothie can be a convenient way to intake all the proper nutrients in one go.
- Pureed produce can be deliciously easily hidden in dishes for the veggie hater. For example, substitute oil with applesauce in baked goods, or add pureed vegetables in pasta sauces and lasagnas. They will never know!
For Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes:
- Nut butters serve as a tasty snack on the go. Try it with celery and apples. Just be sure to watch the serving size to avoid excessive calories.
- Throw some seeds into your next blended smoothie. You will never notice the difference!
- Dried legumes, such as peas or soybeans, make tasty additions to your usual trail mix.
- Try adding nuts and seeds with your breakfast cereal or yogurt for a change instead of granola.